Monday, 15 September 2014

5th Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty


Though I was in Brazil for 10 days, the actual symposium in Paraty ran for 3 days, each of which was crammed with workshops, demonstrations, talks and SketchCrawls, not to mention all the extra-curricula drawing through lunch and dinner.

I was teaching a full day on Thursday and on Saturday morning, but the rest of the time I got to take part in whatever was happening.

There was so much to choose from and of course lots of things clashed, but I had a go at everything I could fit in, trying to squeeze every last drop out of the precious time.


All the instructors were teaching through most of the workshop slots, which meant that we were only able to opt to take part in one workshop being given by a fellow instructor. It was so hard to choose, but in the end I went for something totally different to my approach, so I would learn something new, I chose Paul Heaston.

Paul usually works with a fine-liner and does mostly very small, very intricate drawings, which are incredibly beautiful and very cleverly put together. One device he uses is a fish-eye lens perspective, to try and squeeze everything which is in his field of vision into his tiny A6 sketchbook. I'd never met him before, as this symposium was his first time.  Turns out he's lovely as well as brilliant, and very funny. Excellent combo.


I tried my best to learn how to draw the fish-eye style.
 It was so much harder than I thought! Paul asked us to start with thumbnails and I discovered to my surprise that doing a thumbnail of a view was, for me, the most difficult of all! My thumbnails all kept growing and growing...
After a few pathetic dry-runs I did one final sketch which worked, more or less. Here is Paul trying to whip me into shape:


I went to a couple of excellent lectures, one about the nature of learning, by my new friend Matthew Brehm, and one by Karina Kuschnir from Rio, about gathering research information through sketching, which was very pertinent to the work I am hoping to do with Manchester University.


I did one evening event with Richard Alomar, about sketch-mapping. He asked us to create a concertina record of a walk down one street, taking note of anything which snagged our attention. It was amazing - I had walked down the same street many, many times while we were there, and thought it very much like all the others; I only really got to know it through Richard's session:


On the last afternoon of the symposium, there was a new feature: the Big Crit, where we instructors gave one-to-one feedback on people's work. It was arranged like speed-dating with just 5 minutes per person (although it did stretch at the end, as the crowds thinned). Everyone said it was very useful, so I think it is likely to become a regular feature.


Straight after this, we had a huge SketchCrawl for all 240 Urban Sketchers, plus any locals who wanted to join in. We gathered together for a group photo then all sketched together in the square until the light was completely gone.


That evening we held a blind auction. Each of the instructors (and some other sketchers too) created a piece of work during the symposium, to be auctioned in aid of next year's symposium fund. I found it quite stressful to do, as I left it until the last minute and had to be sure to do something good enough during the final sketchcrawl. Fortunately it worked okay. This is my piece and the lovely Nelson Paciencia, who bought it:


Then we celebrated with the end-of-symposium party. It's normally reasonably formal, with speeches, but this was Brazil. The locals started dancing fairly early on. Well, it would have been rude not to join in...


We ended up doing a massive conga (in quite a small space - fun in itself). After that, it was impossible to go back to anything formal, so we just kept partying instead!


Later that evening, like each of those before it, a smaller group of us went on to the local music bar, Paraty 33, where we drank Caipirinhas (way too nice) and carried on drawing and bopping into the small hours. I was of course amongst the last small knot of hardened boppers who finally crawled out at 4.30am.




I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. After several days of intensive sketching and partying, I was of course exhausted, but couldn't have been happier when every day we got up and started all over again! 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Getting up Early to Visit Woodhouse West Primary School


I've had a lot of sleep to catch up on, after my adventures in Brazil, not just from the looooooooonnnng journey home (3 different planes, 2 cabs and a train to get back), but from all the late nights while I was there (one night we didn't stop dancing until 4.30am - yahoo!). 

So, it was a bit of a struggle to get up at 6.15 on Monday morning, to get myself to a primary school. Although Woodhouse West is a Sheffield school, I needed to be there early, to set up for a pre-school book-signing session in the library. Before the children arrived, the Y1 teacher told me that they had been working from my website and had all done a portrait of me. Here are a couple of my favourites:


What do you think? Should I be worried? 

I had a lovely time, working with the two Y1 classes, reading Bears on the StairsClass Two at the Zoo and Class Three all at Sea - all books written by my friend, the lovely Julia Jarman. 

We were rather silly (I do enjoy reverting to being a child during these session with littlies). I did my Bear on the Stair poem and gave out badges to the best burpers and growlers in each group. Then we designed monsters. I had a new idea at the end. I got them to think about what kind of noise their monster might make. Then we formed a circle, facing in and holding up the monster drawings so everyone could see and, on the count of 3, made our noise - hilarious!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Back in the Real World


Hello! Yes, I am back from my adventures (sigh). There is no way I can put into words the amount of fun, fellowship and inspiration that was packed into the 10 days I was in Brazil. 


The atmosphere at Urban Sketchers symposiums is always electric with excitement and creativity, but this year was definitely something extra special. Maybe it was that the Brazilians were such lovely, friendly, fun-loving hosts (we partied hard - it was GREAT!). 


Maybe it was because Paraty was the perfect location: small enough that we took it over, so that sketchers were peppered through every street, literally from dawn until dusk most days. 


Maybe it was also partly because this was my 4th time and, each year I go, I revisit more friendships from previous years and feel more at home as an instructor and correspondent. Also, I got to sandwich the symposium itself between extra 'bonding' days with smaller groups of my fellow-sketchers. A dozen of us went out on a boat trip together the day before it all kicked off - when I opened this sketch onto my scanner, a scattering of sand spilled out:


I filled 5 sketchbooks, so there's no way I am going to be able to show them all here, even spread over a few posts, but I will be gradually adding them to an Usk album on my Flickr page as I scan them. I've done a few already. You can see lots of photos on my Facebook page too.


The workshops all went really well although, on the two sessions I did on Thursday, we encountered some rather surreal and unexpected circumstances, which I will tell you about next time. This is a photo from the final workshop on Saturday:



It's been really hard trying to settle down to normality again. I think today is the first day when I have not felt that at least 20% of my brain was still in Brazil with my chums. I didn't expect to miss everyone so much!


Anyway, as you can imagine, there's lots to catch up on back home, so I'd better get on. I will come back and tell you more in a couple of days.


Thursday, 4 September 2014

On My Way Home...


Sadly, today was my last day in Brazil. This afternoon, I was due to take an internal flight from Rio back to Sao Paulo, ready to transfer onto my international flight later on this evening. If everything worked out okay, and I REALLY hope it did, I should touch down in the UK late tomorrow afternoon.

Let's hope my suitcase is stuffed with bulging sketchbooks (well actually my hand-luggage - I don't want to take any chances), all ready to share with you shortly.

Believe it or not, I actually have a school visit to do on Monday. At least it's in Sheffield and I'll have the weekend to get over the jet-lag.

See you soon!