Exploring Your World By Urban Sketching

At the start of 2017, while living in Gloucestershire, I made a New Year’s resolution to draw more from real life, to be specific to begin urban sketching. If you aren’t sure what that means, it is simply drawing what you see in an ‘urban’ location. The aim is draw on site using whatever supplies you brought with you. Of course, no-one is going to stop you taking your sketch home and improving it or adding colour, but the intention is the sketches are created from real life.

There is a whole global art community dedicated to the practice of urban sketching; in hundreds of cities and towns in many countries sketching groups meet up to draw their environments. This community is known as USk and they have their own website listing each affiliated group around the world. That’s not to mention all of the unofficial groups around the world. It’s exciting to feel part of something so big, their website says:

“Come join us in showing the world one drawing at a time.”

and that sounds like a great adventure to be part of. Sure photos are great, but art can be so much more interesting.

At first I couldn’t find a group in Gloucestershire to join so I would go out sketching on my own. The sketch below is my first intentional Urban Sketch. I drew it sat on a bench in the middle of March, wrapped up cozy in my big coat and hat. I chose my church (Mariners) surrounded by the historic Gloucester docks as my first drawing. I sketched in pencil on location, then added colour at home using a mixture of Posca paint pens and coloured pencils from the pound shop.

Mariners

Mariners are a very friendly supportive church, and when they saw my sketch on Facebook asked if they could make postcards from it to place in the church for visitors to have and donations would go to the church. I was more than happy to do so (its a bit like the story of the talents in the bible). Of course many artists would frown on giving work away for free however I saw it more as giving back to God, he was welcome to use my work however he wanted, plus it’s nice to think there are random strangers out there in the world somewhere with a little piece of my art work (even better a piece I am pleased with).

mariners postcard

In 2018 I did eventually find a group that met once a month in Bristol, and I would join them from time to time (work permitting). We visited all sorts of locations, all free and all accessible by public transport. Museums, parks, interesting streets, markets, docks, anything and everything and the organisers were always open to suggestions.

There are so many advantages to urban sketching, and even more to meeting with a group.

1. You actually look at your surroundings.

I am not a naturally observant person, in fact many would call me oblivious. Sitting down and consciously observing your environment and the people around you really makes you notice and appreciate things you might have missed otherwise.

2. You can explore

As an extension to the first point, I particularly enjoy urban sketching when I am somewhere new. It’s a great way to explore and understand the area you are in. I try to ensure I sketch wherever I travel. Sometimes the buildings (I love buildings, they don’t move) and sometimes the people (they do move); you get to see similarities and differences and you gain some understanding.

3. You meet other people

I am also not naturally especially sociable, however the social side of urban sketching is within my comfort zone. Everyone has a common interest and there’s easy conversations to be had about art supplies, styles, and general preferences. All the events I’ve attended have ended up at a coffee shop where everyone is happy to share ideas and knowledge whilst eating cake (an obvious advantage).

4. Seeing a wide variety of art

During the coffee meet up at the end people generally pass their work around and it is fascinating (in a non-sarcastic way). You see so many ways to create an impression of your surroundings. Sure it can be daunting and you may not feel as capable as some of the others but you don’t have to share your work if you’d rather not. Either way I’ve definitely felt inspired and gained ideas from some of the pieces I’ve seen over the years.

5. You improve your skills

As with any activity, the more you practice the better you get. In this case, you get a wide range of subjects and conditions to sketch in. If you’re drawing people then maybe you’ll have a very short amount of time. If you’re drawing outside maybe the weather or lighting will be difficult. When you only have the items you brought with you, you will find a way to get along with them.

6. Its makes an interesting journal

Many people like to keep some sort of record of their lives, these days social media and photos on your phone do the job, but some people still like to keep a personal diary or journal. I love having these sketches as a travel journal. Places and people I’ve seen, events I’ve experienced. Sure they don’t have the perfect glossy finish a photo has, but I think they’re better for it. They show your personal impression of it all rather than an often impersonal, more factual representation.

Eventually an urban sketch group did form in Gloucestershire and I attended when I could. Sometimes some of the Bristol group would join us too. The Bristol group had really grown over the 2 years I’d been attending. It was good to see, though made finding a space for us all to sit together a bit tricky.

Now I am travelling again and sketching is still my way to explore and record my life and you will see some more glimpses of my life over the next few posts.

Let’s Go Abroad

The Easter holidays had arrived, and I had decided to visit my parents in Spain (proper Spanish Spain in the mountains, I explain this every time as I subconsciously fear people imagining us as classic Brits abroad. Maybe we really are and just don’t know it). I hadn’t been out that way since I had got my dog the previous summer. I still didn’t have a post teaching plan but was very much looking forward to some down time and maybe putting in some serious thought on the subject.

xativa sketch_edit

Teaching abroad wasn’t an option I had considered seriously mostly due to being kind of over it by this point. However,  as I was in Spain anyway, I emailed the local international school and asked to have a look around. I had no frame of reference for teaching in Spain, what were the conditions like, working hours, salary, student mentality etc, it was worth looking into. The school  were more than happy for me to visit. They gave me a guided tour followed by asking me if I would come for an interview for a physics position they had available immediately. I thought, Why not?, so turned up at beautiful marbled school all shiny and slippery and expensive looking, designed to impress parents into spending large amounts of money to educate their children there.

I gave a spectacular interview.

I never heard from them again.

I didn’t want to work there anyway.

No really I didn’t. The pay was less than the UK, the working hours and holidays were similar, the workload was maybe lighter, there was a language barrier and general differences in behaviour expectations. From my point of view the pupils were chatty and rude. It didn’t seem like a great alternative to teaching in the UK.

So there you are, this isn’t a tale about taking a teaching job in Spain, rather a mini tale of being ghosted by a Spanish school after they asked me to interview.

Immediately after my Spain interview I knew it wasn’t for me so I sat outside in the Spanish sun and googled where in the world is it best to teach. On a random list, somewhere near the top was listed Kazakhstan with a link to a job advert in Astana and I thought why not? So I spent the next hour filling in their application form and sent it off.

This was the one and only application form I had submitted since handing in my notice.

So how’d that pan out? I’ll tell you next time.

bocairent sketch

Daily doodles – the best of the rest

Way, way back, at the end of 2015 I started a daily doodle challenge. I did complete the challenge however never did get around to posting the doodles for the second half of the year. So here is a best of the rest from that challenge. During this time I discovered Posca pens and thoroughly enjoyed developing a new style which has become integral to a lot of what I do currently (more on this coming soon).

A Long Overdue Daily Doodle 23 day update (June 2016)

It has been ages since I uploaded me daily doodles. Rest assured I have been doodling daily, it just seemed such a hassle to scan them all in, but finally I have managed it, at least for June. I’m still enjoying the use of my tanned scrapbook, and the new Posca pens. In fact I treated myself to set so I now have more than just black and white.

Enjoy this set of doodles whilst you can, because July brings with it  bit of an uninspired spell. But before we get there, appreciate the bright, vivid colours of this lot, because I have. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but it would have to be either the pig, the chicken or the jaguar.

Oil Pastels & Posca Pens, A Daily Doodle Update- 19 Day Update (May – June 2016)

19 more daily doodles lie ahead. A great highlight of this bunch is some new art materials. I got my hands on a 36 pack of Faber-Castel oil pastels second hand (hardly used) for 3 Euro! I used to love working in oil pastels, they give such bold colours, and there is a childish, hands-on feel to them that makes me smile; they’re kind of like a more sophisticated version of wax crayons.

I also splashed on on 2 Posca paint pens. I’d heard such great things about their versatility and thickness of pigment I thought I’d give them a go. I bought a white one about 2 mm thick and a black about 1 mm thick. The black is great, though my scratchy toned scrap book I’ve been using is a bit hard on the nib, but the white is a little disappointing. The pigment is a bit weak and Doesn’t really paint over dark colours as well as I’d hoped. One of my greatest missions in life is to find the perfect white pen/pencil for art highlights, as yet I haven’t found it.

I’m trying to cut down on animations based doodles, but there’s still a few; they’re a comfortable fall back when I don’t know what to do. They’re also relatively easy, look clean and tidy with little effort and I am inherently lazy; they are the easy option. There’s a couple more architectural type doodles,  these are a newly discovered favorite of mine. I have only really started to draw buildings this year so I have the daily doodle challenge to thank for this discovery.

So without further ado, here are 19 doodles, judge for yourself whether the new art supplies were worth my excitement.

The 52 Week Illustration Challenge – April and May 2016

Here are 2 months of illustration challenge entries. They are still losing out to my daily doodles for time and effort but some of them turn out well. In fact once more I have been one of the picks of the week! All but one of the entries over the last 2 months I have drawn from imagination, which I consider to be progress. Only the magpie was based on a photo, and even that got suitably altered.

The prompts were as follows: week 14 – camping, week 15- ocean, week 16- mirror, week 17 – collector, week 18- grandmother, week 19 – adventure, week 20 – still life and week 21 – ink.

Week 21 – ink is the week for which my image was selected as a pick of the week. You can check out the 52 week illustration challenge blog here to see the other chosen images for that week and all the other weeks.

Daily Doodle – 19 Day Update (May 2016)

A bit of a mixed bag the last few weeks. There’s been a few practice days and a few sketches that I spent a long time on. I’m still drawing a lot of movie and T.V. based pictures, but I’ve branched out and started trying to use toned paper; it’s amazing, why didn’t I use it before! You may have to take my word for it though as it doesn’t photograph very well.

I have created my very first sketchbook tour video on youtube, so if you want to hear what i have to say about my first sketchbook of daily doodles then click sketchbook tour video.

I have also done my first time-lapse video of a full sketch, in this case it is the peregrine falcon from 07/05/16. You can find this at Falcon time-lapse video.

Check out the videos, like, comment and share if you feel so inclined.

 

Daily Doodle – 21 Day Update (most of April 2016)

I have spent the last several weeks in Spain and consequently I have been working with very limited supplies. I’ve particularly been focusing on line work, and cross hatching which I think suited the available materials better and I think I’m getting the hang of it. You may notice that there are quite a few uninspired pictures in this collection, I just haven’t been feeling it, never mind. There are a few I like, generally those based on animations, but also my attempt at Bellatrix Lestrange.

Daily Doodle – 14 day update (March/April)

I am still out in Spain with limited art supplies; it’s a hard life. Despite this I really like almost all these drawings. I think the word doodle might be a bit misleading or insulting as some these had quite a bit of time and focus spent on them so don’t imagine I can doodle these in 10 minutes flat.

I’ve had a bit more of a focus on architectural drawings, and particularly focusing on keeping things clean and neat, which is not my usual style. There’s also a few drawings based on animated movies which are always nice and easy to draw. My drawing materials this week were mostly my standard gel pens, felt tip pens and pencils probably costing in all about £4. but for the fist time in a long time I used some soft pastel pencils on a picture. I love soft pastels, they’re very forgiving and malleable, this particular set I’d had for many years and just forgotten I had them. I tried to look this set up but it seems they don’t exist any more, anyhow, I wouldn’t have recommended them, they’re a bit scratchy, but that could just be their age.

Without further ado, here are the last 15 days of doodles:

 

The 52 Week Illustration Challenge – March 2016

This month I managed my greatest illustration achievement to date, and that was to be one of the editors picks for the week for the Illustration challenge. I was truly chuffed, you can see my picture amongst the other picks for week 9 – watercolour of the illustration challenge blog.

Below are my 5 entries for March, as usual with me some of these I think are good, others were rushed token efforts. But I am still on time and have not missed a week and I am duly impressed with myself. The prompts were as follows: Week 9 – Watercolour, Week 10 – Animal, Week 11 – Mother, Week 12 – Non-dominant hand and Week 13 – Movement. I am without a scanner at present to the images aren’t the best.