You will probably already know by now if you look at my blog regularly or follow me on any of my social media platforms that Reportage, storytelling through drawing, is my thing! My sketchbook is full of annotated drawings and stories. I seek out projects that enable me to produce reportage work, be it a festival like the Dig The City, a single event or a longer term project such as the development of a building. This week was an exciting ‘first’ for me because I was invited by Greater Manchester Police and Manchester Cathedral to attend a public meeting at the Cathedral On The Street to mark a week of activity associated with Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery and to produce a piece of artwork that reflected the event. The meeting brought together senior officers from Greater Manchester Police, including Sir Peter Fahy (on his last week on office as Greater Manchester’s Chief Constable) and the Dean of the cathedral, as well as Manchester-based Rhema Theatre Group, Stop The Traffick, International Justice Mission and members of the public. It was a well-attended meeting and made for interesting debate and discussion about how as citizens of the city, we can all do our bit to help Stop Human Trafficking. This blog documents my process for producing the finished reportage piece and what I learnt along the way.
I arrived at the event early so that I could work out where best to draw from and set myself up. It was a relatively large room, with rows of chairs and a stage in front of glass panels, making for an interesting and light space. I soon realised that there was no optimum location! drawing from the back I was unlikely to see the stage and front action, whereas drawing from the front would mean that not only was I conspicuous, I didn’t have good views of the audience either! In the end I chose to sit to the side of the rows, halfway down. That way, I was relatively out of the way and wasn’t going to nudge and annoy people! Standing up wasn’t really going to be a viable option for the whole session, although it was useful at certain points, so that I could see more.
I was made very welcome by the cathedral staff and was told I could sit where I wanted and move around as I needed to which made me feel a little less awkward although I was vary aware that I didn’t want to appear to obvious or make a commotion! That said, I was introduced by the Dean at the beginning of the meeting and towards the end was invited to share what I had drawn and what I was going to produce! This was a little nerve wracking but because I didn’t know I was going to be asked, there was no time to think about it too much!
My media of choice was a Moleskine A4 watercolour sketchbook, landscape format which I perched on my knee. In hindsight, I would probably not choose to work like this in this type of setting again. A board with paper taped on may well be a lot more manageable. As it was, I ended up with a series of disjointed pages which I then needed to put together afterwards. I used a combination of 0.7 mm 2B pencil and fountain ink (Pelikan M200, fine nib with black desatramentis documents ink and a Carbon platinum pen).
Drawing the Action
I was able to sketch out the backdrop ahead of the meeting starting so that I could focus on people drawing during the actual session itself. This was very handy as I was keen to provide quite a bit of detail of the backdrop given the uniqueness and interest of the setting. What I didn’t do however was decide on the exact layout of the piece. In hindsight I could have spent time thinking about this but as it was, the layout of the sketchbook didn’t really enable me to do that effectively.
When drawing the audience and the individual speakers, this was reasonably achievable given the timings. Each speaker was talking for about 10 minutes or more, so enough time to do an outline sketch and to write notes as an aide memoire. What was more difficult however was the recording of the 3 theatre pieces. This was because of the rapid changes in movement and angles etc. Because the pieces were shortened forms of a longer play, the amount of changes of pose and action was considerable necessitating a much more shorthand form of recording than usual. I need to get so much better at this! -lots of practice is needed! This type of drawing is not for the feint hearted! As it was I think it would have been better to use ink rather than pencil-the pencil is great for initial gesture but not more.
After the event
I could clearly picture what the finished piece needed to look like by the end of the afternoon but realised I didn’t have it in that format! In addition, given the need for text and images, the A4 size really didn’t give me enough scope so I used an A3 piece of Bockingford, 300 g/m2 and transferred some, but not all of the artwork to it. I just need to get to grips with doing all these steps in process, perhaps using quick thumbnails and then working on the actual piece in situ! This is quite a tall order for me at the moment but hope that with practice the assimilation will come. I also think it depends on the outcome you are trying to produce. Because there were separate elements, it made layout more complicated than if say I was just trying to depict a single image with text. Images were created with fountain pen (as above) and Daniel Smith watercolour applied.
Here is the finished piece. I hope you area able to see how it relates to the original drawings.
In the future I intend to have the finished piece at the end of the session, perhaps with the need to add text or some additional colour, but nothing more. This is all work in progress for me so very much a steep learning curve. This opportunity has taught me a lot and I am thrilled that the clients are delighted with the finished piece. Watch this space for much more reportage work from me!