This view is looking down the canal towards the marina in Brighouse and I was positioned on the footpath/cycle-path which was part of my cycling route to work.
Days when you can cycle to work along the canal towpath for the majority of the journey, cycling past the morning traffic jams! – surely must rank pretty highly on the ‘living the life’ list – passing ducks and squirrels on the way to work; what could be better?
Out on a bit of driving tour of Tenerife, we stopped off at La Laguna and found this fabulous little coffee shop.
My Bizcocho Zanahoria was a bit like a plain scone, dusted with icing sugar and light as a feather.
As we sat and watched life pass the shop Morcheeba was playing on the CD player and I sighed at the thought of finding a similarly cool hang-out back home.
I know of several artists who have found ‘their’ cafe, their spiritual (and caffeine) hang-out. But, for all my meals and snacks out I haven’t yet found mine.
We’re staying over at a hotel at Kew, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit The Royal Botanical Gardens.
It was a beautiful, sunny day and although the car park was packed, the gardens themselves were fairly crowd free; attesting to their grand scale.
Unfortunately we didn’t visit any of the justifiably impressive glass houses. But Lucy and Caroline did visit Kew Palace.
My regular Sketchcrawl group were having a meet up today where they were practicing putting paint on their paper before marking in the lines, so I thought I’d join in whilst my family sauntered round the palace.
Luckily it was a bright, sunny day – so my paint dried quickly enough for me to start drawing in the palace’s many, many windows.
What it is
Urban Sketching is basically drawing or sketching or painting on location; without taking reference photographs.
The rules (Yes, I’m afraid there are rules) of Urban Sketching detailed on the Urban Sketchers website state that:
1) We draw on location, indoors or outdoors, capturing what we see from direct observation.
2) Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live, and where we travel.
What you need
The cool thing about urban sketching is that the materials are pretty much an open field; you can use whatever materials you want. Although, portability is an important factor.
At the bare minimum you would need a material to record with and a material to record on to.
So sketchbooks need to be small, or stored easily in a bag or pocket. But you could just as easily sketch on the page of a book you’re reading, or a piece of cardboard.
Pens, pencils and paints
Can be stored in a pocket. And can be specialist drawing pens which are waterproof and fade proof, or they could just as easily be a biro or an old pencil.
Sometimes I carry round a inexpensive camping stool to sit on, or more often than not I like to find somewhere in the environment to perch or sit; so a wall or bench.
Being a bloke means I don’t have the luxury of choosing a fancy handbag to carry around for my art materials (Well, I realise that I could, but I would look rather odd)
I’ve used a variety of shoulder bags over the years, but prefer the shoulder Satchel designed by Ally Capellino for the Tate Art Gallery in the United Kingdom.
At 31cm wide and 29cm high and 8cm deep it is roomy enough to carry two or three A5 sized sketchbooks, paint palettes, brush pens and regular pens. A bottle of water and my wallet.
How to do it
Initially you’ll need courage to stand your ground and draw in public. But, to be honest, I’ve never really found it a problem. People tend to just ignore you. If they do approach you it’s usually with curiosity. And when they see what you’re doing they are fascinated and usually awestruck, amazed that you can capture the scene. People will stand and chat and then the view that your capturing becomes infused with their tales and your conversation.
As you draw alone it feels almost as if you are detached from reality – that you are an observer of the world. Capturing the moment in a book.
You don’t have to sketch on your own either. there are many local groups which meet up every month or so. Meet up to chat, compare styles and tips and equipment. But more importantly, to sketch and draw. In the Urban Sketchers Yorkshire Group we even share our sketchbooks at the end of a busy day of sketching and pour over each other’s different takes on the subject matter.
If you would like to read more
The official Urban Sketchers website is a wonderful place to start. You can see the wide variety of approaches by the different correspondents from all over the world.
The Urban Sketchers group also has a vibrant Facebook group where you can post your own images. There are other more local urban sketch groups too.
Tools – Waterbrushes are incredibly useful for the urban sketcher who wants to use water-based paints.
Read – Urban Sketcher’s Singapore to see how one urban sketching group sees their city
On Saturday – After a little bit of a mix up with a train (I do so enjoy riding on trains, but they are so frightfully expensive!) I eventually arrived at the Leeds Royal Armouries museum.
After checking in with Lynne I headed off to the small arms cabinets where I quickly bagged myself a couple of snazzy-looking weapons.
As I’d walked through the museum it was clear that there was a western-themed day going ahead. I drew these two weapons on either side of a full page spread, indending on filling in a western scene inbetween at some point during the day … but I ended up leaving the centre of the page blank as I got distracted by the other cool exhibits.
Now, I do tend to stick in my drawing rut (Don’t we all!) So, I decided to break out a bit. A decided that the sketchcrawl venue is not the place to labour on a single piece of drawing.
I tackled this grand elephant in it’s armour next; initially slopping down a Payne’s grey colour wash and then Noodler’s Ink-ing over the top. I tried to work quite quickly on this piece.
For my next piece I used a finer point (0.05) than I usually do. I also tried to keep the pen moving at all times; trying to capture shapes with a mess of scribble, rather than my usual difinitive lines. Oh, and quite macr, instead of my usual obsession with smaller stuff.
I drew this sarcophagus of Henry V next. Initially I tried to use just coloured pencils and then watered them down. But I felt that there wasn’t enough definition, so I used the fineliner pen again to add a handful of lines.
There was a video re-enactment of the events leading up to the defeat of the French at Agincourt above this sarcophagus and I was really enjoying listening/glancing at it. So I stuck around to add a few extra bits and bobs (None of which are period pieces to Agincourt, I hasten to add – please don’t write in!) The spurs and the swords are from a display case beside the sarcophagus from a hundred years earlier and the helmet. Oh, the helmet! I hunted round the museum for a helmet like the ones portrayed on the re-enactment video. I thought I’d found one and quickly sketched it in at the space at the top of my page. Then I glanced a bit closer at the label; only to discover it was an Italian helmet! Grrrr! Ah, well. Maybe there were a few holidaying Italian soldiers travelling back from England at the time. Or maybe bounty hunters, or mercenaries. Or maybe someone might have borrowed a helmet from an Italian cousin, or something Anything is possible, you know!
We all had a great time; there being so many interesting things to draw. (I and I didn’t even draw a single morsel of food!)
The stadium is huge; it has a seating capacity of 80,000 and it was difficult to see many blocks of spaces.
Mexican waves washed round in one direction and the roar of the crowd cheering on the wheelchair track events washed round in the opposite direction as the crowds cheered the competitors racing past.
There were huge roars from the crowds of people whenever Team GB did … anything!
In fact the spectators cheered for all the competitors.
But the elation of seeing Hannah Cockroft take the gold medal in the women’s 100m race! Fantastic stuff! The crowd went wild.
I spent a lot of my time there drawing the stadium from our seats. Well, there’s not going to be many times when I can draw whilst inside an Olympic Stadium!
Now, me being me I truly want to upload the images in the correct order.
So, above we have the image for the first of May; a landscape.
The view from a pigsty we once stayed in. No, really! It was an actual pigsty!. Admittedly it was a rather bespoke pigsty from the eighteenth century which had been built at the whim of a particular yorkshire landowner; this pigsty had roman columns and a stunning view. Now it has been turned into a rather quaint guesthouse. (I shall endeavour to draw a view of the actual pigsty itself at some point) I don’t tend to work from photographs but …. there’s been so much rain in the cold and rugged north of England that I’ve had to succumb.
The image for the second of May should be something connected with a New Year’s resolution. I haven’t managed to get this completed yet! I knew what I wanted to do and also how I wanted to do it, but it has proved to be a slightly longer job than I anticipated. I’ve already completed the other images, so effectively I am up to date … apart from the picture from the 2nd.