An Urban sketching workshop-similar but different!

This week, I was fortunate enough to attend a 3-day Urban sketching workshop: Space Oddities-Pushing your sketching boundaries in Coventry, UK. The tutors were 3 well-known urban sketchers from the worldwide urban sketchers USk group: Isabel Carmona, Simone Ridyard and Swasky, What a great workshop! With participants from all over the UK and beyond it was great to be able to get to know other sketchers, learn something of their techniques and experiences through sketchbook sharing and group work, (not to mention sketching portraits of them for a whole afternoon!!) and the local bar visits for more sketching after a long day…. well, yes, sketching!

Some of us also took the opportunity for some early morning sketching before the workshop began! Here’s a couple of my morning scribbles. I was trying hard to work outside my comfort zone: each of the thumbnails was done in 10 minutes (from the same crossroads, different street corners) and the Tudor building done much more loosely and by putting paint on early on in the process. Oh, and one thing, don’t be disappointed by these rough scribbles, the workshop approach is about learning the technique not producing pristine pieces of art!


The location

Coventry appears very much a tale of two cities with some wonderful old buildings and medieval ruins as well as somewhat brutalist architecture and the usual takeaway,/shopping centre street scene. The cathedral area around the Herbert Gallery where the Workshop was run, provides a stunning backdrop for the drawing workshops as well as usefully being right on the doorstep! And I have to mention one of the stars of the show: the weather!-after weeks of rain, wind, cold etc, we had a completely rain-free, sun-filled week! Unprecedented!


The morning sessions were taken up with one of 3 tutors, each with a different angle on visualizing space. I guess in some respects, the phrase pushing your sketching boundaries can be taken literally as well as metaphorically!

Team Simone-Perspective views

Those of us that work with street scenes and buildings a lot will always need to represent the perspective view in some way, whether it is looking at a typical 1 point perspective with two sides of the street running away from us with a view or scene at the end, ie the horizon straight on, or something more complicated! In this session we were able to look at a number of perspective scenes around the cathedral, get tuition from the Master of perspectives, Simone, and practice our hand at a few scenes.

Here are a few of the handy tips she shared with the group:

  • Understand the relationship of vanishing point to eye level; the vanishing point is always at eye level.
  • Things above door level are always coming down to the vanishing point; things below eye level are going up to the vanishing point.
  • Look at what you have drawn in a mirror. The things that are wrong will stand out!


Team Isabel-Through a FishEye Lens –A curvilinear approach

In this technique you are actually bending the edges to be able to fit in objects within 180 degrees of the viewer. The middle if the view is similar to the traditional perspective view whereas outside the central area the curves become more pronounced. It’s a challenging one to get your head around but with some interesting results! Here are my inside views (a café in the Herbert Museum) and outside (new cathedral entranceway). I can see me using this to produce some quirky results inside buildings with ceilings and floors, but also to fit onto a page, taller items that my not otherwise easily fit!


Team Swasky-Flats and folds-Hinging the views

In this session we used two quite different locations, in the first instance creating a scene with buildings (in our case the medieval cathedral ruins) but that we draw flat, almost like a map, in this way the sides of the space, are like flat elevations, so bending at the connection with the floor would produce a more 3D model. In the other exercise, we ventured to the market to stalls where we could look down (almost in plan), look in front of us (elevation of sorts) and up. Again these drawings could be hinged to produce the overall scene in 3D.  I can see some really interesting applications of this technique to a couple of buildings/areas in Manchester. Watch this space as I will share them when I progress these!


People in motion

Afternoons were spent with a range of activities from drawing portraits of each other in a few minutes to thumbnail sketches of street scenes and drawing a panoramic view as a team on concertina sketchbooks made during the course!. It is probably true to say that my take-home message from these sessions was: draw more people, more faces, and more street scenes incorporating people. This is something I plan to start to develop in the coming weeks . To assist this learning I have acquired the new People and Motion Urban sketchers book and enrolled on Marc Taro Holmes Craftsy course: Drawing people in motion. More on that in other blogs!


Although I confess to being somewhat ‘Out of My depth’ in the main sessions, it was a fantastic experience and provided a great opportunity to work outside of my comfort zone, but with the support and direction of skilled tutors and other sketchers. For me, it made me start to think more about the sort of scribbles I want to create, the ways in which I may make my artwork unique and different in the future, including the ways I want to understand and represent space. It also made me think more about the main purposes and approaches to my sketchbook pages and the things I am interested in and want to create: after all, this is My Story!

With many thanks especially to the 3 tutors and also to my sketching friends for much food for thought and a rich and fascinating sketching adventure in Coventry! You only have to look at the walls of the Herbert Museum to see the huge body of work we produced as a team!


0 thoughts on “An Urban sketching workshop-similar but different!

  1. I love how you have reported the workshop, illustrated with your lovely sketches and great photos.

    It was lovely to sketch alongside you again and hope we can do it again soon.

  2. What a wonderful post! Loved reading it, and thank you for sharing your workshop, heaven knows I need one of those! I look forward to more of your insight and growth!

  3. Those are great sketches and it looked like a really good workshop. I turned up on the Saturday and joined with a couple more of the Birmingham urban sketchers. Just started getting out and about and really enjoy it. Happy sketching! ?

  4. Sounds like this was an interesting workshop. I was going to book a place when I first heard about it but it clashed with my holiday.

    I’m glad to hear everyone got so much out of it and have enjoyed seeing the pictures that have been posted. I think might also pinch a few ideas from the distorted perspective sketches.

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