dinnertime in manchester

Chop House dinner 072716 sm

Dinnertime at the Symposium is naturally a time for taking a break from sketching, putting that pen or pencil down, breaking bread and drinking wine and naaaaah, KEEP ON SKETCHING! It’s just what we do, and here we have permission, justification, obligation, compulsion. We can never really stop. Of the four evenings spent in Manchester I went out for meals with fellows sketchers on two of them (the other two, I ate at the apartment, or at the closing reception). It’s a good time to flex those people-sketching skills. I remarked more than once that I don’t often like sketching people, because I’m quite self-conscious about it in public, but at the symposia (and this one especially) I let loose and sketch away. It’s quite liberating. I had never sketched an entire table of people in one sketch before though (I don’t think I have anyway), always running out of space, and on my first night in Manchester I joined some of the French-speaking sketchers for dinner at Thomas’s Chop House. Actually it turned out to not just be the Franco-Belgian sketchers, but from all over the world, the Symposium in a nutshell. There was Spanish, German, Portuguese, French and English spoken, and it was a really nice evening. It was cold too so many of us, sat outside, were given blankets by the restaurant to keep warm. I shared a blanket with Arnaud De Meyer, a sketcher from Luxembourg who was sat next to me. The long sketch is above – click on it for a closer view. It’s actually over two double-page spreads.

Tiffin Room dinner sm

The third night in Manchester I went with a group for a late dinner at the Indian Tiffin Room, which was obviously a popular choice for the urban sketchers as the place was full of them! Our group was mostly Portuguese (Vicente, Luis, Nelson and Pedro) but also Rita from Portland, Mateusz from Poland and Silvio from Argentina, a great bunch of people. There was a lot of Spanish spoken though, I couldn’t keep up with that! (I never did learn Spanish, I must remedy that) The food was great and the company friendly, and I sketched the scene above, managing to just about fit everyone in, though I had to place Nelson into an inset window. Pedro Loureiro did do a sketch of me on one of the paper menu-placemats, but it got curry spilled on it (I didn’t mind that, seemed appropriate! I love a curry, as my cheeks will attest…)

Pete (plus curry) by Pedro Loreiro
Dinner at the Tiffin Room

Stay tuned for more #UskManchester2016 sketches…

The Big Picture (with Paul Heaston)

The Big Picture - Mount St

The final #UskManchester2016 sketching workshop I attended was on the Saturday morning: “The Big Picture“, taught by Paul Heaston. Paul is an absolute master at the curving wide-angle perspective, and that approach to composition and getting everything into the area of your drawing was the focus of this workshop. Paul has a great way at explaining this often difficult concept, and gave out very useful and informative handouts that explained his concept well. This is a look at the five-point perspective – straight ahead, left, right, up above, down below, you’re too slow. Sorry, couldn’t resist. My own sketch is above; while this isn’t something I am unfamiliar with, I do wish I had expanded the scene a bit more, and shown the left-right vanishing points in the frame itself. Still, I had a lot of fun, and while we did stop for some mid-workshop tips, we did have time to flesh out the details. In his handout, Paul gave some great tips on how to draw details in a large sketch like this, noting that the human eye is vastly more capable of perceiving detail than any drawing instrument that we possess, so some economization and simplification is useful. Paul talked a lot about relative scale, and asked us to try to include ourselves in the sketch – within our frame of view of course, meaning our hands and sketchbook. Spatial relationships are also important in determining relative scale. I thought about Father Ted and the cows: “Small…far away…”.

Paul Heaston

Here is the show-and-tell at the end, with the sketchbooks all over the floor; thankfully this workshop was not rainy! I sketched Paul below, adding some notes from what he told us.

Paul Heaston

While we sketched, by the way, we were treated to scores of people dressed up as super heroes – Manchester Comic Con was happening nearby at the same time. We saw Deadpools, Pikachus, Winter Soldiers, Flashes, Reys, Scarlet Witches and one absolutely amazing Squirrel-Girl I totally wish I had time to sketch. Oh, and there was one incredibly realistic Captain America, look (hey, Cap was a sketcher too)…

Pete Cap

Pete Cap! photo by Marina Regina Tuazon

Key points I took away:

  • Understand spatial relationships; even if the perspective isn’t quite right you can still describe the space between objects
  • Don’t be afraid to draw those huge buildings small, if that’s how they are in the overall sketch, as it shows their distance relative to the objects in the foreground
  • Draw loads of details! Why not? But simplify where you can, and note that the further back things are, the simpler the details
  • It doesn’t rain every single day in Manchester! It really doesn’t! (Spoiler alert, it rained that evening on the way home)

I very much had fun on this workshop, the last structured part of the Symposium for me (plenty more sketches and posts to come though…). Massive thanks to Paul Heaston – do check out his Flickr and his Facebook pages.

Puzzling out the Picture (with Veronica Lawlor)

Puzzling out the picture sm

And so we return our attentions to Manchester, and the third of the workshops I attended: “Puzzling out the Picture“, taught by Veronica Lawlor, from New York. This was focused on composing your sketches using directions to move us into and out of the image, to see the picture as “a dimensional space in your mind”, that has six sides. We went down to Catslefield, an area of Manchester I didn’t know much about, but was truly an urban sketchers dream – bridges and canals going in every direction, the perfect space for this sort of exercise. Veronica asked us to move about the space and draw quick thumbnails of the different views we encountered, encouraging us to identify how the eye moves into and around the space. Mine are above; this was a really enjoyable exercise.

Veronica Lawlor

Above, Veronica explains the idea. We were then asked to choose a scene from our thumbnails and draw it larger and in more detail. The rain was not heavy, but constant and drizzly – hello Manchester, hi English summer, how I’ve missed thee – and also kind of moving sideways making any cover a bit useless, but we all persisted. I stood beneath a big archway beneath a bridge and drew the scene below. Notice the little iron castle turrets on the railway bridge, a nice touch! Manchester was where the Industrial Revolution was really born, the city is a child of that booming period, and Castlefield really takes you back into that history. It was here that the world’s first industrial canal, the Bridgewater Canal (1764), terminated, and here was also the terminus of the world’s very first passenger railway line, at Liverpool Road station, in 1830. History doesn’t begin with the Industrial Revolution however – nearby was the Roman fort of Mamucium, or Mancunium, which gave Manchester its name (English town and cities with the suffix -chester or -caster generally have origins as Roman forts). I sketched in the usual brown-black pen, but used some grey markers to add a bit of tone, as well as a touch of red.

Castlefield

Now I probably would have done a bit more detail or added a bit more colour, but, well, Chips in Gravy. I remembered that there was a chip shop around the corner from here (I passed it while lost the previous evening, looking for the Peveril) and just had a huge craving for chips in gravy. This is more common in the north of England than in the south, and I absolutely love it. Now it’s not quite the same as poutine – there is no cheese – this is just what you can get at any chippy up north and it drives me mad to even think about it, it’s so good. I used to eat it in Scarborough when I’d go up there years ago. Now, it rained a lot during this workshop, so it was good to take a break from the sketch and go and grab some chips in gravy, and sit in the drizzle, with an orange Tango. Totally a “back in England” moment for me. Then, it was back to the sketching.

CHIPS IN GRAVY

Despite the rain (which nobody really minded much), this was an extremely enjoyable workshop. Veronica teaches with a lot of enthusiasm and has a very encouraging manner, and her own work is so alive that it was a real pleasure to learn from her. She joked that it would be nice to come back and sketch Castlefield in the summertime!

Key points I took away:

  • Think of your pictures as representing a three dimensional space and try see and depict the lines of movement through the scene
  • Make quick thumbnails from different points of view to physically explore the dimensions of the space before your final sketch
  • Let shapes extend and move out of your physical boundary
  • When hungry, eat chips in gravy
  • Manchester = rain again!

Many thanks to Veronica for a fun workshop! Check out her work at www.veronicalawlor.com, and also her books, particularly “One Drawing A Day“, and “Reportage and Documentary Drawing“, part of the Urban Sketching Handbook series.

shorts, shorts, socks – part 2

Right, part two of the Premier League kit round up, and without further ado, let’s get going…

PREMIER LEAGUE PART TWO: THE MIDDLING MID-TABLE

LIVERPOOL:

Liverpool 1617

When I was a kid Liverpool were pretty much the best team in the world. Not to me of course, I supported the even greater Spurs, but that Liverpool team of Rush, Dalglish, Hansen, then Beardsley, Barnes, Aldridge, the Grobelaar years basically, they were spellbindingly good. They are less so these days, no league titles since 1990 (yeah, more than Spurs) but with Klopp at the helm, maybe they can claw it back into the top four again. They opened with a 4-3 win at Arsenal which sounds good, but 4-3 games don’t mean championship form. Their kit is pretty slick and basic, gold trim, nothing fancy. The away kit has a few little flashes here and there, but the third kit is an odd lime green of the sort that these days, we look at and say, whatever. If it isn’t a broccoli kit or a ham kit or a human interior anatomy kit I’m not even interested. Prediction? Fifth or sixth I suppose.

STOKE CITY:

Stoke 1617

“But could he do it on a rainy Tuesday night in Stoke?” Is the oft-mentioned cliche when speaking of fancy foreign football fops frolicking about the field. Hardly anyone ever says it about the man who washes cars and waters gardens mid-week in the evenings in Stoke. Stoke were the team of Stanley Matthews (them and Blackpool), one of the greatest ever footballers ever to come out of England. But enough reminiscing about the wizard of dribble; stoke’s kits are made by Macron this year and are smart, quite nice, bit boring perhaps that is ok. How will Stoke do this year? Well if they can do it on rainy Tuesday nights in other places than Stoke they will stay up. Next…

CHELSEA:

Chelsea 1617

Well well well, Chelsea, fancy seeing you down here rubbing shoulders with the common folk, the Stokes and the Watfords. Weren’t you reigning champions a year ago? Mourinho got sacked, your rich guy players farted around, and then you celebrated a 2-2 draw with Spurs like you had won the league again. Well with a top new manager in Conte they might find their form again, but I can’t see them getting back to top spot so quickly. The kits are nice though, I’ll say that. Even the second one. Prediction? Fourth. I dunno.

EVERTON:

Everton 1617

Ronald Koeman is now the manager of the Toffeemen. I loved him when he scored that rocket for Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria (I liked both those teams). I hated him when he helped knock England out of the World Cup qualifiers in 1993. I hope he does well at Everton. They will finish mid-table again. I don’t know, 8th. The kits are nice, home kit is simple, Umbro doing a decent job, though the sponsor having a picture of two elephants standing under a fountain, what is that supposed to be exactly? Maybe it’s fireworks? Two elephants playing with fireworks. Or is it spaghetti, and explosion of spaghetti? I don’t know. The second kit is nice, dark. I like the third kit, yellow. Hard to muster up much enthusiasm for these though when you have two elephants standing under a massive exploding spaghetti fountain.

SWANSEA CITY: Swansea 1617

Swansea have done away with flashy Adidas detailing and switched to the classy Joma for 16-17, going for a pure clean white look. The sponsor has a dash of blue which then turns into the away kit, a gradient affair that has an overall calming effect on anyone who sees it, like a peaceful lake or a waterfall. this is scientifically proven to reduce instances of hooliganism in football grounds, so effectively they are bringing a message of peace over from the southern Welsh coast. they will need a third kit. how about an angry fiery red? Fun fact. Swans, did you know they are all owned by the Queen, swans? Where will Swansea finish this year? I don’t know. 11th maybe. 200th. I don’t know. They’ll be fine, they’ll stay up.

WATFORD:

Watford 1617

How are Watford still in the Premier League? Well midtable last time so I suppose they weren’t too bad. I just thought they would go down. Oh right, Villa, Norwich and Newcastle were completely pants. This year the Hornets have ditched Puma for ‘Dryworld’. Dryworld? Who the bloody hell are they? The kits are fairly ho-hum, none of the buzzing horizontal stripes from last year, and why does the away kit have black socks in an all white kit when the home kit has black socks? Answer me that Dryworld, whoever the hell you are. Where will Watford finish? I think this year they go down. Sorry Watford fans. You’re still better than Luton.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION:

West Brom 1617

“West Brom” or “WBA”? Nobody calls them “WBA” any more. Well I don’t think so anyway. For all I know they do it all the time, I don’t know, I don’t live in England. West Brom, the great survivors. How do they stay up every year when it looks like they should just go down? I think it’s Horcruxes. I think that is their secret. I think Saido Berhaino found out and that is why they won’t let him leave. I do like their kit this year, one of the nicest. The light blue trim makes a nice addition and goes well with the Baggies blue. The away shirt is black with pinstripes. It looks nice. West Brom will stay up again. They will not win the league like Leicester did. Unless they use the Imperiatus curse of course.

Ok that was the middle, stay tuned for the bottom six.

d street in davis

D St Pano Aug 2016 sm

Here is a panorama I sketched of D Street, Davis, last Sunday afternoon. It was a desperately hot day, and uncomfortable standing there for two hours sketching on loose sheets. I drew this over two sheets of Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ paper and joined them together to make the panorama – this isn’t in my sketchbook, it is to be framed for the Pence Gallery’s annual Art Auction. That is the Pence there on the right. The Art Auction will run from September 2-17, with a Gala event on the 17th itself. The building on the left was, for a while, “Art Is Davis” (I took part in a joint show there a couple of years ago), and before that was a shop called “Antiques Plus”, but now the building is home to “Land Home Financial”. Things do change. Last time I sketched this scene, the building on the far right of the drawing did not exist, but was put up last year (I did a sketch of the construction but haven’t yet drawn the finished product on the street, except here). On the far left, the Mustard Seed restaurant still going strong, but I’ve not eaten there in a few years (it was quite fancy, I must go back some time with my wife). This is a classic Davis view, and always fun to draw. This is my eleventh summer in Davis. Summers here are long, and dry.

the all-new all-different MU…

MU Aug 2016
Okay, we’re at the halfway mark for Manchester sketches so I thought we’d bring it back to Davis for a bit before resuming the symposium story. This is the current state of the Memorial Union at UC Davis – the shiny new bookstore is now open, but the rest is still under a lot of reconstruction. The UCD Bookstore by the way does stock my book, if you’re interested! the renovated and revamped MU is expected to reopen in December, I can’t wait to see how it finally looks. My son for one is eagerly anticipating the reopening of the bowling alley; he had his birthday there last year and has missed it terribly. Once it’s all done, I will sketch the end result. More change at UC Davis!

The Art and Habit of Travel Sketching (with Rita Sabler)

Rita Sabler's Talk sm

There were many interesting and varied talks that you could attend at #uskmanchester2016. Yes, I just used a hashtag in a sentence. Now if were saying that out loud I wouldn’t say the word “hashtag” but then that is why the written medium is capable of things that the spoken medium just isn’t, and vice-versa, and then there is the drawn medium. One thing I like about sketching at talks and presentations is that you can use it not only to document the visual of the event, but also take notes on the text. There is the issue of course that you must be careful what you write down, as that then potentially defines the speaker’s points in possibly unintended ways – take a sentence out of context, written down in a hurry, and sure they did say that, but it may not be what their talk was about. So whenever I have drawn presenters, I have been aware of this and tried to write down the thoughts and phrases that seem most to encapsulate it, though it’s impossible to catch it all.

I only managed to attend one talk in Manchester, having been off sketching the streets all the other times, taking advantage of the non-rain, but I wasn’t going to miss this one, “The Art and Habit of Travel Sketching“, by my friend from Portland, Rita Sabler. I first met Rita at the first symposium in Portland, learning that she was a UC Davis alumna, and have followed her sketching work ever since. She has a really cool and vibrant style, with a lot of travelling under her belt as well. In this talk she showed us some of her amazing travel sketches and shared her experiences around the world, both the good and the sometimes scary. She offered tips and advice on travel sketching, and spoke in general about the act of keeping a sketchbook, and the unexpected interactions it can bring. I wrote down some of what she was saying – click on the image above to get a better view – and some of my favourite takeaways were:

  • Sketching your surroundings, you become “at once the observer and the participant”
  • If sketching people in bars, pick the people who have the fullest glass – they will stay there longest!
  • If people notice you sketching them, smile!

I really enjoyed the talk, and everybody else that was there enjoyed it as well – and it was a full house. I was surprised that more people were not sketching though! I did spot a few others with sketchbooks out. Here was Rita afterwards, holding my book:

Rita Sabler

You can see more of Rita’s work on her website www.portlandsketcher.com, or on her Flickr page. You can also see three awesome chapters written by Rita in my book, Creative Sketching Workshop!