Those of you that follow me on my blog and on my social media platforms will realise that I have been developing my collage work for a while, alongside my sketching work (see previous Urban Sketching in Porto blog). However, my trip to Porto is the first time that I have developed my urban collaging pieces out on location. Collage for me is a natural mixed media technique. With a background in landscape design and an interest in the materiality of things, it gives me the opportunity to explore both texture and composition and to present them in a finished piece of art. This blog shares the approach I have taken to develop the sketchbook pieces and explains their possible future development. Continue reading
Last week I was sketching in Porto! I was fortunate enough to get over to Porto in Portugal for the 9th Urban Sketching Symposium. Continue reading
Since January of this year I’ve been working on a little exhibition of my work called: From Chorlton To The City. The exhibition is at The World Peace Cafe, The Kadampa Meditation Centre, Chorlton. The preview is on Friday 4 th May 5-8 pm. In this second part of a two-part discussion about the work (you can read the first part here), I’ll explain the illustration techniques I’ve used. There are 3 different types of images in the exhibition: Colour-first sketches; Ink-first maps and Collages. Each approach requires specific techniques.
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
Bottom Mossley (Manchester Road)
Around Woodend Mill, Mossley
Sketching from the street :
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!.
Recently, I have been developing my watercolour approaches and starting to think about the sort of new art works that I want to create. In particular, I’ve been thinking about my watercolour development. How do I create works that are related to but distinctly separate from my urban sketching and reportage illustration? Having a studio gives me more questions and more scope!!
As I mentioned in my previous blog about watercolour, I’ve been starting to look at different media and the sorts of ‘paintings’ that interest me the most. This is fundamental to my beliefs about the purpose of paintings. I prefer the more impressionistic approaches and those that angle to a more abstract view. I prefer to allow the observer to ‘get involved’ and use their imagination! That said, I think I will always be grounded in the real world and a need to create a sense of place, at some level, in my work!
Watercolour development-Pigments, paper and brushes
I’ve started to explore colour and tone in my watercolour development. Specifically I have explored how to achieve reflective light effects and the full range of tonal values with watercolour. I’ve also started to develop my understanding of colour mixing of watercolour using a pure pigment palette. The palette I am using is here (please ignore the top row):
I’ve also started to use a selection of brushes for different aspects of painting. These include Flat brushes, a Hake, a mop brush and two rigger brushes. That is not to mention an unruly bristle one (that I haven’t used much yet!). All have their distinct role. The paper I’ve moved onto is Saunders Waterford (140 lb; 340 gsm) Not paper (see Venetian canal image below). I originally used Bockingford which I find buckles and is not as good (see Alcatraz image below).
I created both paintings shown below from photographs on a desk easel in my studio. My aim was to develop a greater understanding of tonal values and to be able to achieve the full range of tonal values in the paintings. Both were done using the pigment palette and brushes shown above.
I have evolved my thinking and my understanding about my visual work through my watercolour exploration over the last few weeks . Based on this exploration, I am keen to develop more of a textural approach in my work and a more individual response. I am struggling to see how I do that with the pure watercolour approach I’ve been following. My background in landscape design has driven a keen interest in texture and composition. Therefore I need to explore other opportunities to achieve the layering and rich surface textures that I am seeking. Previously, I have used mixed media/ collage approaches in design. I am now going to explore how these can be developed in my artwork. Watch this space!
This last weekend, we (myself and fellow artist Hugh Winterbottom) ran our first Sketchbook Sketching Foundation workshop which aimed to equip people with some of the techniques and skills for drawing out on location and for recording their world in sketchbooks. It was an action packed two days (9.30-16.30 Saturday and Sunday) with a range of subjects covered and lots of opportunity for sketching practice. This blog gives an overview of the weekend and what we learnt in the process. Continue reading
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