Time for change (snappy sketching)!

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I can’t believe that its been so long since I posted on here, the topic of this blog will give you a better understanding of why!

I have never been a very fast sketcher so snappy sketching has not been a particular focus.  This is despite the fact  that I do a lot of capturing things as they are happening in my drawings!- my subjects are very varied from weddings to events and special occasions to the development of places and capturing aspects of scientific research.  You can check out some of my #reportage projects here.

In order to manage my time better and achieve a finished sketch more quickly I have historically turned to colour first.  I love this approach but with an A4 size or more it still takes hours rather than minutes.  Then a few months ago lots of things started to change.  Well they say that a change is as good as a rest!  I got a small studio; an additional job; I was travelling more.. You get the picture!  Sketching every day was not going to be easy and pretty much impossible in the way I had been sketching.  I started to take my trusted Duke Fude and notebook in the car and spend 15 – 20 min maximum ( often no more than 10) sketching before work.    Under these circumstances, colour wasn’t an option and I wanted to create illustrations that had at least some identity with the place/people!

A preferred approach to snappy sketching :

  • My sketchbook is anything that has good quality cartridge paper (that doesn’t have to take watercolour) and is no bigger than A5 size. My current sketchbook for this type of drawing is an A6-size handbook with a hard cover.
  • I use only one drawing implement.  My current preference, virtually exclusively is the Confucius Duke 55 fude with black ink.  This wonderful pen enables me to vary my line width and add darks easily.
  • My preferred drawing approach is single line contour (at least in principle!).   That way, even though I don’t have time for endless measuring, I can use the contour approach to get a reasonably proportional sketch.  Sometimes, when I am in a hurry, I try to cut corners and it really doesn’t work very well!
  • Most of these sketches are done from the warmth and comfort of the car.  Although people sketches tend to be on a bus or cafe.  Busy street scenes have also been captured standing in the street.
  • I try to use simple texture and darks to add depth and interest to the sketch.  This is even more essential in a black and white drawing.
  • I’m still keen to have a layering of foreground, middle ground and background to create depth in the sketch, using weight of line and detail to try to convey this.
  • Simplification is critical at this scale and I try to fade the detail out towards the edges of the sketch.

Recent Snappy Sketching examples

On the way to work

Top and Middle Mossley

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Bottom Mossley (Manchester Road)

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Around Woodend Mill, Mossley

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Sketching from the street :

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People

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As you can see, there is nothing particularly new about the approaches I am using.   But I haven’t done this type of sketching routinely before.  It’s useful to have a range of approaches for different situations and this simple quick technique means that however time-poor I am, there is always a sketch to be done!.

Reportage-Why I fell in Love with it!

The Oxford English Dictionary cites the origin of the word ‘reportage’ to come from the Early 17th century French, from Old French reporter ‘to carry back’.   In this way, reportage illustration is a form of visual journalism, visual storytelling.  You go out into the world around you and take back with you that experience.   That memory, in drawn form, with pen, and ink and…. whatever else it is possible to record onto a surface with. Continue reading

What view to sketch?-Welcome to the Neighbourhood

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Last weekend whilst out sketching , one of my fellow sketchers asked: how do you go about choosing your view to sketch?  It’s an interesting question and it got me thinking beyond the theory of composition, at how exactly I choose my view to sketch .   Here in a short summary; mainly illustrated with recent sketches of my local area  are some of the things I take into account when  deciding which view to draw and what to include.  Note that with most of them, there is more than one reason the composition was chosen. Continue reading

As 2016 Draws to a close…. My Sketching Stories of the year

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As 2016 draws (get it!) to a close, I thought I’d capture my year in sketches ( some but not all of them!), partly as an aide memoire (those of you that read my blog know how I like to document my drawing adventures!) and partly to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going.  Its been quite a year in many respects and those of you that have followed my #scribblescompilations on social media in my 12 days of Christmas countdown, will be familiar with most of the combinations below.  However, this blog puts a narrative to the visuals and  I have tried to group things so that you can see more of the approaches and types of things that I am interested in recording and the approaches I’ve taken to drawing. Continue reading

Liz Steel’s Buildings Course: My takeaway messages

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This blog is not really a review of the course as much as a brief summary of my results and key learnings, so it’s something for me that I can return to as an aide memoire. I try to do this for all the drawing courses I take as a way of making the most from them.  The course was, as usual for Liz Steel’s courses, packed full of useful examples and tips about drawing architecture not to mention some excellent demos and incredible handouts so its well worth checking it out when she runs it again. Continue reading

After the dust has settled :What I learnt from my correspondent role at #USkManchester2016

What an absolutely amazing week at the Manchester Urban SketchersSymposium  (27th-30th July 2016)!  I don’t think anything would have fully prepared me for the incredible experience of meeting and sketching with like-minded artists from around the world! It was just magical to see the city I have come to know and love being portrayed by skilled sketchers from near and far.  It was also a wonderful sight to see the streets lined with people drawing together, old-friends and new friends.  It is a little hard to settle now that it is over so, as a kind of wrap-up from me, an attempt to collect some thoughts and learnings, this blog summarises my role as local correspondent, what I learnt from it and what next!  The images are a mix of sketches done post-symposium, they are not necessarily with a specific theme or purpose, other than to get me back into sketching!

Continue reading

Preparing for #USkManchester 2016: context, Colour and Kit

My goodness time is getting short before the start of the International Urban sketching here in Manchester next week (from July 27th) although really, it begins when people start arriving this coming weekend!  This is the second blog about my preparation for my role as correspondent at the symposium.  In this blog, having addressed some of my people practice in the previous preparation blog I am going to be talking about context and colour  before finishing with a quick summary of my sketch kit for the occasion! Continue reading

What’s your Story?

I cannot believe that I have not posted a blog on here for nearly 3 weeks.  But I have a few excuses: firstly I have had a pretty hectic time with a few big commissions, including #citiesofhope and The Manchester Histories Festival.  Also, I have been writing blog posts as part of those commissions as well as posting on the Urban Sketchers blog on a weekly basis with my countdown to the Symposium sketches.  Am I forgiven yet?   The other thing that has been taking my time is that I have been running some Urban Sketching workshops, some for the Manchester Histories Festival and then this week I have had two days running two workshops at the Creative and Media Academy here in Manchester (MCMA).  It is this week’s workshops that I am going to talk about in this blog. Continue reading

Ready Steady…Sketch

Over the last few weeks I have started to think more about quick capture and how best to produce the best sketches when I have limited time.  Of course I am thinking about my forthcoming role as correspondent at the 7Th Urban Sketchers Symposium (#USkManchester2016) here in Manchester in the summer and wondering how I best adapt my current approaches to be able to deliver!   With this in mind I have been trying a few sketches using watercolour first and here are the results. Continue reading

Aussie Adventures 4: Back to Perth

For the final leg of the trip, between Christmas and New Year, it was back to Perth to stay at my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Subiaco . Arguably, because it was a more city-based experience, it was the time of the most concentrated urban sketching and I sketched to capture some key places within Subiaco as well as further afield, as a way of embedding the place in my mind.  My mum also had her birthday on 27th so I was able to capture in a sketch,her tea party at my sister’s house.

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The beach and the cinema-but not as we know it!

Two of the things that I loved the most were the fact that you go to the beach to take a dip as simply as you would put your umbrella up in the UK! and the arts cinema is an outside venue, surrounded by huge pine trees and everyone has a picnic!! How fab is that! Both these instances were not so easy to take part in and sketch at the same time: there was no way I could stand and do a sketch breakfast on the beach on Christmas morning for example!   The Cottesloe Beach sketch is therefore a drawing of the most famous building on the beach done at 7 am one morning, sitting on rocks amongst local fishermen and the cinema sketch shows the scale of the trees relative to the theatre itself done as I sat in my seat and just before the light faded and the film: Blind Date started!

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Kings Park

Being down the road from the most wonderful diverse park is another advantage of the Subiaco location. Kings Park affords wonderful views down across Perth from a vantage point lined with gum trees (what else!).  Kings park is one of the largest inner city parks in the world and at 4 km2 it is larger than New York’s Central park and is the most popular destination in Western Australia.  Come to think of it, I could have spent the whole of my time recording aspects and views of this park-there’s a thought!  The park is a mixture of grassed parkland, botanical gardens and natural bushland with two-thirds of the grounds conserved as native bushland.

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Leederville

We walked a couple of miles or so over to this interesting little place (reminded me of Camden, UK) for a drink or two and some Tapas one evening.  I loved this place!  This is the view from the window of the bar.

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‘Freo’

No set of sketches from this place would be complete without mentioning the accent and language! Everything here seems to be shortened! So seeing the port of Fremantle shortened by all the locals to Freo was an ideal opportunity to get that one into the story! The streets have that nautical feel and there is a fantastic little brewery and eatery on the shore, not to mention fishing boats….

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Flying out of Perth on New Year’s day, it is hard to leave this much blue, to return to grey. At the airport I was able to draw the plane from the gate. On the aircraft I added watercolour and received much interest from the cabin staff, who kindly got the sketch signed by the pilot.. A nice way to end an eventful and inspiring trip.

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With thanks especially to my sister and brother in law for all they did to make this a special family trip as well as to my niece and her partner and nephew and his new wife-Hey look, thanks guys! xx

 

I hope that you have enjoyed my 4 part Aussie Adventures and I look forward to sharing more sketching adventures soon!

 

Aussie Adventures: 1: A short stop-off in Singapore on the way to Western Australia

Most of you reading this will already be aware that I spent much of December 2015 travelling (5th December 2015-2nd January 2016). I visited my sister and family in Perth on the West Coast of Australia, travelling from there south to the Wine region: Margaret River for my nephew’s wedding and North from Perth up the coast before returning to Perth for Christmas.   This first of four blogs shares the sketches from my whistle-stop tour of Singapore. Actually, I hardly touched the surface in the couple of days we stopped over there on the way to Perth, but I wanted to share my sketches to show the contrast between this place and Australia as well as to show sketches done rather fast, in hot humid conditions which made it very difficult to dry the paint! This is rainy season so dodging the heavy showers was also a challenge!

The travel was made more exotic by the rather elegant dresses of the Singapore airlines staff so this was an obvious thing to capture in a sketch. The constant movement and bustle made them difficult to capture but good practice nevertheless!

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Of course with only two days and feeling a bit exhausted, all I was able to do was capture a few impressions of this amazing city. The top map just gives a flavor of the different areas of the city, with Little India and Kampong Glam the two main areas visited. The bottom image is the street where we stayed and was very much a typical shopping street although the number of malls of the main street was somewhat amazing: so many shops. The Christmas decorations here were also rather stunning. The Gardens by the Bay visit was really just to see the superstructure trees which are such a photographed, iconic aspect of the gardens. As a landscape architect, I am fascinated by the development of this city and the concept of a City in a Garden. The greenery everywhere is notable and shows the validity of the ideal.

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2016-01-05_0019Temples in Little India and Kampong Glam are elaborate and challenging to capture. There are over 35 Hindu temples in Singapore, here are just a couple from the Little India area. The first: Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of the key attractions in the area, with ornate carvings of gods forming the central tower. For more information on the Hindu temples of Singapore, here is a link.

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Little India was a great place to get some fast food in the form of Southern Indian cuisine. Masala Dosa with all the usual lovely lentil and spice based accompaniments together with fresh lemonade and all home made! I didn’t manage to sketch the food, but I did sketch the café!

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The streets of Little India and Kampong Glam are teaming with life and I tried to capture this quickly in these two sketches:

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Of course no visit to Singapore would be complete without a trip to the famous Raffles Hotel. As it happened, there was a restaurant bar across the road with outside seats, enabling these sketches to be created:

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So as I said, a real fast track though Singapore but next up my Aussie Adventures 2 to include reportage of my nephew’s wedding as well as my general Margaret River sketches.

I packed my bag and in it I put……

As I am soon going to be travelling, I thought I would share the kit I will be taking and how I will be packing it!  As an urban sketcher, having  portable kit that enables me to create sketches on the go is very important and I have to admit to having a little bit of a panic at how and what I was going to pack!  I have sought views of others from Urban sketchers, so what I am going to say here is based on a combination of my own thoughts and practices  as well as the tips and hints I have learnt from others, including some of the practicalities of travelling across the globe.

Main bag

I am using a Troop canvas bag for my kit that will hold all my sketching kit as well as an iPad.  I don’t need anything too huge and wanted to have a  shoulder bag with enough pockets to hold everything without being bulky.  So far so good, it looks really well made and with a great array of pockets for all the various items.  This is going to be used as part of my hand luggage.2015-11-30_0003

Sketch books

Because my chosen colour medium is watercolour, I usually use sketchbooks with watercolour paper.  A5 moleskines (13 x 21 cm) are my sketchbooks of choice for this trip, together with one seabright A5 concertina sketchbook.  We will see how I get on with the later as I have not used these for travelling before and apparently they can be difficult to handle!  I shall take one of the sketchbooks as hand luggage to sketch on the plane and in the airport; the others will go in the main case.

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Pens, pencils and brushes

I am a keen fountain pen user and so will be taking a set of 5 ink pens:  A lamy safari with a fine nib for drawing; a green Sailor pen with the facility to draw a range of line thicknesses; a carbon platinum pen for very fine lines; a pentel brush pen for black highlights and finally a lamy pen with a 1.1 italic nib for writing.  It will be interesting to see whether I use all of these pens or whether I end up using just a couple of them!  I will also be using a rotring propelling pencil (0.7 mm as I find that this is softer and doesn’t keep breaking like the 0.5 mm does); sometimes I use pencil before ink (sometimes its a watercolour pencil as opposed to graphite).  I have a wallet for all these pens together with 3 watercolour brushes (I use Da Vinci 2, 6 and 8 although to be honest these are probably a bit small, Ok for this size sketchbook but a size 10 is probably required).  In addition, I have a half inch Rosemary sable blend dagger brush.  I also have 3 gel pens in white, gold and silver (well I am going to a wedding!).   Finally, a soft putty rubber is definitely required, together with a ruler for lines for text (I hate it when I write wonky).

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Inks

I am usually using deatramentis document ink for my lamy pens and so will be taking a bottle of black ink that I will be packing in the main luggage.  Needless to say I will be wrapping it in several plastic bags and burying it in a soft corner of the case!   I will be using cartridges for all of my other ink pens and will likely pack some in hand luggage and some in the main case. Anything with liquid in it that goes into the hand luggage will be put into that zippy plastic bag thingy and I will probably have ink in one of my pens for travelling.

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Watercolour

I am using a combination of mainly Daniel Smith watercolour (with a couple of exceptions) and Albrecht Durrer Faber Castell watercolour pencils.  I use tube paint rather than pans and have decanted these into 1/2 pans over a period of 3 weeks.  After a week of filling them I found they had shrunk in their pans and then topped them up; I used plastic cotton buds with the ends cut off to ensure that the paint was well packed into the pans.  When I use the paints I spray them to wet them so that lifting the paint is easier; I also use portable 100 ml bottles for use on location.  All of these elements of the kit (minus the water) will be taken on in the hand luggage.

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Lets hope that after all this preparation I don’t forget anything crucial and that I manage to produce some drawings!

 

People Drawing in the little red book: Part 1

At the beginning of the month I set myself a challenge to draw people, in some form, every day- I need the practice and to be honest there’s only one way of improving and that is by constant practice; together with guidance.  The main place I’m drawing these is in a small square sketchbook ( handbook; not watercolour paper, just an everyday sketchbook )  but I’m also using my everyday sketchbook for some and this is a moleskin watercolour.  I’m using four pens: a Lamy Safari; a carbon platinum, a Pentel brush pen and and a green safari pen; all with waterproof ink.   Now, we are over half way through the month, I thought I’d share some of the drawings so far.
Approaches
In order to develop my people drawing skills I’m doing a variety of things to help me.  These include:
People in the context of the urban environment – crowds and groups
As an Urban sketcher and reportage enthusiast it’s important for me to be able to capture people in the context of there surroundings and actions.  Therefore over the last couple of weeks I have tried to capture this in meetings; at venues like library and theatre; markets  and cafes.  Here are some of the results.  In all of these images I tend to put the framework of the background in first and then superimpose the people on top or I work them both in parallel :
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Buses and cafes – individuals
Now when you are practicing people regularly it’s important to be able to fit these into your everyday life tasks – over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing this on the bus and in fast food cafes.  Here are some of the results.  In general, I added colour afterwards due to the practicalities of doing this in situ :
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At the end of the month I’ll post more of these sketches from November; some with the emphasis on fast people and gesture – it’s a hard task but someone has to do it!
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Thank you and happy sketching!