Since January of this year I’ve been working on a Chorlton exhibition of my work called: From Chorlton To The City. The exhibition will be held at The World Peace Cafe, The Kadampa Meditation Centre, Chorlton. The preview is on Friday 4 th May 5-8 pm. In this first part of a two-part discussion about the work, I’ll explain what the exhibition is all about.
I can’t believe that we are already into February and My last blog was over a month ago! To be fair I have moved and it does take a while to settle and organise. Excuses aside it’s good to be back! As this is my first blog of the year I thought I’d share my plans for 2018. I’m really looking forward to the challenges of some new approaches: The ‘What Next’? My commissioned reportage work including several weddings (London and the North West) will also continue to be a focus of my time this year. I am also always on the look out for new reportage projects. Here are some additional things to keep me busy!: Continue reading
Last week,after 11 years living at Irlam’O’Th’ Heights , SaIford M6, and several of them spent sketching Salford, I fled for the hills. (Mossley to be precise!) Actually, it took a number of trips, over several days and there was little in the way of fleeing! This post shares a small selection of my illustrations of Salford completed over the last few years ( I wasn’t sketching regularly when I first arrived). They range from the streets immediately surrounding where I lived to the well known public locations that Salford has to offer like Salford Quays. There are stories associated with many of them and I will mention a few as I go.
The starting place-The streets around where I lived
It was whilst walking my greyhound down Sumner Road in Irlams ‘O’Th’Heights that I had this need to be able to draw my surroundings more effectively! As a trained designer, I was frustrated with my drawing abilities and decided I needed to draw much more regularly (and better!). From that day, I just made a start, then I joined Manchester Urban Sketchers. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sketching Salford: Museum and Art Gallery
For the last couple of years I have been a member of Salford Art Club that meets and exhibits at the Salford Art Gallery. Coincidentally, as of 9th December 2017 there is a Manchester and Salford Urban Sketching Exhibition at the Art Gallery. Like a number of other urban sketchers, I have several pieces in the exhibition.
Sketching Salford: in Monton
I often went to Monton to sketch. It has an interesting high Street and the Bridgewater canal runs nearby. I was also invited to capture the Bridgewater Weekender day held on Worsley Green.
Sketching Salford: those well known places and famous buildings
There are numerous amazing buildings and well known areas in Salford, including:Salford Quays, Media City and Salford Lads Club. The very first sketch I had printed and sold was of the Lowry. War Horse was running a the Lowry and one of the lead actors saw my sketch of the venue, including the WarHorse trailer. He was keen to buy a copy, which we did. We also auctioned a copy, signed by all the warhorse actors, for charity.
Sketching Salford before I left
Although the weeks before and during the move were hectic, I managed to create these last black and white sketches. They include the local streets and some views/buildings (like my local garage) that I had always had in mind to sketch, but hadn’t! I have only recently created black and white sketches as a matter of course. Now that I have the Duke Confucius 551 fude, I am enjoying the simplicity and clarity of these simple drawings.
Salford, I’m going to miss you. Because you won’t be on my doorstep, I will not be sketching you regularly. But I will be back. Onwards and Upwards, quite literally as I am in the Hills now in Mossley, Tameside. I will be posting my local sketches and those further afield as usual so please stay tuned for more of my sketching adventures. Wishing you all a very peaceful and healthy 2018. Thank you all so much for all your support and comments in the last year and here’s to a fabulous 2018 for us all!
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!
I have talked a lot about my 2018 Northern Towns Calendar on social media but not all in one place. Therefore, I hope that this blog provides all the key information. So as to be as succinct as possible, I’ve used a Q&A approach.
What type of calendar is it?
It is a case calendar, ideal for desks and small spaces. It comes in a 116 x 135mm acrylic case. There are 14 cards (one for each month and a front and back) of 250gsm gloss artboard. They are full colour on one side and gloss laminated.
How have the images been selected
This year I have created a whole series of original painted illustrations called #ThisPlace and it is these images that have been used. You can read about them here: I am interested in creating a sense of place and occasion in my drawings and the images are all created in situ. This year I wanted to focus on towns rather than cities. Each month is a different Northern place, some are Cheshire, some Lancashire and some further afield but all are Northern Towns.
Several have specific stories associated with them. For example the image of Sale was created for the MadeForSale exhibition associated with Sale Arts Trail. I jointly won the Cave Framing prize with that one! GalleryOldham have bought my image of Oldham for their collection. The image of Bolton was provided to Paddy McGuinness for his Manchester Key 103 show on a Sunday morning. I have chosen the images for their fit as a collection and to cover a range of different locations and environments e.g. Hill Towns, market places, coastal location etc. The towns included are as follows:
Bolton, Clitheroe, Grasmere, Holmfirth, Kendal, Knutsford, Longridge, Oldham, Ramsbottom, Rawtenstall, Sale, Stockport, Todmorden and Whitby.
What type of illustrations are they?
All the illustrations are pen, ink and watercolour. I have created the majority of these by adding colour first then the ink linework. I do a lot of my work this way. A few, e.g. Whitby, Sale, have been done pen and ink first, with colour afterwards.
How much does the 2018 Northern Towns calendar cost
The Northern Towns calendar costs £15 Retail. If I am sending it to you in the post, then this is an additional £3 (UK) or please ask for international prices. If you would like a calendar sent as a gift then just provide me with the address details and information to be put onto the gift tag. I will wrap it and provide a handwritten note.
Where can I buy the calendar?
You can buy my Northern Towns Calendar (which makes a great present!) from me directly (please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I can send you the calendar (or you can collect from my studio in Mossley). Alternatively, you can purchase from me at Sale Arts Trail Christmas bazaar on 9th and 10th December 2017 where I will have a stall selling #ThisPlace originals, prints and calendars. There are also several outlets selling the calendar. These include Royal Exchange Theatre Craft shop, St Ann’s Square, Manchester and Hearts for Homes, Ramsbottom. But hurry! These limited edition calendars are selling well!
I have been an urban sketcher for several years now and as such I use watercolour to tint my sketches. I’ve talked about it on my blog here. Sometimes I put colour down first and sometimes after line work but I definitely wouldn’t say I am a watercolour painter. That is a whole different ball game! I am interested in developing my watercolour painting skills but I don’t yet know where this will take me. For the moment I’m just going with it. Earlier in the year I made a start but now I am taking a somewhat broader approach to my learning.
My interest in watercolour goes back a few years ( starting with an unfortunate one week watercolour painting holiday which taught me little about the medium- enough said!!). I’ve never grappled much with the technicalities of watercolour( until now); knowing the very basics of techniques and colour but nothing more – preferring to rely on happy accidents ( which only takes you so far!). To be brutally honest it’s been a pretty random approach, perhaps driven by my fear of the traditional! From what I can gleen, it takes a long time to get anywhere close to competent at watercolour painting! So why would I?…what would make me start on any journey with such tenuous chances of success and that takes so long to master (is the later even possible?)-hopefully I’ll just keep striving for a better painting!
Watercolour-What’s the big attraction?
My interest in watercolour stems from several things:
- Its ‘fit’ as a medium for me-as a spontaneous versatile and relatively simple painting approach (I think I’m going to regret saying that!)-you can do a painting in a day!
- The transparency of the paint enabling layers of colour to be created
- Its ability to convey convincing light and reflection making it magical in many situations
- The wonderful rich colours that can be created/used to stunning effect
- The opportunity to let the paint to do its own thing without controlling its movement entirely, a kind of tightrope balancing act!
- That wonderful impressionistic effects you can get where you can see the textured brush strokes and the layers and splodges and the viewer fills in more details.
This blog is about my preparation for ‘that ‘journey. The ‘tool kit’ I’m starting with if you like! – I packed my bag and in it I put……it’s the step before the nuts and bolts of paper, paint and brushes. -Who and what will be my teachers?
Watercolour painting-Some helpful experts (texts)
I guess I am the sort of person that often likes to surround myself with information on a subject (within reason!). So I like the idea of finding those artists that speak to me and trying to learn from them. To that end I have texts of several well known watercolour painters. Whilst there is some overlap in the approaches they take, I have specific learning I would like to get from each of them:
Jeanne Dobie Making Colour Sing
This is the most wonderful text that covers both colour and composition in depth. There are 31 chapters, each covering a specific aspect of painting with colour or composition. The early chapters are all about the practicalities of colour and colour mixing: from creating greens to the darkest darks. Jeanne has what she calls a pure pigment palette of colours and I have decided to revert to this to learn how to mix colours and the technicalities of them (transparency, opacity, staining power etc). This one is going to take me a long time to work through!
Tom Hoffmann Watercolour Painting
I love this book for its strategic approach to the medium and the endless wise snippets dotted throughout stunning images (not all his, a great range is presented and discussed). It isn’t a how too, technical book but teaches awareness of the different aspects of the medium. The focus is on discussion about 4 basic variables: value, wetness, colour and composition. Its the sort of book you can actually read from cover to cover (and I am making my way through it. I’d be faster if I didn’t keep going back and forth!).
Shirley Trevena Taking Risks with watercolour
Who doesn’t like Shirley’s work?! I love her encouragement of an experimental approach and her mixed media work. She isn’t a purist but encourages a creative approach to developing a painting. Spattering, lifting colour, smearing and speckling are all used to create texture. Her use of other media including pencils and pastels appeals to my interest in creating texture and collage (probably stemming back to my days as a landscape designer). I have only just started to dip into this one but it seems like a wonderful treasure trove of a book!
Jeanne Haines Atmospheric Watercolours
I have had this book for a while and love the looseness, life and vibrancy of Jeanne’s work and her use of water! I talked about it and about a short course I attended locally by Judith Farnworth here on my blog back in April. To me, this artist/text offers something slightly different but complementary to the other works. I am using this text as a way of learning more.
John Lovett blog: Splashing Paint
Oh my goodness, talk about eye candy for the soul!! stunning paintings are created with an impressive use of light. The blog covers specific aspects of painting, from brushes to mixing greys! I’ve only just started to dip into it but I love it so far!
Of course this is just a start but it provides an initial focus and rationale for learning. The problem with having too many is that it becomes somewhat confusing and a reason to read instead of paint! I’m trying to balance that one by painting every time I do some reading about it! I’ve also just ordered Michael Rearden’s Watercolour techniques book for its practical focus on the medium. I am hoping it will complement my other texts. Of course all of this won’t make me a great painter, but I am keen to get to understand the medium and how to use it to better effect. I am hoping that maybe one day, my own style will come out of it.
What those that know about watercolour say (Quotes)
I love art quotes don’t you?! My thinking here is that when I see quotes that speak to me and have a useful lesson to share, I will write them down to help me remember those lessons. Here are a few that I’ve recorded so far:
‘Using The Brain more than the Brush makes the difference’ Jeanne Dobie
‘Most good paintings are based on sound draftsmanship’ Shirley Travena
‘Some information is essential, but most of it is optional. Discovering which is which is largely a matter of getting out of your own way’ Tom Hoffmann
‘I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them’ Pablo Picasso
‘Colours are like jewels: each should be placed as carefully as a precious gem in a setting’ Jean Dobie
Watercolour Eye Candy (Pinterest collections)
Of course everyone interested in painting, studies endless paintings and tries to learn from them (don’t they?!). I have started a pinterest board of some of my favourite artists work as a further source of inspiration and a way to clarify my preferences. It’s here. I will be adding many others as I study them.
Some other stuff
There are so many resources out there. I am planning to dip into Magazines (e.g. The Art of Watercolour), exhibitions, specialist websites, catalogues (Jackson’s do a great one) and YouTube etc as and when I need them. No doubt I will be sharing some of the gems as I find them!
This is the first of a series about my watercolour painting approaches. I hope you will follow along as I start my exciting journey!
Until earlier this year, most of my urban sketching was done in a sketchbook. Sketchbooks of all shapes (landscape, portrait, concertina), sizes (pocket, A5, A4, A3) and brands. Moleskine, Stillman and Birn, Handbook and Seawhite of Brighton are a few of the brands I’ve used. However, as I increased my sales of sketches and prints, it seemed sensible to create more of my sketches on loose paper. You can read about my #ThisPlace series of original drawings and limited edition prints here. These images were saleable and easier to scan. This in turn resulted in a dramatic reduction in my sketchbook work and a rather haphazard use of sketchbooks in the following months. This blog is about the impact that I believe reducing my sketchbook sketching has had on my drawing practice and how I propose to move forward.
My sketchbook sketching practice
Earlier in the year I was using an A4 moleskine watercolour sketchbook much like a visual diary. I sketched in this sketchbook very regularly using a variety of approaches and often wrote notes of explanation about the scene. Sometimes I divided the page into a series of smaller thumbnail sketches. Subject matter was varied. I also had different sketchbooks for different subject matter eg. people sketching notebooks.
My Sketchbook sketching alternative loose paper work
For some reason as I started to do more loose paper work I did less sketchbook work. The loose paper works tended to be whole scenes with very little in the way of descriptive text. A title and date were the norm for these sketches. Often, they were colour first and they would take longer than my average sketchbook sketch: perhaps 2 plus hours. Because they were to be prints there was also a tendency to be more precious about them. I enjoyed these pieces and there are strong benefits to creating them. However, I do feel that my sketchbook sketching work took a back seat. This in turn had an impact on the variety of things I was sketching. In hindsight, I think I should have put more effort into creating both types of drawing in parallel.
Sketchbook sketching-The benefits
Here are what I consider to be some of my key benefits of sketchbook sketching and the reason why I need to do more of it!:
- I am creating a visual diary, something to look back on, a chronology of events and ideas.
- The sketchbook automatically provides stories: of places, of occasions, of objects, through the visuals and narrative.
- It keeps me observing and recording: anything that catches my eye, so increasing the variety of subjects that I sketch. Inside, outside, from the car, waiting for a bus etc (this seems less likely with a loose piece of paper!).
- Everything is in one place so it becomes a toolbox of ideas about subjects, sketching process etc.
- Because it is always to hand, it keeps me sketching daily. I have to say that by not keeping a regular sketchbook, it is easy to slip into bad habits of not sketching very regularly.
- Its not as precious as a piece of loose paper (for me anyway!) so there is a greater tendency to try different approaches.
- Sketchbooking keeps me thinking about presentation of the pages and layout and therefore storytelling. It goes beyond the composition of the drawing itself.
Sketching in sketchbooks gets me out with other like-minded urban sketchers and sketching friends. Of course it doesn’t matter whether you are doing this in a sketchbook or on loose paper! However, when using loose paper I often go on a specific ‘mission’ to do a sketch and this is often alone rather than with a group.
Getting back on track with Sketchbook Sketching
Last weekend I attended one of the Urban sketchers 10 x 10 workshops at Salford Quays. The session meant that I took a sketchbook with me (I chose an A5 moleskine that had remained half full for sometime!). I subsequently created a number of sketches over the bank holiday weekend in this small book. It got me thinking about getting back into a regular sketchbook sketching which I plan to do in the coming days. In order for me to feel the benefit I am going to use a main sketchbook rather than several at once. I will try to use different approaches depending upon the subject, time available and materials. These are likely to include pen and ink work, watercolour, collage and perhaps coloured pencil/crayon/pastel. Given that my key interest in sketching is driven by the reportage storytelling aspects, it is that which I need to focus upon in my sketchbook work.
I am also going to think about ways of overcoming the endless searching for a perfect sketchbook! There are always pros and cons with any type of sketchbook so I am going to try to live with this and stop using this as an excuse for not progressing! What have been your main sketchbook sketching dilemmas? I’d love to hear about them!
I haven’t posted about my people sketching for a while, although I am always looking to improve my people drawing. This is because my area of interest, reportage illustration, involves telling stories of people and places through drawing. Last weekend I attended one of the 10×10 Manchester and Sheffield Urban sketching ‘Reporting from your city’ workshops. These types of workshops are taking place all over the world to celebrate 10 years of the Urban Sketching organisation. The session on Saturday is one of 4 that I will be attending, entitled : Great Stories. Each one will cover a separate aspect of drawing the big picture on location. Continue reading
Over the last few weeks I have been spending some time decorating and preparing my little studio. I originally introduced my new workspace at Woodend Mill here on my blog some time ago and at that point it was very much a shell.
It has taken me a while to get it ready for action and I’m pretty much there with it now (apart from quite a few finishing touches!) so thought you may be interested in hearing about its development. At the time when I posted that last blog, I had started to create some ideas on pinterest but soon realized that I had enough of a vision in my head to continue without developing the board extensively. Continue reading
Over the last couple of Wednesday evenings (2 x 2 hours) I ran a demonstration and workshop on Urban Sketching at Salford Art Club, held in Salford Museum and Art Gallery. I am also a member of this art club so for some reason (I think it always is when you know people!) it was a little bit more nerve wracking than usual. However, members made me feel very at ease and we had a couple of great sessions. Fortunately, on the first session earlier in July, the weather was great, enabling me to demonstrate my colour-first technique outside and also set the group off with some thumbnail sketching practice around the outside of the gallery as a way of capturing snapshot views of the place before settling on an overall view. Unfortunately we had to run the second session inside the gallery but with plenty to sketch (and an example to hand of how this compares with the outside situation), this wasn’t too much of an imposition! The main focus of both sessions was capturing the essence of the place using relatively quick techniques and creating depth in the drawing (without necessarily focusing on perspective only). Members seemed to really enjoy the sessions and engage with the approach of drawing from life. For me, with an interest in reportage illustration as well as urban sketching, this is the focus of all of my work. Continue reading
This weekend (July 15th 2017) I attended my first ever proloco event in Longridge Lancashire. The Create Longridge event was launched in September 2016 and challenges artists to create a brand new, original piece of art, from scratch, in one day. And what a day it was! I decided to attend after seeing the event on social media. I was interested in learning more about these types of events and as I sketch on location and enjoy the process of capturing places (and people) from life it seemed like a good idea! Continue reading
Its always great to sketch in a new place, especially one with history and character, so when one of the Manchester Urban Sketching Group organized a trip to her home town-Kendal in Cumbria yesterday, I was keen to make the trip. It’s always great to see what you can capture of the place and to see a place with your own eyes after seeing it through other local sketchers eyes.Like a true urban sketcher, I love to travel and visit other places to draw so we set off early to get there in good time for our meet up at the Brewery Arts Centre. Continue reading
It’s nice to be beside the seaside and it was great to be sketching in Whitby on the East coast of the UK for a couple of days last week! As is usual for me trying to capture the places I visit- it’s about recording my visual diary, my ‘snapshots’ of the visit. They are not necessarily images that I create in 10 minutes but they are snapshots to the extent that they are the images that I think epitomize the place and its character. I chose to use a sketchbook (not very successfully as the 200 gsm Fabriano paper didn’t take watercolour well (perhaps it will prompt me to develop my line only and line with pencil work further!) and loose 300 gsm Bockingford watercolour paper. The sketchbook work tends to be more of a diary, perhaps thumbnail sketches, looser and with additional pieces added such as maps. Continue reading
Manchester’s King Street Festival is now in its 3rd year and it is the first year it has included the top area of King Street, with parking bays turned into mini parklets for the duration! All along this iconic and historic shopping street there was al fresco dining, free fizz, gifts and goodiebags, a bandstand, a grand piano, pop-up parks, an art garden together with heritage tours and events from Manchester’s premium names in shopping, food and drink. The festival was also supporting The British Red Cross We Love MCR emergency fund for those affected by the Manchester arena attack. This year I sensed, amongst the sadness and quiet reflection of the St Ann’s Square flower memorial, togetherness and a feeling of Manchester pulling together in solidarity. This is what makes Manchester special: its people and its places. Continue reading