down the market

davis farmers market
musicians at the farmers marketI don’t go very often to the Davis Farmer’s Market. It’s not very big – not compared with the sort of markets I used to go to in London, Belgium, France – but it can be pretty busy, with lots of things going on. Because it takes place in Central Park, Davis, between two playground, there are always lots of kids and parents about, it’s very much a family place. There is a carousel, and people making balloon swords and dogs, and organic chocolate, and so on.  

There is usually music too, and so I sat and tried to sketch the musicians, very quickly.

Then I sketched the market itself, and look at me drawing loads of people! I am inspired by the symposium, you see. It’s hard to believe it was a month ago already! That means it’s only eleven months until the next one (in Lisbon).

I must confess, when I was a kid I hated markets. I hated being dragged around them, that slow walking, looking at stuff I was just never that interested in. Car boot sales were one thing, regular markets another, but I didn’t like any of them. The Saturday Market in my native Burnt Oak I hated, accessible via an old alley and piss-slippery steps. I remember going to Chapel Street or Church Street or one of them as a kid, pretty young I was, and stopping at a Pie and Mash shop afterwards and throwing up (I hate pie and mash too; some cockney I am). Then there was Wembley market, a gargantuan affair clustered in the shadow of the stadium, my enduring memory of it being so packed all I could see were people’s behinds, all those people at Wembley without the excitement of seeing an actual football match. I got tall, and still avoided markets (and Camden Town station on a Sunday), but I did learn to appreciate them when I lived on the continent: the one in Charleroi which covered the entire town on Sundays, the near-daily ones in Aix which were always better places to buy food than the stores, that amazing one in central Munich with beer and wurst and music everywhere. These helped me enjoy the markets back in London more: Borough, Portobello, Spitalfields. Next time I’m back, I’ll probably sketch them. I still don’t like crowds, but (since sketching the market in Portland) I’m getting more excited about sketching markets as important places of human existence. (Well, I say that now…) 

saturday, what a day

portland saturday market

Day three of the Urban Sketching Symposium, and the morning session was studying Urban Architecture with Professor Frank Ching. I wasn’t very familiar with Frank and his work until the Symposium roster was announced, but he is an excellent teacher and has a long list of widely-read published work.  I was excited to take his field sketching session, and we all strolled down to the Portland Saturday Market.

frank ching explains architectural sketching

frank ching explains architectural sketching

It wasn’t too busy there yet,  we found a good sketching spot by the fountain, and the urban sketchers dispersed to find interesting vantage points. I actually liked the spot where I was standing, beside the fountain, though it was right in the middle of the people traffic. Now normally I hide, I slink off the walls and try to be invisible – but this time, I decided, no, I’m going to stay right here, and camped my little stool down on that very spot.  I even drew big, in the large Urban Sketchers Canson sketchbook we got free at the symposium, all in the spirit of trying something different. It was quite the experience; as more people added to the market’s throng, people would stop and see what I was doing, even take photos (that happened a fair few times, too), all while respecting my viewpoint. I liked this sketching in crowds thing – now I never thought I’d ever say that. The Symposium I think has given me a little more confidence to do such things.

at the portland saturday market

there were a lot of pirates out that day

I ate some lunch from one of the food carts (a delicious but messy East African chicken wrap, if you’re interested), and sketched the large ‘Made in Oregon’ sign that is perched up on top of a nearby building. they really love the shape of their state, Oregonians. I bought a number of postcards recently in Medfiord all shaped like the state, it fits perfectly into a mailbox (unlike California, which fits perfectly into a Christmas stocking). And then I ran back to the PNCA for Frank’s lecture on ‘perspective for sketchers’, and got quite lost on the way.

made in oregon

frank ching

i managed to sketch frank giving his lecture

I’m glad I didn’t miss it entirely – it was such a fun lecture. Frank gave us some great principles for sketching and constructing our urban drawings, including advice on what to focus on if you have limited time (such as leave details till last, quite the opposite of how I drew the Steel Bridge, for example, but very much how I drew the Saturday Market). This was one of the real values to coming to the Symposium: to learn new, or at least different, ways of approaching your sketches. I like to try different things, in order to incorporate them into my overall sketching voice, which I like to think is pretty distinct.

However, the most fun part (and possibly the best moment of the Symposium) was at the end, when Frank asked if we had any questions. I’ve been really interested in perspective lately, and have attempted to dabble in curvilinear perspective (partly inspired by the work of the man I was sitting next to, Gerard Michel), so I asked if he had any advice on that form. At this point, he passed the mantle over to Gerard, who as luck had it, had a flash drive with him full of his incredible curvilinear drawings, as well as diagrams explaining it. He gave an impromptu and highly animated talk (in French and some English) demonstrating the theory and how to approach it. I’m glad I asked! I’m eager to try it some more. You can see Gerard’s curvilinear work on his flickr site. Prepare to be utterly amazed.

Interview with Prof. Frank Ching on the Symposium website.

Symposium blog: