The world has changed considerably since my last blog post a couple of weeks ago when I shared my new exhibition: About Ashton in the market hall Ashton-Under-Lyne. As we end our first week in lockdown in the U.K. every day seems to present some fresh unfamiliar challenges. Whether around health, family, money, work-the list seems endless. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and consumed by it. But on reflection, taking stock and forging new approaches could be just what we need.Continue reading
As of today, Tuesday 17th March 2020, my About Ashton exhibition is on show in the Market Hall, Ashton-Under-Lyne!! You can read more about the venue in a previous blog here. After a few months putting this work together, it feels like a mixture of excitement, nerves and relief! On a practical note, it is likely that many fewer people will get to see it in person than we originally thought. This is because of the unprecedented times we are witnessing with Corvid19. But I want people to be able to have a good look at it and hear what it’s all about. Even if they can’t get to the market hall.Continue reading
It’s been a while since I blogged on here. No excuses so I’ve decided to get back to it with a post about Persevering with People drawing. In fact capturing people (in my drawings) is something that is often on my mind (perhaps more so than any other element of drawing). This is because capturing busy places and people is a focus of some of my commissioned reportage work, including weddings and other events. My view is that like most aspects of drawing, constant practice is required and maybe this is even more so with people! When I don’t draw people for a while I definitely notice and find it more difficult. The way I capture people, the materials, the type of drawing, the level of detail etc, is also a source of internal debate! Continue reading
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
Last weekend I attended a wedding at Tower Bridge where I was commissioned to draw the occasion. You can read more about my drawing at weddings here. Usually, as I am based near Manchester, my weddings are in the North West. Often my clients are very familiar with my work and drawing style and like my reportage approach! Despite that, there is always a degree of nerves, especially ones at such impressive venues as Tower Bridge and Dickens Inn, St Katherine’s Dock!
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.
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
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!.
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