Tuesday, 28 April 2015

April 2015 London Urban Sketchcrawl

My heart sank when I opened the curtains on Saturday morning.  The day of my first ever urban sketchcrawl.  “Rain!!! Of all days why today?”  Another disaster struck soon after.  My ready and waiting rucksack decided to have a big malfunction fifteen minutes before I needed to leave.  The handle tore off from years’ of use.  A frantic rush to find another rucksack then ensued.   

So how did the day turn out?

To be honest:  absolutely fantastic.  The sun shone and the alternative rucksack worked a treat.

April 2015 London Urban Sketcher Group
Photo taken by Katherine Tyrrell
I am the one in the blue at the front.

Katherine Tyrrell, Group Leader, gives a brilliant account of the day on the   
Urban Sketcher London blog.  Link here.
Katherine is the fabulous artist and author of the two blogs Making A Mark Link here  
and Travels with a Sketchbook  Link here.  She has also written the wonderful book Sketching 365: Build Your Confidence and Skills with a Tip a Day.   A book that never sits on my shelf because it is constantly in use. 

An extremely fast sketch true to the Urban Sketcher Movement rules.  
An observational sketch finished in situ.  

On the day I made lots of lovely new sketching friends whom I am sure I will see again on future urban sketchcrawls.  I have also joined the Facebook London Urban Sketcher Group where lots of these people hang out showing their sketches online.  Pooling together and seeing everyone’s different styles helps the arty knowledge move forward.  There is definitely a lot to learn in the Urban Sketcher Community even beyond the actual days of the sketchcrawls. 

Will I ever be a true urban sketcher sticking to USK’s Manifesto? Link here

I was fully aware of USK’s rules before I attended the sketchcrawl.  So I had already decided to do one fast finished sketch on site regardless of how it turned out.  The rest I would take my time with and tweak them at home in a quieter setting.  This meant I could still join in the internet community fun and still manage to stretch my drawing skills later in my own slow paced way.    

These are a couple of sketches I tweaked later by adding black pen over a loose pencil drawing.  I never will be an artist who likes drawing in ink straight away.  I have been at this arty game many years to know what I do and do not like and what works for me.  

A very fast, in situ, graphite sketch from the Northbank looking towards the Tate Modern Gallery with a glimpse of the Millenium Bridge.  Pen was added later in a fast way to keep the momentum and energy flowing.  Speed means inaccuracies will happen for me but I am hoping the more I do this fast type of sketching the more accurate I will become.  Though just like with my watercolours, I still want to hold onto the loose impressionistic and expressive style I love so much and try to create.    

Sitting on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral I decided to do some people collecting.  I have started an A6 sized sketchbook dedicated to collecting people sketches.  You need nerves of steel to draw people on the street.  They move and do not sit still.  I erased my initial head lines three times that day before I found this man who sat still long enough for me to sketch him fully.    

So what does all this fast on site sketching do for me? 

Well it makes holding a pencil in my hand and using it become second nature.  My watercolour brushes are at the point where I use them instinctively but I have dedicated nearly five years purely to my watercolours.  I am not that good with a pencil or pen and that is purely because I have not dedicated as much time to that side of my creativity.  I am now trying to rectify that to become a better all round artist and watercolourist. 

I think this A5 size drawing I did last night on off-white antiqued paper of St Paul’s Cathedral Dome shows how observation, measuring and time makes a huge difference to my drawings.  I need to be aware of my slanty mannerisms and querks when I draw in future though.  I don’t want everything I do looking like the Tower of Pisa.  

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sketching at the Old Mill Area

Yesterday was a chilly, blowy day but that did not stop me going down to the river and the old mill area to do some plein air observational sketching.   

With each trip I am learning what I prefer to use with this type of sketching expedition.  I am finding I am not keen on using my Aqua Flo brushes with my watercolours.  They are great when used with my watercolour pencils but I am finding I do not have the same mark making and tonal control that I am used to with my normal watercolour brushes.  I am also finding I am getting rather addicted to my black Fineliner Staedtler pens.  They glide across the paper so easily and it is quite fun making all those fast squiggly marks.  


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Sketching My Town

As the sun was shining today I thought it a good idea to get some practice in with some outdoor sketching.    

Magnolia on Station Road
Mixed media:  Coloured pencils, watercolours, gouache and ink.
Urban Sketchbook

I started adding colour in coloured pencils but I found out very quickly that they are a slow process compared to my brushes and watercolours.  I loved using them but I am not sure they are the right medium for me to use on a sketchcrawl where speed is required.  I also had to finish this at home as I needed a touch of gouache to bring out the magnolia’s colours more.  The paper held up beautifully considering this is a cheapy sketchbook with thin paper.  The cover is faux suede and very tactile which I could not resist.  The paper is adequate enough for my purposes with this but I would not dream of using it for selling purposes.  I have no idea what the longevity is.  I suppose time will tell.   

Churchfields Pre-2013
Mixed media: coloured pencils and ink.
Urban Sketchbook

This was the image I decided to christen my new urban sketchbook with yesterday. Taken from a photo and a scene that no longer exists as the pink house has been pulled down and re-built.  This is where I used to take my son to feed the ducks when he was little.  It is also the path I will take to walk to the station when I go to London for the sketchcrawl in a couple of week’s time.  


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Preparing for a New Season of Outdoor Sketching

Hello Blog - Congratulations on your third birthday this week.  Our arty journey has seen lots of twists and turns over the years but ‘fun’ has been of the utmost importance at every step.    

So what have I been doing this week? Well as the sun is warming up and shining brightly my mind is turning to sketching outdoors again.  I have recently committed myself to the London Urban Sketchcrawl in April 2015 which is being hosted by Katherine Tyrell.  Author of the book Sketching 365.  A fabulous book full of useful arty tips.  It is not a book that teaches how to draw from scratch but a book that teaches how to improve observation and drawing techniques.    

In preparation for the outdoor sketching season I have bought myself a variety of sketch books.  My favourite is the Artway Enviro A5, hardboard cover, stitched, 170 gsm/80 lb recycled cartridge paper, landscape format.

The pencil I generally use for drawing is the 0.7mm Pentel P207 mechanical pencil.  I have three now and have actually had one of these since 1979 (36 years).  I used to use it every day for college and then for work for shorthand all those moons ago and it still works perfectly today.  

I sometimes use Aqua Flo Water Flow brushes when I am sketching and on the move.  It means water is always at my disposal which is an essential ingredient with watercolour pigments or pencils.    

The main idea behind the urban sketching movement is to create a finished study of what has been observed in one sitting.  At the moment I am still deciding which colours will be the most useful in my palette this season for urban sketching.  Though I know for sure they will include warms and cools of each reds, blues and yellows. 

As it is the blog’s birthday I thought I would look back at some work I painted and finished outdoors in situ over the years.     

Sky Study 2012

Garden Lantern 2012

Garden Chimenea 2012

Garden Chair 2013

Rye House Gatehouse 2013

Colour at Minch 2014