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!

Context (the surroundings)

I have been reading the posts of several articles on this and whilst the reasons for adding people before context is strong (it frees our people sketching because we don’t have a pristine backdrop already drawn), I do still struggle with this.  Therefore, I sometimes draw people first and the context around them, but sometimes afterwards.  I think it depends upon the focus of the scene and complexity of the surroundings.  For example, most of my countdown sketches, where the detail of the  surroundings were very important,  were done with people added after the surroundings; but for looser sketches, I can see the value of putting the people in first with some of the surroundings around them.  In these sketches I did last weekend, the people on the bridge were the first things drawn and the performers were also done first, to enable a quick capture, before some simple surroundings were added.


I’ve also been re-visiting some of the Edges Course with Liz Steel.  This was a very useful and insightful course for me but as ever, it is easy to forget some of the valuable tips or get back to old habits.  Here is my summary of that course which I’m trying to use as an aid memoire!  Creating depth in a drawing is always an important consideration for me and I think about the layers that make up a scene.  Those elements in the distance are softer and less defined whereas those closer are harder, more detailed, darker.   Perhaps you can see it in action in this recent couple of sketches.  This is likely something I need to draw upon when I am recording some of the symposium experiences!


I am going to be trying out a variety of colour approaches depending upon the scene and time available.  These are the things I will be dipping into to produce the sketches:

  • I have turned into a little bit of a fan of colour first technique.  In these sketches I put the colour down loosely at first (and usually it is a colour that is similar to the subject matter) and then do line work over the top.  I find this loosens up the line work and makes it easier to be less precious.  The line work is usually fountain pen but if the page isn’t dry enough I use inktense watercolour pencils.


  • On other sketches, I will certainly be using colour selectively, partly for time but also to focus the viewer into the focal point of the sketch.  This maybe the background context or the people in the foreground or a combination.   In terms of colour combinations I will certainly be trying out some or all of the following:
  • Colour from life, picking up on the key colours in the scene, particularly the buildings to give  a clear ‘Sense of place’ to the drawings
  •  Harmonious colours: choosing colours close together on the colour wheel (analogous) with the complementary of the central colour for contrast or perhaps complementary colours alone as the main focus.
  • Single Hues raw in intensity, juicy and unmixed!

Certainly though there is something to be said for just using your judgement and letting go, but maybe that’s easier with a bit of theory understanding behind it (or not!).


My sketching kit

Of course no blog on the subject of preparing for the symposium would be complete without some sharing of my kit which, in summary, consists of fountain pens in variety (Lamy with extra fine nib and with a 1.1 italic nib, Pelikan M200, Sailor, Carbon Platinum),(mostly filled with DeAtramentis Documents ink); Pentel brush pen, Watercolour paint (mostly Daniel Smith) and a selection of watercolour pencils.  Oh, and my new Hedgren light weight bag and Propa Toppa hat which doubles as a sun hat and waterproof rain hat-Appropriate for Manchester!

See you all soon, either at the symposium or on my blog here!



2 thoughts on “Preparing for #USkManchester 2016: context, Colour and Kit

  1. Fantastic post, Liz! You’ve certainly been thinking a lot about how best to approach your correspondent sketches! I found both Liz Steel’s and Suhita’s online courses helpful in thinking about the architecture as well as the people. I love peeking into your kit, too. See you very soon! 🙂

    – Tina

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.