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!.
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
At the end of February this year, I was thrilled to be commissioned by the Manchester Airport Property Group to capture their first lunchtime event at Manchester Airport’s Transport Interchange. These events, which will include a wide range of community activities, including, food, seminars and product launches (publicized with the hash tag #FarFlungFridays on social media) are aimed at animating the large public realm area and are named Platform Although video and photography were being employed to create a video of the event, the drawings were considered a welcome addition, as a way of capturing the energy of the occasion and the vibrancy and context of the set up and location. The intention is to use the drawings in marketing material. This blog shares my process and results. Continue reading
As 2016 draws (get it!) to a close, I thought I’d capture my year in sketches ( some but not all of them!), partly as an aide memoire (those of you that read my blog know how I like to document my drawing adventures!) and partly to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Its been quite a year in many respects and those of you that have followed my #scribblescompilations on social media in my 12 days of Christmas countdown, will be familiar with most of the combinations below. However, this blog puts a narrative to the visuals and I have tried to group things so that you can see more of the approaches and types of things that I am interested in recording and the approaches I’ve taken to drawing. Continue reading
This last month (to the day) has seen some drama in our house. When I say ‘our’ house, I use that as a general term. It’s the place I grew up, not the same house I spent my childhood in but its home because the people (my mum and dad plus others) and the ‘things’ make it so. It’s where I have so many memories and now I have been given some time to be able to capture them in drawings. Not that I have had too much time yet, but I have made a start and I will continue. So this blog is about drawing memories: a sense of place and sense of things. Continue reading
I am thrilled to have been invited to exhibit and sell my drawings at the Sale Arts Trail Christmas Bazaar to be held on Sunday 27th November at the Claremont Centre in Sale. I have attended both the summer and Christmas events as a visitor and also as an Urban sketcher in recent years, so it is particularly thrilling for me to be able to exhibit for the first time. Continue reading
As promised, this is the second post of my holiday sketches from Zante, the first, arguably more polished sketches, can be found here. I am so pleased that I decided to take a small portable A5 moleskin watercolour sketchbook as well as working on loose paper. The sketchbook enabled me to record my visual diary, in parallel with the finished pieces on paper and importantly, it allowed me to be looser, more experimental, less polished and to have fun! Continue reading
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! Continue reading
After the stopover it was a mere 7 hour flight from Singapore to Perth in Western Australia and a daytime flight, leaving at 9,30 am and arriving in the afternoon. Then, after a family reunion and a single night in Perth, we travelled, in several cars, armed with everything imaginable, drink, food, clothes, wedding dresses, Oh, you name it…….’down south’. Now this is difficult for us Northern Hemisphere habitants to get our heads around: In this part of the world it is cooler down south (mid 20’s so no worries on that score!) and warmer and drier up north (if only this were true in the UK!!). We were to stay for a week: Wednesday to Wednesday with the wedding on the Saturday.
The Margaret River region is awash with many wineries and in the summer many people travel there to get married on one of the vineyard estates. My nephew and his bride to be were to be married on Aravina Estate in Yallingup , 266 km from Perth. Yallingup is named after an Australian Aboriginal word that means ‘Place of Love’. It is a popular tourist destination because of its beaches and limestone caves, as well as its proximity to Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. We stayed in a large rented house 10 minutes drive from the venue that could accommodate the numerous people staying! It was like an episode from the Waltons (but with Australian accents!). In the couple of days before the wedding, I managed several sketches, I even managed to get over to Aravina to draw the actual venue (I knew there would be little time for this on the day!):
Places visited before the wedding Our accommodation in YallingupThe Weddding Venue: Aravina Estate
Of course most of you know that I had been ‘building up’ in sketching terms, for several months, for the wedding because I was going to be sketching it! This was scary, but once you are into the day, you have no chance to think about it, just to draw. So that is just what I did!
Because my nephew and all the Grooms Men and Grooms maid (? Who has ever heard of this: it was my niece so pretty much everything got organized by her!), were at our accommodation on the morning of the wedding, I was able to start sketching (and thinking about just what materials I would use) then. I had an idea I would use watercolour pencil and ink later but the first sketches showed that this wasn’t a great idea-the pencil blunted quickly and the relative permanence meant that I may as well go straight to ink if I was going that route! I therefore did most of the drawings in pencil (a 0.7 mm rotring 2B lead, propelling pencil) and or ink (lamy fountain pen and a carbon platinum pen_ and added colour later. All of the sketches were done in situ, at the venue. None were done from photographs and the work done afterwards was just watercolour and some line (going over existing marks). I found the pencil easier, especially for the larger crowd scenes as it was quicker, enabling me to put figures into the scheme quicker. At the same time, it was not so blunt as to prevent the drawing of facial features. All of the drawings were done in a Moleskine watercolour album (13 x 21 cm) and the completed book was handed over to the happy couple when we left Margaret River.
Having experienced the process, I think in future I would seek to do all the line work in pen, on the day and then add watercolour pencil and colour later if necessary. I would also seek to jot down key phrases and thoughts rather than try and remember them! As for the book, I like the idea of giving a book but perhaps a bigger book or loose pages may work better, especially if prints are to be made, since several of my sketches were drawn over the double page.
With family altogether and plenty going on, it was hard to do more than a sketch or two each day (apart from the wedding day!). After the wedding, we did have a formal lunch at one of the more formal wineries and visited local towns along the coast.
Next up, for something completely different. Having returned to Perth, the next day was a long trip ‘Up North’ for a week. The next blog documents that trip, this time, in a concertina sketchbook.
Phew, what a month of drawing for Inktober. Now I can’t say I did an ink drawing everyday but I certainly did do quite a few! It has been great to think about line in isolation and although I did add watercolour to most of my drawings, the focus on ink did make me think more about my line and the way in which I was using the line to convey a range of elements: depth (through line weight), detail, shadow through hatching, movement etc. All of these have a valuable part to play in the build up of a drawing and tie in well with a previous blog that I produced about Edges following Liz Steel’s course. It also made me think about the way in which I used different pens for different effects, from the carbon platinum pen which gives a very clean fine line for facial features, to the pentel brush pen for solid darks, to the Lamy safari with a 1.1 italic nib pen for text and the green Sailor pen which can produce a range of line thickness depending upon the angle you are holding the pen.
Initially, my intention had been to focus on people exclusively this month for inktober but in the end, I chose to draw a range of subject matter, often the urban environment but also other objects and activities. As this is my first inktober, there will be plenty of others where I can chose one theme! In addition, there were plenty of activities and things going on in October, so it was nice to be able to capture a range of them.
Given this outcome, I have chosen to group my drawings into some key themes: People, buildings, miscellaneous (a mix of individual items) and to end with, captured for on last day of the month, a couple of reportage pieces! Here they are:
I have really enjoyed participating in Inktober and do hope you have enjoyed following the journey. Please do continue to follow my adventures on here and if you’d like to check out these images individually then don’t forget that they are all on my instagram site here:
I am a little disappointed that I have gone from blogging on here once a week to once every two weeks and I got to wondering about what it means to blog regularly…..What defines regular? daily, weekly, fortnightly…anyway, what defines anything? I got to thinking about that one too! Three years ago now, we got an allotment, but, being the aesthetic obsessive that I am, I didn’t want it to be any old allotment, heath robinson, full of plastic, ramshackle. I wanted it to be organic, gorgeous, shabby chic, whatever you may like to call it, but just not ‘ordinary’ We called it our Boutique Allotment, like a boutique hotel, something special, gem-like, quirky, carefully laid out. It is full of raised beds, gravel and woven bean sticks, a polytunnel that looks like an allotment form of a camper van…… It is starting to look something like what I imagined: my definition of a Boutique Allotment. But what has this got to do with sketching, drawing, scribbling, (there I go with that definition thing again). Well, (drum roll for the tenuous link please….), for many a month (almost a year in fact) I felt overwhelmed with the idea of drawing the allotment. I did try but always felt that the green merged into the green, one shed merged into another, I felt that I didn’t have the skills to create enough definition in the drawing. I was at that conscious incompetent stage, i.e. I knew enough to know what it needed to be like (broadly), but I didn’t know how to get there. Then a few weeks ago, it started to become clearer. There were several things I set about to achieve in the drawings I’ve completed:
- Simplification and emphasis: trying not to draw everything I see but selecting key elements and emphasising their details
- Using darks to full effect: this can be black or brown or whatever the ink colour is but using this to create a sense of depth and contrast in the drawing
- Limiting the colour palette: and making sure that there was enough contrast between colours: you will see that orange or red appear with the greens and blues
- Creating depth in the drawing: through perspective (getting smaller the further away it gets), detail (more detail closer, less detail further away) and colour (getting paler as it gets further away), all the things that you would naturally use in any drawing, but for some reason, they seemed things that I needed to keep telling myself when I drew the allotment
- Using strong form to tell the story: the curves of the polytunnel, the bean poles and tomato canes etc
Here are my attempts. You will have to see for yourself whether you think I have followed the rules I set for myself.
Of course, the images above look like there were no people (which there weren’t at the time I drew the scenes). However, people do feature strongly behind the scenes. Here is a group in action at the recent allotment meeting.
It has been just under two weeks since I last posted a blog on here and I have to say that I have been thinking about several different aspects of drawing, going off in all directions and getting myself in a bit of a spin! I have been starting to incorporate more people drawing into my sketchbook drawings, but at the same time, have started Sketchbook skool Storytelling and have additionally been exploring some different approaches to my watercolour work. Further to all this, I read a very thought proving blog by Fred Lynch entitled : Pictures of Pictures on the Urban Sketchers site. It got me really thinking about the purpose of my sketch book scribbles and how I wanted to be able to tell stories through my drawings, not just produce pictures of well known landmarks and buildings! In the words of Fred Lynch in his blog: ‘We can’t just show things, we have to say things’. I have always maintained that my interest in urban sketching is related to reportage and being able to tell stories of Urban Life, however, until recently, I think I have been a little caught up with the mechanics of drawing as opposed to using the drawing to describe and illustrate: something that I have an enthusiasm for and a unique angle upon. I am starting to think quite differently about my drawings now, although it is probably true to say that I need much more practice in exploring how I communicate most effectively in my sketches. Here is a somewhat eclectic mix of some of my drawings from the week.
A visit to Stockport Vintage Fair
Last weekend I attended the Fair alongside other Manchester Urban Sketchers. What a fabulous building to sketch and what an extraordinary and electic mix of stalls, from clothes to pictures, to household items: a real step back in time. A central stall caught my eye with its flurry of activity and I just managed to catch a little girl buying an old wooden dolls house. The building itself is stunning too, inside and out but I found it lovely to capture the look of the building, having already documented activities going on inside.
A theatre trip in Cheshire
Another trip back in time with a small local production of ‘An Ideal Husband’ by Oscar Wilde. Fortunately, I have an ideal husband who doesn’t mind me sitting drawing whilst we watched the production! I found it hard to capture all the changing costumes and scenery but feel that what was captured does give a flavour of the play although it would have been better to include captions and narrative.
Our boutique allotment
This is a great time of year on the allotment site with everything growing well and much in the way of structures : bean canes, pea sticks, wigwams. I am aware that telling the story of the allotment can be a challenging one: a sea of green! I wanted to create a narrative with the canes and with simple, bold colour and strong contrast.
A quick trip to the Trafford Centre
An eclectic mix of elements! This is the entranceway into the restaurant area and China Town. The car adds another slightly surreal prop in a somewhat ostentatious space that is this well known shopping centre! Of course there were plenty of people moving through the space at a steady rate!
I have wanted to capture these garages and their surroundings for a while! They are rather attractive in their dishevelled state and it is fascinating that they are almost invisible, on the edge of activities which you might think would ensure their repair/change. The wood, pipes and barbed wire make for an interesting image!
I look forward to sharing more of my storytelling adventures in future blogs.