Thursday, 21 August 2014

How to Make Sketchbook with No Sewing!



Concertina-format sketchbooks are a bit intimidating: I had one on my shelf for a whole year before I finally got up the courage to use it at last year's Urban Sketcher's symposium in Barcelona


The trick is just to start. Once I did, I was away. I have filled two, on both sides, and am keen to keep going. There's something really exciting about the ability to create an on-going image - maybe one long landscape like the one at the top, done in Wales last summer, or combining sketches in creative ways like the Manchester one I did recently:


Trouble is, the nice watercolour paper ones are hard to come by and a bit pricey. So, I decided to try my hand at making my own to take with me to this year's symposium. How hard could it be? Well, a wee bit trickier than I thought, to be honest, but I got there.


I cut 2 big sheets of watercolour paper into 3 strips each, enough for 3 books: one slightly smaller one, like the Manchester one, and two medium, Moleskin-sized books. Working out the best page width was the first tricky bit. I then scored across the paper strips with a special device, ready for folding (you get it from book-binder's outlets):


The width of one paper sheet wasn't enough on its own: there had to be a join to get a decent length of concertina. This was the next tricky bit - if you don't get the two strips exactly in line, the error accumulates with each fold. My first attempt was a bit wonky, because I didn't realise that. You can just make out the fold below. I allowed a 10mm overlap and joined the the 2 strips with double-sided tape:


The really exciting bit is the binding. The little book I took to Manchester has no binding at all - no, really - just a board attached at each end. No sewing or making covers with spines: easy-peasy (ish). 


The finished book folds up into itself and all you need is a rubber band to stop it unfolding. It's the perfect method. I covered the end boards with fabric from a dead pair of walking trousers, stuck on with PVA. The fabric didn't want to do what it was told, so the corners are a bit dodgy, but, all in all, it looks very smart and cost very little. Have a go!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Usk Symposium Workshop: Creating my Handouts


I don't know about you, but when I am bombarded with new ideas and things to remember, I tend to boggle-over (technical term). If past years are anything to go by, the Urban Sketchers symposium in Paraty will be amazingly stimulating for all concerned, but for those taking all the workshops and going to all the lectures and demos, there's going to be a lot for the head to hold.


So, it's good practice for instructors to create a handout to go with their workshops. It makes things easier to take in on the day (especially for all those for whom English is a 2nd language), but it's also really handy for taking home as a record, to try again later.

Last year I printed them myself at home, but it took forever and cost a fortune in ink and special thick paper (so I could print images on both sides without it showing through). So this year I thought I would pay to have them properly printed. Of course, it still took me ages to design them: I am too much of a perfectionist and wanted them to be a lovely keepsake as well as an instructional leaflet.

Each hand-out goes through the three exercises we are going to do in detail, with examples of my sketches, to demonstrate what I'm talking about. I waited until after my dry-run to create my handouts, so I could tweak things if necessary but, in the end, I didn't change much at all.


They came back from the printers a couple of days ago and they have done a grand job. They look great! They also weigh quite a lot, because there are 50 copies, each one consisting of 2 folded A4 sheets. But I (as usual) had tons to say and show, so wanted to give myself 8 sides to do it. At least I won't be bringing them back, which means the weight can be replaced by all the lovely, freebie sketchbooks we always get from our sponsors (yippee).

This year we are getting a slinky concertina book from Loloran, which looks similar to the one I used in Manchester recently:


...and a Strathmore book, like the one we got last year, which I LOVE:


I have really enjoyed the tinted paper, which alters the way you approach things. 

We are getting all sorts of other bits too. It's really fun - like being a kid again, with a lucky-dip! I notice Moleskin is a sponsor, so cross-fingers we'll be getting a Moleskin watercolour book... 

A big thank you to all the sponsors :-)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Urban Sketchers Yorkshire: Derbyshire Sketch-Walk


Last Saturday was Urban Sketchers Yorkshire's August SketchCrawl day. This time we were out in Derbyshire, doing a sketch-walk between village pubs.

I can't take any credit for the success of the day, as it was organised by Andrea and Paul, members who live in Derbyshire. It was nice for a change for me to be able to relax and follow orders, rather than be the boss.


We met up at the Pride of the Peaks pub in New Mills, where those of us who'd had an early start to get there, treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast (yum). Well, we needed to build up the strength in our drawing-arms, didn't we?

We then went out into the sunshine to do our first sketch of the day, while we waited for all the idlers, who couldn't quite drag themselves out of bed, to join us. There are some great views in that area, because of the depth of the valley and the old, disused mill buildings:


I was peering over a wall by the bus stop, but it looks as though I was hanging out of a hot-air balloon! The group has been sketching there once before - we did a sketchcrawl in New Mills last summer - and I doubt this is the last time we'll visit either.

We set off from the pub at 11.00, on a beautiful walk down into the valley and along the canal to our next stop, the Soldier Dick pub at Furness Vale. There were some scenic places to sketch along the canal, but many of us treated it as more of a drink stop. 


There were more canal views at the next stop anyway, looking down into Buxworth Canal Basin:


The Navigation Inn at Buxworth was a great lunch stop and the sun was mostly still shining, although it had got really windy and I struggled to hang on to my book while doing the sketch above - the wind kept trying to grab it and throw it into the canal!


My final stop of the day was half an hour further down the valley at White Hough. The Paper Mill pub had gardens at the front and back, with views of the lovely Cracken Edge. I did the painting below and then the one at the top, again peering over a wall.


Unfortunately, we Sheffield-based people had to leave after that, for a final walk to Chinley, to catch our train home, but the locals carried on to another pub at Whaley Bridge, and the more intrepid amongst them climbed up Eccles Pike. I was sad to miss that, but enjoyed the train journey back through the hills with my sketch-buddies, sharing our work.  

A huge thanks to Andrea Joseph and Paul Gent for sorting out all the logistics and herding us between pubs. Another lovely day!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

How to Use Colour: a Dry-Run of My Workshop


It's less than 2 weeks before I am off to Brazil (yippee), to run some street-sketching workshops in the sunshine, as part of the Urban Sketchers annual symposium



My workshop is called Afraid of Colour?. I've noticed that a lot of sketchers are great in black and white, but totally intimidated by colour. I used to mainly use a 3B pencil myself, but since I got into watercolour and discovered my Inktense pencils, I am having so much more fun. 

With that in mind, I designed my workshop to share some ideas and pointers, to help others make that transition too.



I have 3 identical workshops to run, each of 3.5 hours, which sounds a lot, but there's so much I want to do, it's been a struggle fitting it in. I was a bit worried that things might feel too rushed, so I thought I'd do a dry-run in Sheffield. I did the same thing the very first time I was selected to run a symposium workshop, in Santo Domingo (my speed-sketching workshop Quick-on-the-Draw). It's really useful to test that everything works in advance.



I offered it as a freebie to my Urban Sketchers Yorkshire team and put together a group of a dozen guinea-pig sketchers. I chose a spot in the centre of Sheffield, where there is a grassy area surrounded on all sides by a good variety of architecture. I was a bit nervous about the UK weather though - Sheffield is not quite Brazil - but we were very lucky: it was a perfect day.


John told me that his main worry, when it comes to colour, is the likelihood of ruining a good sketch, so we started with a workshop aimed at getting lots of colour down on the page before we started any drawing. I created the sketch at the top a little while ago, to use as an example. Below is one of the sketches done on the day for this exercise, by Abi Goodman, and the one above was done by Peter Wadsworth. Good eh?



We followed that up with another slightly lateral idea: using coloured line-work. My idea was to make the colour intrinsic to the sketch, rather than just a way of tinting an existing drawing. 



I asked the group to choose 3 different colours for the line, based on the try-out I did a couple of weeks back. This is a sketch done by Lucie Golton:



The final exercise allowed people to start with a standard black and white line-drawing, but I asked them to use expressive methods to colour it up, in a variety of art materials. I did a little demo to give them some tips, using Inktense pencil, watercolour and oil pastels:




To help people further, I had also printed out a selection of my sketches and created a little folder of examples to give them ideas of different ways to tackle the different challenges:


One of the main secrets to success is having the confidence to be bold with both your colour choices and mark-making. Wishy-washy or dingy colours tend to feel safer, but they are not going to light up your sketch.



Between each exercise, we gathered to look at the results, laying the books out on the grass to give each other feedback, then I briefed in the next task. People worked really hard and, as you can see, some exciting sketching was done. It's hard to believe that these were done by people who are uncomfortable using colour. 



At the end we went for a coffee and I asked for feedback. Despite my worries, people seemed quite happy with the timings. Everyone said that they had found it challenging to be pushed so far out of their comfort-zone, but that is had been extremely useful and very interesting. Most importantly, they all enjoyed themselves. Phew. 

A week later, at our Derbyshire SketchCrawl last weekend (more of which later), I noticed that Andrea Josephwho usually works in biro, did a beautiful, loose and joyful watercolour - in full colour: 



Job done. Paraty, here I come...