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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: sketching, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Tales from the Lead-Up to the Symposium


Today is my last day in the studio for nearly 2 weeks: I am off on a book-tour trip to Spain. There is so much exciting stuff happening at the moment! I will of course tell you all about that when I get back but, in the meantime, I still have plenty to tell you about my extraordinary time in Brazil.

The historical centre of Paraty, where this year's Usk Symposium was based, was a lovely, calm place and very pretty, so perfect for sketching. 


There was quite a lot of variety to draw too. I had a full day to get my bearings before the symposium, so I decided to use one of the concertina sketchbooks I made recently to record my day and what I could see as I walked around.

 

You can see the first couple of sections more clearly - the sketches of the church and the vultures - in my first symposium post. That was my morning, pottering around, sitting down beside other sketchers, or wherever caught my interest. 

At lunchtime, we found a brilliant little self-service place, where you paid by the weight of food eaten - a rather novel and very handy idea. We ate there almost every day and more and more sketchers joined us each time until, on the last day, you couldn't move for urban sketchers:


In the afternoon, I sat on a doorstep to draw this wonderful church across the Praca da Matriz, half-obscured by trees dripping with vines and covered in epiphytes. Unfortunately for me, the woman in the house behind me was doing her cleaning... 


I was suddenly enveloped in a cloud of dust and muck that she swept through a gap under her front door. Bits in my eyes, bits in my mouth... it also filled my paint palette. And then, just a few minutes later, I was sprayed with water from a passing van's windscreen washer. A rather eventful half hour! 


There were quite a few work-horses in Paraty. Some were pulling carts, but this one was for tourists, with a trap. He was unsure of me, because of the eye-flaps, which meant he could hear and smell me, but not see what I was up to, so I tried to be as quick as I could. 


In the evening we did 'drink and draw' sessions, first in a little bar and then at a restaurant. These are a regular feature at symposiums. We all go out together and draw each other across the table. It's great fun and much better than photos when you are looking back. We often pass the books round, so people can add their names to the drawings of themselves - it's a good way of remembering people's names:


Okay, that's all for now, but I have plenty more, which I will set up to publish while I am away. I still haven't told you about my workshops, the flood (!) or my trip to Rio. Watch this space!

0 Comments on Tales from the Lead-Up to the Symposium as of 9/19/2014 4:34:00 AM
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2. Hot Chicks!

Hot chicks new2 450So, I think I can safely say that today, I was one hot chick!

Anything over 75 degrees is too hot for me. So let’s just say today’s weather topping off at 109 really ruffled my feathers!

I don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched, but IS IT FALL YET?!!


4 Comments on Hot Chicks!, last added: 9/16/2014
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3. 5th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty


Though I was in Brazil for 10 days, the actual symposium in Paraty ran for 3 days, each of which was crammed with workshops, demonstrations, talks and SketchCrawls, not to mention all the extra-curricula drawing through lunch and dinner.

I was teaching a full day on Thursday and on Saturday morning, but the rest of the time I got to take part in whatever was happening.

There was so much to choose from and of course lots of things clashed, but I had a go at everything I could fit in, trying to squeeze every last drop out of the precious time.


All the instructors were teaching through most of the workshop slots, which meant that we were only able to opt to take part in one workshop being given by a fellow instructor. It was so hard to choose, but in the end I went for something totally different to my approach, so I would learn something new, I chose Paul Heaston.

Paul usually works with a fine-liner and does mostly very small, very intricate drawings, which are incredibly beautiful and very cleverly put together. One device he uses is a fish-eye lens perspective, to try and squeeze everything which is in his field of vision into his tiny A6 sketchbook. I'd never met him before, as this symposium was his first time.  Turns out he's lovely as well as brilliant, and very funny. Excellent combo.


I tried my best to learn how to draw the fish-eye style.
 It was so much harder than I thought! Paul asked us to start with thumbnails and I discovered to my surprise that doing a thumbnail of a view was, for me, the most difficult of all! My thumbnails all kept growing and growing...
After a few pathetic dry-runs I did one final sketch which worked, more or less. Here is Paul trying to whip me into shape:


I went to a couple of excellent lectures, one about the nature of learning, by my new friend Matthew Brehm, and one by Karina Kuschnir from Rio, about gathering research information through sketching, which was very pertinent to the work I am hoping to do with Manchester University.


I did one evening event with Richard Alomar, about sketch-mapping. He asked us to create a concertina record of a walk down one street, taking note of anything which snagged our attention. It was amazing - I had walked down the same street many, many times while we were there, and thought it very much like all the others; I only really got to know it through Richard's session:


On the last afternoon of the symposium, there was a new feature: the Big Crit, where we instructors gave one-to-one feedback on people's work. It was arranged like speed-dating with just 5 minutes per person (although it did stretch at the end, as the crowds thinned). Everyone said it was very useful, so I think it is likely to become a regular feature.


Straight after this, we had a huge SketchCrawl for all 240 Urban Sketchers, plus any locals who wanted to join in. We gathered together for a group photo then all sketched together in the square until the light was completely gone.


That evening we held a blind auction. Each of the instructors (and some other sketchers too) created a piece of work during the symposium, to be auctioned in aid of next year's symposium fund. I found it quite stressful to do, as I left it until the last minute and had to be sure to do something good enough during the final sketchcrawl. Fortunately it worked okay. This is my piece and the lovely Nelson Paciencia, who bought it:


Then we celebrated with the end-of-symposium party. It's normally reasonably formal, with speeches, but this was Brazil. The locals started dancing fairly early on. Well, it would have been rude not to join in...


We ended up doing a massive conga (in quite a small space - fun in itself). After that, it was impossible to go back to anything formal, so we just kept partying instead!


Later that evening, like each of those before it, a smaller group of us went on to the local music bar, Paraty 33, where we drank Caipirinhas (way too nice) and carried on drawing and bopping into the small hours. I was of course amongst the last small knot of hardened boppers who finally crawled out at 4.30am.




I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. After several days of intensive sketching and partying, I was of course exhausted, but couldn't have been happier when every day we got up and started all over again! 

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4. Ants In My Pants!

ant in pants final 450

EXCUSE ME, BUT I DO BELIEVE AN ANT’S IN MY PANTS!

There is an excellent chance that a situation such as this could cause a wee bit of anxiety and might even make a person feel, ahem, well… darn right antsy.

So one must remember to remain calm. You see, the attention span of an ant is quite short so feigning nonchalance is best. In roughly 10 to 15 minutes the novelty of wearing  your jeans will have warn off. The bored ant will soon run along to find spilt milk or some sugar to walk through.

Possession of your pants and your sanity, regained!

Maybe.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Reworked an old bit of silliness in honor of the ant trails now taking over our home. They might as well be giant, as intrusive as they are.

Oh well, at least the flies (Amityville Horror) are gone.

Bugs, eh? So rude!


1 Comments on Ants In My Pants!, last added: 9/12/2014
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5. Back in the Real World


Hello! Yes, I am back from my adventures (sigh). There is no way I can put into words the amount of fun, fellowship and inspiration that was packed into the 10 days I was in Brazil. 


The atmosphere at Urban Sketchers symposiums is always electric with excitement and creativity, but this year was definitely something extra special. Maybe it was that the Brazilians were such lovely, friendly, fun-loving hosts (we partied hard - it was GREAT!). 


Maybe it was because Paraty was the perfect location: small enough that we took it over, so that sketchers were peppered through every street, literally from dawn until dusk most days. 


Maybe it was also partly because this was my 4th time and, each year I go, I revisit more friendships from previous years and feel more at home as an instructor and correspondent. Also, I got to sandwich the symposium itself between extra 'bonding' days with smaller groups of my fellow-sketchers. A dozen of us went out on a boat trip together the day before it all kicked off - when I opened this sketch onto my scanner, a scattering of sand spilled out:


I filled 5 sketchbooks, so there's no way I am going to be able to show them all here, even spread over a few posts, but I will be gradually adding them to an Usk album on my Flickr page as I scan them. I've done a few already. You can see lots of photos on my Facebook page too.


The workshops all went really well although, on the two sessions I did on Thursday, we encountered some rather surreal and unexpected circumstances, which I will tell you about next time. This is a photo from the final workshop on Saturday:



It's been really hard trying to settle down to normality again. I think today is the first day when I have not felt that at least 20% of my brain was still in Brazil with my chums. I didn't expect to miss everyone so much!


Anyway, as you can imagine, there's lots to catch up on back home, so I'd better get on. I will come back and tell you more in a couple of days.


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6. I'm off to Rio! Yippee!


Okay, I am making the assumption once again that things are following the plan. Whether that's true or not, one thing's for certain: the Urban Sketchers 5th International Symposium is now officially over (sigh). But, my trip isn't quite done yet (hurrah!).

Before I left England, I booked a long-distance bus to take me and fellow instructor Liz Steel to Rio de Janiero. The symposium actually ended with the bit party on Saturday night, but I know from past years that the pace over the three days will have been extremely intense, so I thought I might appreciate a short period of relative calm, sketching at a gentler pace in Paraty on Sunday, before moving on.

Liz and I leave Paraty on the 09.20 bus (or has it already happened? Can't remember which way the time-thing goes...), but it takes over four and a half hours to get to Rio. Now, Liz is probably the only person alive who talks more than me, so we'll be able to pass a fair bit of that time chin-wagging, but I'm guessing we'll also be doing some of The Usual. 

I don't have long in Rio - just two and a half days, which is nowhere near long enough for such a crazy place, but I'll get a taster at least. And, yes Mum, I'll be careful and won't go out and about on my own - promise!




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7. Amityville Horror


fly_amityville horror 450

At this time, every year our house becomes housefly central for a day or two and is affectionately referred to by my husband, Tom and myself as “Amityville Horror”. Those who have seen the movie will know what I’m referring to. If you don’t know what I mean, well, Rod Steiger plays this priest, he’s in this haunted house and he gets attacked by flies and, well you really need to check this out, man.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adFRKm9ezw4

But, I digress.

So, while attempting to prepare a meal today, several flies circled my head in this dreadful holding pattern, while many more of their creepy little comrades paced shamelessly across the cutting board with their nasty little bug feet. At least 50 or A MILLION flies crawled, flitted or buzzed over every inch of our kitchen. One poor unfortunate got himself stuck in the butter.

Gross! That does it!

We take up arms. Flyswatters and rolled up newspapers are picked up and waved wildly at the air in hopes of sending the tiny, vile vermin back from whence they came. The wild waving and syncopated swatting, followed by loud intermittent thwaps and kersplats, predictably sends our two kitties vaulting out of kitchen and into farther reaches of the house, each heading for their own piece of furniture to hide under and wait for saner times. Clearly the humans, usually such pacifists, have gone to a deep, dark place.

The carnage can go on for hours, sometimes days. But eventually this slaughter, the stuff of horror films, ends as abruptly as it began. Feeling spent, yet flush with cathartic relief, we turn to each other, blow the fly guts off our swatters and announce…

“This house is clean.”


8 Comments on Amityville Horror, last added: 8/31/2014
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8. Zoot Suit Newt

Zoot Suit Newt 2 450

A snazzy, jazzy daddy and no grander salamander than Zoot Suit Newt!


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9. I'm in Brazil!!! (I Hope)



Yes, if everything has gone to plan (pleeeease...), I arrived in Sao Paulo on Monday, in the early morning, where I met up with a handful of other sketchers and we took a bus together, down the coast to the lovely, historic city of Paraty. It's a long way and takes several hours, so much better with company.


Don't be confused by these sketches btw: your instincts are right - they are not Brazil. All will be explained...


Anyway, today I will be chilling in Paraty, trying to get over my jet-lag before the symposium starts tomorrow afternoon. I suspect I will already have started SketchCrawling though, with the others who have arrived early. There are lots of drawing events arranged around the edges of the symposium this year, so as many people as possible can take part. 


If I can work out how to do it from my phone, I will share some photos and sketches with you via the hotel's wi-fi, but I am not great at phone stuff, so no promises. If you are into such things, I think people will be sharing their work this year through a new app: PEN.UP, as they are one of the sponsors of this year's symposium (if it turns out to be user-friendly that is, otherwise it'll be Instagram).


In the meantime, these are sketches done earlier this month, on our wedding anniversary, when we took off to the east coast for a couple of days. It's one of our favourite places, especially Robin Hood's Bay, where we went for our first weekend away together (around 22 years ago!), which was why we chose it as the venue to get engaged and also stayed there for the first night of our honeymoon. 


Aren't we soppy? 

Have you spotted the helicopter by the way?

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10. Drawing the Summer - Festival Fun!



Sheffield Museums have had funding for an exciting new festival this year, called Drawing the Summer. It's all about getting people to draw: everyone and anyone, especially encouraging those who don't normally do it, to have a go.

It's such a great idea - there are so many people out there who secretly want to draw, but who lack the confidence, or just the time in their busy lives, to get out some paper and 
just try.

As well as lots of practical hands-on events, there are also some great exhibitions on, to tie in with the festival: the Recording Britain Now show in the Millennium Gallery is wonderful - really exciting and varied new work by artists shortlisted for the 2014 Ruskin prize. There is also an excellent series of lithographs from 1916 by Joseph Pennell at The Graves. They bowled me over!

© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Anyway, one of many activities taking place for the festival involved Yours Truly on Monday. Museums Sheffield commissioned me to host an urban sketching session in the centre of Sheffield. 


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Our Drawing the Summer base-camp was a big table set up with drawing boards and stools, pencils, A3 paper and a big box of coloured pencils. We strung a washing-line up too, so we could peg up drawings. We had two lovely big banners, but it was so windy, we couldn't use them. Hence all the multiple pegs above!


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

We grabbed any passers-by, to ask if they fancied stopping and doing a sketch. There was plenty to draw: as well as all the extremely varied architecture, Tudor Square has a couple of table-tennis tables set up for the summer months so, to get the ball rolling, I had a go at sketching some of the different people who stopped for a while, to play:



We clocked 80 people during the 2.5 hours we were set up, but my favourite was this man, who said he had never drawn before, but who sat for about an hour, very carefully drawing a complex view of the buildings, which turned out really well. I think he was astonished at what he'd achieved.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

Many people took their work home, some gave it to us to peg up on the line. Some people asked for help and advice, which was where I came in, but mostly they just got stuck in. I obviously had my sketch gear too, so when I wasn't needed, I drew alongside them, hoping to attract attention and perhaps to inspire. This was one view from our table: 



The older kids were lovely to watch: we had various families with children, often around 8 - 11 years old.  In an age of short attention-spans, it was interesting to see how well the act of drawing focussed them. They sat, totally absorbed, for around an hour at a time and created drawings which were strong and confident.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

One very interesting thing I noticed: the Crucible and The Old Monk pub in Tudor square have prominent lettering. Adults always started by drawing the shapes of the buildings and then added in the typography afterwards, so invariably ran out of space for the letters. The children all started by drawing the lettering, then created the building shapes around the words, so that everything fitted. A curious difference.


© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

There are still lots of events to go, between now and September 10th, in fact there is another very similar event tomorrow (Sunday 24th) at Weston Park, so you too could have a go. Whether you are an experienced sketcher or a complete beginner, it'll be fun. And if you really don't want to draw yourself, there are still some excellent talks and demonstrations you will enjoy. Check out the Events Guide and look for the yellow pencil icon.



© Catherine Mailhac for Museums Sheffield

In the meantime, if you want to see more photos from my Tudor Square event on Monday, take a look here.






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11. Floaty Boy

floaty boy 450

FRANKY IS VERY ATTACHED TO HIS POOL FLOATY.

Revisiting a character from last year, based on my grand-neffy.

Feeling the need to make time for playing with personal projects again.


5 Comments on Floaty Boy, last added: 8/20/2014
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12. Usk Symposium Workshop: Creating my Handouts


I don't know about you, but when I am bombarded with new ideas and things to remember, I tend to boggle-over (technical term). If past years are anything to go by, the Urban Sketchers symposium in Paraty will be amazingly stimulating for all concerned, but for those taking all the workshops and going to all the lectures and demos, there's going to be a lot for the head to hold.


So, it's good practice for instructors to create a handout to go with their workshops. It makes things easier to take in on the day (especially for all those for whom English is a 2nd language), but it's also really handy for taking home as a record, to try again later.

Last year I printed them myself at home, but it took forever and cost a fortune in ink and special thick paper (so I could print images on both sides without it showing through). So this year I thought I would pay to have them properly printed. Of course, it still took me ages to design them: I am too much of a perfectionist and wanted them to be a lovely keepsake as well as an instructional leaflet.

Each hand-out goes through the three exercises we are going to do in detail, with examples of my sketches, to demonstrate what I'm talking about. I waited until after my dry-run to create my handouts, so I could tweak things if necessary but, in the end, I didn't change much at all.


They came back from the printers a couple of days ago and they have done a grand job. They look great! They also weigh quite a lot, because there are 50 copies, each one consisting of 2 folded A4 sheets. But I (as usual) had tons to say and show, so wanted to give myself 8 sides to do it. At least I won't be bringing them back, which means the weight can be replaced by all the lovely, freebie sketchbooks we always get from our sponsors (yippee).

This year we are getting a slinky concertina book from Loloran, which looks similar to the one I used in Manchester recently:


...and a Strathmore book, like the one we got last year, which I LOVE:


I have really enjoyed the tinted paper, which alters the way you approach things. 

We are getting all sorts of other bits too. It's really fun - like being a kid again, with a lucky-dip! I notice Moleskin is a sponsor, so cross-fingers we'll be getting a Moleskin watercolour book... 

A big thank you to all the sponsors :-)

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13. Urban Sketchers Yorkshire: Derbyshire Sketch-Walk


Last Saturday was Urban Sketchers Yorkshire's August SketchCrawl day. This time we were out in Derbyshire, doing a sketch-walk between village pubs.

I can't take any credit for the success of the day, as it was organised by Andrea and Paul, members who live in Derbyshire. It was nice for a change for me to be able to relax and follow orders, rather than be the boss.


We met up at the Pride of the Peaks pub in New Mills, where those of us who'd had an early start to get there, treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast (yum). Well, we needed to build up the strength in our drawing-arms, didn't we?

We then went out into the sunshine to do our first sketch of the day, while we waited for all the idlers, who couldn't quite drag themselves out of bed, to join us. There are some great views in that area, because of the depth of the valley and the old, disused mill buildings:


I was peering over a wall by the bus stop, but it looks as though I was hanging out of a hot-air balloon! The group has been sketching there once before - we did a sketchcrawl in New Mills last summer - and I doubt this is the last time we'll visit either.

We set off from the pub at 11.00, on a beautiful walk down into the valley and along the canal to our next stop, the Soldier Dick pub at Furness Vale. There were some scenic places to sketch along the canal, but many of us treated it as more of a drink stop. 


There were more canal views at the next stop anyway, looking down into Buxworth Canal Basin:


The Navigation Inn at Buxworth was a great lunch stop and the sun was mostly still shining, although it had got really windy and I struggled to hang on to my book while doing the sketch above - the wind kept trying to grab it and throw it into the canal!


My final stop of the day was half an hour further down the valley at White Hough. The Paper Mill pub had gardens at the front and back, with views of the lovely Cracken Edge. I did the painting below and then the one at the top, again peering over a wall.


Unfortunately, we Sheffield-based people had to leave after that, for a final walk to Chinley, to catch our train home, but the locals carried on to another pub at Whaley Bridge, and the more intrepid amongst them climbed up Eccles Pike. I was sad to miss that, but enjoyed the train journey back through the hills with my sketch-buddies, sharing our work.  

A huge thanks to Andrea Joseph and Paul Gent for sorting out all the logistics and herding us between pubs. Another lovely day!

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14. … like a fish needs a bicycle

fish bike newer 450

Folks using the above saying have obviously never met Fiona Dorsal.

Fiona, unlike many of her species, may not NEED but absolutely prefers a bicycle as her main means of transportation.

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Because of abject laziness I am re-posting this lil gal from way back in 2007. In fact, I’m actually re-re-posting for about the third time.

You know, Fiona has evolved, not in a Darwinian way but as a drawing a few times since then.


1 Comments on … like a fish needs a bicycle, last added: 8/14/2014
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15. How to Use Colour: a Dry-Run of My Workshop


It's less than 2 weeks before I am off to Brazil (yippee), to run some street-sketching workshops in the sunshine, as part of the Urban Sketchers annual symposium



My workshop is called Afraid of Colour?. I've noticed that a lot of sketchers are great in black and white, but totally intimidated by colour. I used to mainly use a 3B pencil myself, but since I got into watercolour and discovered my Inktense pencils, I am having so much more fun. 

With that in mind, I designed my workshop to share some ideas and pointers, to help others make that transition too.



I have 3 identical workshops to run, each of 3.5 hours, which sounds a lot, but there's so much I want to do, it's been a struggle fitting it in. I was a bit worried that things might feel too rushed, so I thought I'd do a dry-run in Sheffield. I did the same thing the very first time I was selected to run a symposium workshop, in Santo Domingo (my speed-sketching workshop Quick-on-the-Draw). It's really useful to test that everything works in advance.



I offered it as a freebie to my Urban Sketchers Yorkshire team and put together a group of a dozen guinea-pig sketchers. I chose a spot in the centre of Sheffield, where there is a grassy area surrounded on all sides by a good variety of architecture. I was a bit nervous about the UK weather though - Sheffield is not quite Brazil - but we were very lucky: it was a perfect day.


John told me that his main worry, when it comes to colour, is the likelihood of ruining a good sketch, so we started with a workshop aimed at getting lots of colour down on the page before we started any drawing. I created the sketch at the top a little while ago, to use as an example. Below is one of the sketches done on the day for this exercise, by Abi Goodman, and the one above was done by Peter Wadsworth. Good eh?



We followed that up with another slightly lateral idea: using coloured line-work. My idea was to make the colour intrinsic to the sketch, rather than just a way of tinting an existing drawing. 



I asked the group to choose 3 different colours for the line, based on the try-out I did a couple of weeks back. This is a sketch done by Lucie Golton:



The final exercise allowed people to start with a standard black and white line-drawing, but I asked them to use expressive methods to colour it up, in a variety of art materials. I did a little demo to give them some tips, using Inktense pencil, watercolour and oil pastels:




To help people further, I had also printed out a selection of my sketches and created a little folder of examples to give them ideas of different ways to tackle the different challenges:


One of the main secrets to success is having the confidence to be bold with both your colour choices and mark-making. Wishy-washy or dingy colours tend to feel safer, but they are not going to light up your sketch.



Between each exercise, we gathered to look at the results, laying the books out on the grass to give each other feedback, then I briefed in the next task. People worked really hard and, as you can see, some exciting sketching was done. It's hard to believe that these were done by people who are uncomfortable using colour. 



At the end we went for a coffee and I asked for feedback. Despite my worries, people seemed quite happy with the timings. Everyone said that they had found it challenging to be pushed so far out of their comfort-zone, but that is had been extremely useful and very interesting. Most importantly, they all enjoyed themselves. Phew. 

A week later, at our Derbyshire SketchCrawl last weekend (more of which later), I noticed that Andrea Josephwho usually works in biro, did a beautiful, loose and joyful watercolour - in full colour: 



Job done. Paraty, here I come... 

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16. How to Draw People: Guest Contributers


As well as using my own work to demonstrate techniques for drawing and painting people, my book will be showcasing other sketchers whose work I admire. 


Once we get the go-ahead (crossing fingers) after the Frankfurt International Book Fair, I will be working with my publisher to select possible contributors and we will then approach individuals, to ask if they would be interested in having sketches in the book.


It's a bit premature to contact most people yet though as, at this stage, all I need is 4 or 5 pieces for the presentation, to make it clear that other sketchers will be featured. I am using the 'colour before line' section to do this. There is one spread featuring examples of my work and my step-by-step demo, but a second spread which features other people's work. 

I used Urban Sketchers on Flickr and the main Urban Sketchers blog to source sketches where I thought people had probably used the colour-first technique and collected them in a Pinterest folder. From there I selected a handful that demonstrated different things of note and sent them to my art director. She created a lovely layout and I then wrote copy for each image.


The images I'm showing here are not ones I've chosen, just examples, although I hope to be able to use both these artists, if they are up for it. The top two sketches are by one of my all-time fave sketchers, Marina Grechanik, who lives in Israel. The one above is by the fantastic Rolf Schroeter from Berlin. 

In the next day or two, my art director and I will be getting in touch with all the contributors I have chosen so far, to ask their permission to present their work in the sample spreads for my book, at Frankfurt. Crossing fingers they want to be a part of the project!

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17. A VERY Interesting Meeting about a VERY Exciting Opportunity...


On Wednesday, I took the train to Manchester again. This time I was headed for Manchester University. I was very excited to meet the Sociology team at the Morgen Centre...

It began with an email a few weeks back, asking if I would give one of the professors there a ring, to chat about an idea. Intrigued, I rang. She explained about a grant she would like to apply for, to fund a year-long project. Guess who would be at the centre of the project? Yep - little me!


They want me to spent the equivalent of 2 days a week over a whole academic year as a fly-on-the-wall, illustrating their world in sketchbooks. How brilliant is that? My first question, well one of the first was: So, what do you do all day for me to draw?

There will be the usual meetings, teaching students, working at the computer of course, but the really exciting thing is, they spend a lot of time out and about, working on research projects. There are 3 projects in particular which they are keen for me to shadow, all of which involve interviewing people in their homes or out in the urban environment. 

One is about the 'rhythms of the city': what we notice, how we feel about the outside environment we pass through every day, how we use public spaces and how we interact, or not, with others.

Another is about our relationship with the things we own: specifically, why we all have objects in our houses which we don't use, maybe don't even really want, but somehow can't bring ourselves to throw away.

The third is about the Brits' relationship with the weather: how it defines what we are and what we do, the way it impacts on how we interact with others and our environment and how different types of weather conditions create an atmosphere which is the backdrop to our lives, effecting how we feel.


As you can probably imagine, I was immediately very interested and have been helping Professor Heath put together a bid for the grant ever since. The meeting this week was to finalise some of that paperwork, to meet some of the team I'd be working with and to find out more detail about each of the projects. 

They all knew about me and are all very keen, but got even more animated when I showed them real life examples of the sketchbooks and talked them through the kit I use. If we get the money, we will be involving the whole department, students and staff, in the project: I will be running workshops to empower everybody to sketch and setting up group sketchbooks that they will work on over the year. Oh, and of course we will have a huge SketchCrawl as a climax at the end of the year!


I am SO desperate to get this job and am crossing everything I have got, hoping that our bid is accepted. I will, of course, keep you posted, though we won't know until around Christmas. How will I survive until then?

These sketches are nothing to do with the meeting but, since I was in Manchester and it WASN'T RAINING, I spent the afternoon sitting on various benches outside the Town Hall with a few Manchester-based sketch-buddies, filling my time the way I know best. 


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18. The Final Sketchbook!!!


I was out of the studio yesterday, visiting a local secondary school, but I'm back today, working on my urban sketching book. John and I have at last gone through all 80 sketchbooks. What a marathon! This was the last one:


In the meantime, my publisher has told me which spreads I need to concentrate on first. We have to mock up about 5 spreads for the Frankfurt International Book Fair, where my UK publisher will be presenting the book to American publishers, hoping to get a co-edition signed up. That's vital, as the market for Urban Sketching books is mainly in the USA. 

The first couple of spreads we are working on are, naturally, about sketching on trains. My art director sent me draft layouts, to give me an idea of the designs she has in mind and the word count which will fit. She included image suggestions, taken from my on-line sketchbooks. I mostly really like the ones she has picked out, which I'm taking as a very good sign, since it shows we are on the same wavelength.


Today I have been back in my garden studio with the laptop, writing the text to match the images.

After that, the real fun begins - the scanning!! Thank goodness for my handy assistant. At least we only have to scan the ones for the presentation spreads at this stage.

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19. Invisible Man: My Sketching People Book in Progress


Things are going pretty well on the new book, although the garden studio is officially closed now (sigh). I would SO much rather be outside in all this glorious weather than sat at my computer, with the blinds drawn against the sunshine. Hey ho.






The sample spreads I am producing ready for the Frankfurt presentation are going to be:

Sketching on trains (2 spreads)
How to sketch with colour first, then line (2 spreads)
Drawing eyes (1 spread)

These were decided on by the publisher. They know what the US co-edition publishers will be looking for. My art director has done sample designs for me to approve (which I'm afraid I don't think I can show you yet) and I have written all the text. 

I have chosen all the sketches for these sections too. Unfortunately, all my sketches are scanned at low-res for general sharing, so the ones for the book all have to be re-scanned at 300ppi. I have set John onto that task and he has done the lion's share now.


One of the train sketches had to be redone, because I tinted it digitally, originally at low res (duh). I was experimenting with digital tinting in 2010. Above is the original pencil drawing, done in a 3B: my tool of choice back then. I used a very basic drawing tool in Photoshop and a limited palette to re-created the coloured version I did at the time. Below is the final tinted version.


The weird image at the top of this post is the coloured layer, separated out, which I thought looked rather fun and funky, but also helped you to see how the digital version was created.

Right - enough chatting to you guys: it's back to work for me!

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20. Elegant Elephant, Arrogant?

elephant450 2

..A PERFORMANCE YOU’LL NEVER FORGET

… although a  repeat performance may depend quite heavily on the tightrope’s tensile strength.

………………………………………………………………………..

The Illustration Friday theme of the week is “repeat.”

So.

You know.

This.


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21. Meerkat Love

giraffe450

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE

It has already been a year since I feverishly put my portfolio together for the 2013 SCBWI L.A. Summer Conference and this was the art I used for my promo postcard. And here we are, the 2014 starts next week! Where does the dang time go?

I won’t be making the conference this year, but I am really jealous happy for all y ‘all that are attending this year! Yessss, so, so very happy (clenches jaw.)

But seriously! I’m thrilled for you, especially the folks who haven’t ever attended before. You’re going to love it and get so much out of it!

I’ll be waiting with baited breath for photos and to hear all about it!

 


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22. Sneaking a Day Off in the Sunshine


It's been so glorious lately. It's been very hard to work at the computer, with the blinds down, knowing all that sunshine is out there, beckoning... It's okay for all you folks in sunny lands, but we Brits never know if this might be the last bit of nice weather!

So anyway, that's my justification for taking the day off yesterday. We wanted somewhere where we could chill outside all day, but where there would be plenty of shade, as it really is hot at the moment - it's getting me in the mood for Brazil!

We drove to Rufford Abbey, about an hour away, but worth the travel. The abbey itself is mostly a ruin, but there is one bit intact. 


I sat on some steps in the rose garden and did a drawing. I was using one of the sketchbooks I made, ages ago. Lovely watercolour paper (shame about the dodgy perspective):


They had some birds of prey. People were paying to fly hawks and owls. I wanted to sketch the biggest owl really, but couldn't get near enough. This Harris Hawk was easier, but as soon as I began, he turned his back on me!


We strolled around the park, exploring the lake, then sat in the dappled shade under a tree for a while. Did I miss my computer? What do you think?



This is one of those sketches I got annoyed with: undergrowth is always tricky and easily overworked. I rescued it with watercolour pencil, but didn't really capture the heat:


There were lots of waterfowl at one part of the lake. We sat on a step right by the water's edge where geese and swans were wandering about. One swan immediately got very interested and thought we were going to feed him. They really are HUGE when you are sat at ground level and they are right in your face! He tried pecking my book then my paints.


It was lovely to be up so close. They were all so used to people, they carried on, right at our feet.


They all started grooming themselves, so I got some interesting poses. Then the swan settled down for a sleep: very cute with his beak tucked into his wing:


We had to head for home then. I didn't want to go. I wanted to curl up in the sunshine with the swans. A lovely day. Back to work now though.


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23. Summertime, summertime

This summer I've been writing, sketching, painting, playing, and learning.










And I've been attending Nerdy Chicks Rule Summer School 2014, Building Character. You can check it out here. This online class is chock full of goodness and it's FREE! Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen have put together a talented faculty and I'm learning so much. Thanks, Ladies :)

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24. August 2014 Desktop Calendar


Firstly, I must send a HAPPY 11th BIRTHDAY shout-out to my awesome (and second oldest) son. YAY!
With August arriving tomorrow, I'm sneaking onto the computer to quickly post my August 2014 desktop calendar, and then it will be time to " Assemble the Trifle!!" My son's favorite dessert. ( *note- this must be hollered in an "assemble the minnions!" Frau Farbissina sort of voice, LOL).

  I have been experimenting with adding mixed media to my Plasticine illustrations, and this month's desktop calendar features an illo that has a fun Steampunk-y flavour. I used a mix of antique-y map papers, watch gears, burlap, metallic paints and polymer clay. Ever since I created the Steampunk-y Infinity Coil medallions for the covers of Marty Chan's YA novel,  The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles, Demon Gate, my head has been swirling with Steampunk inspired ideas. I have been working away on a picture book manuscript, featuring this little guy and his mechanical wings.  It's not quite there yet, but it will be one day...

I've also been working away on the pencil sketches for Gerbil, Uncurled(Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Spring 2015), written by Alison Hughes. I love this stage. Well,  I guess I love every stage of illustration :)  The studio is a flurry of papers. I like to hang up the sketches all around me, for easy reference- I am getting very excited to translate these into plasticine. Here's a pic of one wall of my studio at the moment:

(Yes, I've blurred out the images, 
we aren't quite ready to give any sneak peeks just yet. SOON!)



My day was made even more awesome when I saw that the first picture book I illustrated, Skink on the Brink( Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Spring 2013, written by Lisa Dalrymple) received a lovely review in The Deakin Review of Children's Literature. 

 I hope you are all having a wonderful summer so far. To download the desktop calendar simply select a screen resolution and right click " Save to desktop". Enjoy!

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25. SketchCrawling in Leeds



Yes, I know we only just had an Urban Sketchers Yorkshire drawing day, in Manchester, but a fellow-sketcher had organised an event last Sunday and, since the sun was shining and John was off doing something else, I jumped on a train and tagged along.


We had a lovely time, strolling round the city centre in the area near the museum, sketching all the gorgeous architecture. At last, I have actually managed to get outside and do a day of drawing buildings! 


I started with the civic hall and managed a couple of views of that from different sketching points. I did the one above before everyone else arrived, when the sun was still shining (my train was a bit early), then we all sat down for coffee at the museum cafe and I did another, while we waited for the rain:


It got really cold and windy (and I was in a skimpy sundress - brrrrrr). We thought it must surely pour down at any second, but somehow the black clouds didn't quite let go of their load and we got away with it. 

There was a church round the corner, with a great rose window I had to have a go at next:  



I fancied a change from my pen and got out my rainbow pencil. I really wished I had brought a bigger sketchbook though. I was struggling all day to fit things in.


There was an odd bit of time left before lunch: just enough for a 20 minute quickie of the museum itself. I grabbed my Inktense pencils. This is so very different to the last sketch I did of it, when I took my group there a couple of years ago.


We walked to the art gallery for lunch in their fabulous tiled hall cafe. That is well worth a sketch too, but we were too busy scoffing. Then it was off to George Street, where there is the most sketchable hospital ever. I loved the Gothic feel and the way it was so decorated:


This is just a tiny bit of it - it's a huge building with several of these towers. Unfortunately, I was sitting on the shady side of the road to get this vantage point and got quite chilly again. All my chums were sitting in a little garden outside the hospital itself, in the sunshine:


I joined them to warm up. It was lovely to sit together for our last sketch of the day too. 

I tried a quickie of our youngest sketcher, little Katie. Unfortunately, like most 3 years olds do, she got up and went to investigate something else, just as I started to draw, but I caught her pose with paint and did the line from memory (a perfect example of the usefulness of the colour-before-line technique):


There was a good view of the Town Hall clock tower from where I was sitting. It was peaking above the roofs:


Unfortunately, those black clouds were never far away and as you can see, by the time I was done and taking the photo, it was looking decidedly dodgy again:


We went to a cafe to share our work as usual and, as usual, we had a great time, nosying through each other's sketchbooks. After that, everyone else went home, but the sun had come out again, so I hung around for one last sketch of the hospital. 

There is a very heavily decorated entrance porch I wanted to try. I was disappointed though, as I overworked it. I should have stuck with a coloured line and kept more white paper in the front section I think:


I didn't really want to end on one I wasn't really happy with, but time was getting on and I was starving, so I headed back to the station and home, ironically, in glorious sunshine with almost entirely blue skies. Buxton all over again! 


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