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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: sketching, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Sketch-Day at Huddersfield Grammar


It made a nice change for me on Wednesday, to do a school visit where I was not only working with Y10 Art GCSE students, but where the day revolved around sketchbooks, rather than illustration workshops. I had a very keen group of about 10 girls and, along with their lovely art teacher Mrs Davis, we embarked on a SketchCrawl around the school. 



I showed them some of the work I had done in Brazil and Sitges, to get them in the mood. They got just as excited as me about the concertina format I've got so into lately and Mrs Davis is quite keen to create some with them. I was also able to show them a couple of sketches I had done on my journey there (immediately above and below), which went down really well.


Mrs Davis had bought each girl a new A4 sketchbook and a 0.5 fine-liner so, armed with these and some black brush-pens, we headed out. It was a bit chilly. I was well wrapped in anticipation, but many of the girls were coatless and one or two hadn't even put on their woolly tights. Brrrrr.... They were very good though and set-to without any serious complaint. 


Huddersfield Grammar School is a bit different. They are about to open a new-build extension, which is rather lovely, but the main section of the school was built in the 1860s, when they knew how to make things truly sketchable. We were spoilt for choice: the gorgeous stone windows, the decorated pillars, the Gothic porch, the stained glass...


We each managed two sketches before break. The girls were really up for it and did some really strong stuff. Above are a couple. Remember: this is straight in with black pen, no pencils, no rubbers. I drew alongside them, just offering little bits of input where they seemed to need it.

After break we took pity on them and headed indoors, first into the library, originally built as a rather fancy Billiard Room extension, in 1893, and then in the hallway with its oak staircase with torchere statuettes on the newel posts, Art Nouveau windows and a bank of beautifully decorated, brass light switches, which took several people's fancy.


I did a few quick drawings (the 'sorry's below were because we were sitting on the stairs just outside the staff room and teachers kept needing to get past), but I spent more time going round offering tips and guidance this time. It all seemed to go really well and everyone worked really hard. I love the carefully drawn grain above.


We had a late lunch and then headed back to the art room to finish off with something a little different. As everyone was so taken with my train portraits and the Drink-and-Draw series from Brazil, Mrs Davis decided we would attempt something similar. We all sat round a long table and I started them off with a 5 minute contour drawing. They found that quite hard, so we made it worse, by asking them next to do blind-contour drawings! There was a lot of giggling at the results, but it's a great warm-up exercise and creates some strong line-work. This was my contour drawing:


Then we handed out watercolour pencils - just 3 colours each: a dark blue or purple, an orange and a lighter blue. It's a great idea to limit your palette with watercolour pencil sketching and I wanted to demonstrate how it's so much more important to stay true to tonal values than colour: mad colours are fine, as long as the tones are right, but the reverse isn't true.

I did a quick demo of how to use water: quickly and boldly, once the sketching is done. It's a technique that takes a bit of getting used to, but I think some of them were quite surprised at the strength of their results and amazed at how well the crazy colours actually worked.


At the end of the day, I was slightly early for my train and reckoned I had about 20 minutes sketching time. There are some lovely buildings around the station, so I stood in the entrance and drew the sketch below. I just got it finished in time but, as I headed inside for my platform, I discovered my watch was slow and the train was about to leave! I made it by a whisker.


below are sketches I did on the way home of course. The lady opposite was very obliging and dozed in about as many up-the-nose poses as was humanly possible:


Thank you to Mrs Davis for inviting me to be part of your project and to all the girls for your hard work and enthusiasm. I believe that some of the sketches we did are going to be made into a colouring book of the school - it would be great to see a copy of that!

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2. Island-Hopping with a Sketchbook




Okay, I promise, I'll stop banging on about Brazil soon. But, the thing is, I haven't even mentioned the boat trip (what on earth is going on with my knees below..?):


It was Brenda's idea - she's the kind of person who gets things done. She organised us all, then pep-talked us into it again, when we saw the cloudy weather that morning and started to dither. Here she is, in the red, as we make our way to the pier and the little boat we hired. Well done Brenda!


Because it was a wonderful idea. Despite the lack of sunshine, it was still warm enough to sit up on the top of the boat and sketch together, as beautiful scenery glided by. 


The sea was peppered with pointy islands. It was incredibly restful. 


We anchored just a small way from a tropical island and the more gung-ho members of the party jumped off the boat. A few of us swum all the way to the island. Then our captain rowed the others across to join us. We saw blue butterflies the size of your hand and bright red crabs scuttling on the rocks. A spotty fish came to investigate my toes... Bliss.


The next island we visited had a little bar cum cafe - we didn't swim to this one, but were ferried in shifts in the dingy, so I was able to take a sketchbook. 


I had an odd but delicious sandwich, deep-fried (!), then sat next to my mate from New York, Mark Leibowitz, drawing the view with the boat, above.


The sandwich lady had two little dogs which sat doe-eyed beside each of us in turn (you can see Mark studiously ignoring their pleas). I think it was Brenda who turned out to be the soft-touch (I gobbled mine down - no sharing!). 


We started back shortly after that, because the weather was getting worse. Instead of idling along, we picked up the pace, so it started to get chilly. 

Undeterred we sketched on: 


We piled on what little clothes we had with us (which is why, once again, I donned my fetching bag-lady look):


I was sketching in two different books, both home-made. One from ages ago, my first foray into sketchbook binding, but also one of the concertina books I made not long ago. It was perfect for folding out so I could draw bigger (although I had to hang on to it tight, once the boat really got going):


We made it back to shore before it rained and, as soon as we were stationary, it wasn't even that cold.


We found time on our walk back to do a quick throw-down of the sketchbooks, to get a proper look at what everyone had done:


I hope you appreciate how brave I am being in putting up that photo - what DO I look like? The pink T-shirt was meant for swimming, in case the sun was out: even I wouldn't deliberately match pink and orange!

We had a lovely time and, just like in Rio, it was great to spend several hours with a small group of friends, sketching together, getting to know one-another better and sharing a special experience. Thanks again Brenda. Good one.

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3. Urban Sketchers Do Battle with Sugarloaf Mountain!


I was telling you about my trip to Rio...

The weather forecast for my first full day in the city was really good, so we decided to go up Sugarloaf Mountain and spend the day sketching the views (and goodness gracious - there were views!): 


I worked mostly in the watercolour Moleskin I'd started in Paraty, but thought it might also be fun to record a narrative of the day on the other side of the little A6, Laloran concertina book we were given at the symposium (I used the other side for Richard Alomar's sketch-walk). 

I began as our little group were waiting for the taxi outside our hotel - as you can see, my friend and fellow correspondent Suhita Shirodkar was already sketching. On the way, I recorded the taxi driver and some of the things I saw on the journey, including our first sight of the mountain:


The couple I've sketched far left are correspondent Marc Holmes and his wife Laurel, who we met the cable car, ready to embark on another adventure. Liz Steel is taking the photo here and that's see Shiho Nakaza, another correspondent, next to me and Esther Semmens, a fellow Brit ,far right:


I did my best to draw the unfolding view through with my trusty Sailor fountain pen, as we were travelling up in the cable car. I had to be speedy! Once we had disembarked at the first level, I was able to finish it off, by drawing the bay and adding some quick colour. Then an obliging helicopter took off from right below me:


We all wandered around trying to take in the view and work out what on earth to do with such a lot of information! I found it very challenging: how could I squeeze all those mountains into a tiny Moleskin? Then there was the even trickier issue of how you ‘code’ so many shoulder-to-shoulder high-rises and the sprawling mass of favellas, trailing towards infinity along every valley. One of our group summed it up: ‘It’s like someone spilled their Lego out over everything’.


I did the sketch at the top first, but was unhappy with the way the format flattened out the view, so I experimented with using my book at different angles, to better capture the drama, first diagonally (you're going to have to tilt your head to one side for the one above, I'm afraid), to get in the section of mountain we still had to climb, then turning it vertically, to try and capture the view down to Guanabara Bay, full of little boats. 


The turquoise splatter is deliberate by the way: I was trying to add perspective and pull the front forwards. I'm not sure if it works - I rather like it but John's not keen.

It was truly exhilarating, painting alongside the others, all of us focussed so intensely on this one, very challenging task. It created a shared dynamism, a kind of urgency to get it all down, again and again. Such a buzz!


I recorded us sketching in the concertina book of course. We had been joined by yet another correspondent, Omar Jaramillo. In my sketch below, he's the one in the middle between Shiho and Esther (but you can also spot him in the photo above):


After all that work, we figured we deserved a spot of lunch and I ordered a big glass of gorgeous, fresh watermelon juice to cool down. As we were getting the bill, a little group of marmosets climbed out of the trees and started foraging for scraps at the tables:


Then it was time to take the next cable car, up to the very top. Yahoo! Again, I sketched through the window, this time with my Super5 fountain pen (another lovely freebie from the symposium). As before, when we arrived, I carried the vista on across the book. It was an extraordinary view...


...and again, so vast that I could only capture one small section:


We had time for one more sketch before the weather began to turn. I did the one below. I had been really inspired, watching Liz Steel painting beside me, so did my best in watercolour alone:


Then we took a group photo. That's Omar on far right, Liz Steel below Marc and also Brazilian sketcher, Claudia Jarjoura, far left:


By this point, having sketched in the same place together all day, we felt really bonded as a group: a band of sketchers! 

As you can see, a cloud descended on us shortly after that photo, completely obscuring the view, so it was time to take the cable car back down (love the bag-lady look, don't you?):


We were so lucky to have such a long clear spell to do our sketching. During the next two day that I was in Rio, the weather was never clear and bright like that again. 

It had been a wonderful day. Working with such a close-knit group was truly something special. Thank you guys - you're the best and I miss you all terribly!

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4. One Adventure Ends, as Another Begins...


Sadly, the 5th Usk symposium had to come to an end eventually (sigh), but we went out with a bang. After Saturday afternoon's sketchcrawl...


...I had a wash and brush up, ready for the evening's party. It was another really late one for those of us who just didn't want it to end, as well as for the Brazilian organisers, like Eduardo and Fernanda, who were just so relieved that it had all gone so well and could finally relax. We danced the night away!


And then people began drifting off home. So many goodbyes! On Sunday, I felt quite melancholy as I sat alone, painting this picture:


But, I needn't have worried: it was only a pause in the action. 

The next morning, I packed up my gear and left Paraty (although those stones did their level best to stop me):


But I wasn't headed home just yet. I got a bus (an extremely comfortable bus, as it happens) bound for Rio, with my sketch-buddies Liz, Esther and Suhita. It took over 4 hours, but we chatted the time away to nothing.


When we got there, we quickly checked into our hotel and then immediately got ourselves back out, on a mission to meet up with a few more sketches who'd arrived the day before.


The others were already set up and sketching, right in the city centre. There was just enough light left for one street sketch, surrounded by bustle and noise and cars and buses and traffic police... and mosquitoes, who immediately set about my exposed ankles. You can just spot me in the photo below, doing the drawing above, if you look carefully:


Then we hit a very posh cafe lined with MASSIVE mirrors. I copped out a little, by not attempting to capture the reflections of reflections of reflections:


We ate and sketched, until finally even I began to wilt.


But after a night's sleep, we were ready to start all over again. We met up with even more sketchers and embarked on an extraordinary day of sketching high up in the air, on Sugarloaf Mountain. But that's another story...

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5. Tonight, we eat like kings!

squirrel-football-4501

Autumn! My favorite time of the year!

I’m not exactly what you would call a football fan, although I’m trying this year. And by trying I mean learning what a down is… yeah, I’m that behind.

I am, however, very excited about by the prospect of cooler temps and therefore many forays into the kitchen to attack new recipes.

Oh, and Halloween! Did I mention Halloween?


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6. Tonight, we eat like kings!

squirrel-football-4501

Autumn! My favorite time of the year!

I’m not exactly what you would call a football fan, although I’m trying this year. And by trying I mean learning what a down is… yeah, I’m that behind.

I am, however, very excited by the prospect of cooler temps and therefore many forays into the kitchen to attack new recipes.

Oh, and Halloween! Did I mention Halloween?


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7. Afraid of Colour? - Afraid of Water?!


So, I thought I'd tell you a bit about the Afraid of Colour? sketching workshops I ran for the Urban Sketchers Symposium, in beautiful Paraty. Things were rather more dramatic than I'd anticipated... 


Even before I left the UK, the weather forecasters were saying that my first and main teaching day was going to be dreadful weather. They predicted heavy rain and they weren't wrong. I had one 3.5 hour workshop first thing and another all afternoon. My allocated spot was lovely -a grassy area by the harbour, with colourful boats...



...and the lovely houses we found all over the historic area, with brightly coloured windows and doors. I guided my group there on Thursday morning and found a nice shady spot under a tree, where we sat on the grass. 

I briefed them in and did a very quick demo of using colour before line (you can read more about the specific exercises of the workshop in my post about the dry-run I did in Sheffield): 



People had just got settled and begun painting when it started - huge raindrops. One, two... then, all at once, a deluge!  

We were SO lucky. I was one of the few instructors whose workshop spot had a rain bolt-hole. There was a lot of flapping and squealing and scrabbling around, gathering up gear, but we all made it under the cover of the empty fish-market before any damage was done.

It was a bit grubby, but housed us all easily and we had views out, so that was fine. 




All around us the rain came down and thunder boomed above our heads. It all added a certain drama and we had a great time. It was a lovely group. The 3 exercises went well and I briefed in the last one with a slightly longer demo piece:



I had been slightly concerned about having enough time, because of wanting to do 3 different exercises, but my spot was so close to the Casa da Cultura (the symposium's base-camp) that we got there in a couple of minutes, so I even had a little time left over at the end of the workshop and squeezed in an impromptu demo of how to use the watercolour pencils, by drawing one of the group Ievgen:



He was one of the symposium's sponsors, from PenUp:





At the end, we took this lovely group shot. Big smiles all round. Excellent.


After lunch, I met group number 2 back at the Casa de Cultura. But as soon as we got outside, we realised we had a problem. Though my spot was just around the corner, there was no crossing the road - it was like Venice!


Now, we had already noticed that Paraty has an unusual relationship with the tides. The streets are all created from huge stones and dip in the middle, enabling the sea to flow in and out. This would originally have been a great way to clean the streets twice daily.

This is more how it usually looks at high tide, an easy paddle, with crossing places at high points:





But that day there was a freak, extra-high tide and things went a bit crazy. All the instructors were in the same boat, trailing crocodiles of sketchers down the narrow pavements, trying to find a way to get to where they needed to be:


It took my group about 15 minutes and in the end involved us walking along the top of a narrow harbour wall, an inch under-water in places, with sea either side! The sky was about to burst again, so we headed back to the fish market. I did my quickie demo again, then people got painting. A few worked out on the grass, but we suddenly realised: the water was still rising and they were now cut off from the rest of us!


They paddled through to join us before things got worse but, 5 minutes later, we saw it was STILL rising and was about to inundate the floor of the fish market. So the whole group had to paddle back out onto the grass again, where we finished the workshop on our own island. 
Some people were fretting about ever getting back to civilisatiion! It was all a bit distracting, but I soldiered on, knowing the tide would go back out eventually. Luckily it wasn't raining, but it was now really windy and we were all freezing (dressed for Brazil, not Sheffield!!).

As soon as we were able, we got ourselves into a cafe to warm up. It was a slightly ragged end to the workshop, but quite an experience all round. Luckily my Saturday morning slot was normal - nice, sunny, Brazil weather, no floods:


Thank goodness. It was so lovely to sit out on the grass to brief everyone in and do my quickie-demo:


I had some really lovely feedback from people about the workshop and the handouts I'd created so, despite a certain amount of interesting adversity, in the end I think it was all a big success. Phew. 

Here I am with my 'sunshine' group: 




Thanks to everyone who opted for my workshop (you always fret that nobody will...). I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did and picked up at least something from my package of colour tips. I miss you all!

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8. 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!

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9. 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?!!


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10. 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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11. 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!


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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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.”


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15. Zoot Suit Newt

Zoot Suit Newt 2 450

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


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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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.


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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. … 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.


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24. 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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25. 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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