Wednesday, 24 August 2016

My New Urban Sketching Website

Those people who followed the links from my post about the my mad week in Manchester will have already seen my new website, but I thought I ought to tell you about it properly, as I am rather excited by how it looks. This is the homepage. When you go to the real thing, the top section moves:

Regular readers will have noticed that I have been doing as much urban sketching work as book illustration. That is definitely what's been getting me excited of late and an area I want to expand. Until this month though, my website has been all about children's books. It's still working great for that side of things and is perfect for helping with school visits, so I don't want to change it, but it's no good for potential clients for my new reportage projects. Which is why I got someone to help build me a 2nd website at

This site features all the different aspects of my work where I am painting and drawing from life. It's perfect for showcasing the artist-in-residence work at the Morgan Centre, as well as letting people know that I am also available to create a visual record of any sort of event. I've already covered conferences, but it would be interesting to get involved in non-academic events too: imagine a sketch-record of farming processes, or the manufacture and launch of a new product... Pretty much anything is possible and I am sure there is a market for such projects. It's just letting people know that I am here!

I'd like to do more workshops centred around teaching people to sketch too, as well as more public speaking about what I do. I love to talk about it! I needed somewhere to separated out workshops of that kind from my children's illustration workshops. I deliberately featured photos of adults, to get the point across that it doesn't have to happen in schools. I'd love to be attached to a big institution and offer an afternoon of drawing for staff once a month, like some businesses subsidise yoga, to help with mindfulness and relaxation.

I now have somewhere to gather all my films about drawing together too, rather than mixing them in with the ones about illustration and the films for kids. 

I will soon be able to include the brand new film the university commissioned, which was on show at the exhibition.

This new website is a much more relevant home for my sketchbooks too. I've simplified the archive down, so it's easier to find what you are interested in, organising it by subject matter categories:

There are all the usual links available of course, so do use this part of the website to join me in other places, if you haven't already. I was quite pleased with the idea of creating a footer section for the links, from a scan of one of my sketchbooks:

I've included a big section explaining about what Urban Sketchers is, who Urban Sketchers Yorkshire are and what SketchCrawling is all about. Hopefully it will help recruit a few more people to the cause:

Have a wander round and let me know what you think. It would be good to know if you find any glitches or things which are missing. Hope you like it!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

My Holidays: Sketching Landscape

I am not one of those people who knows how to stop. I am very bad at turning off completely, but I have been doing my best to try a half-way house...

Once I got back from Manchester and all the fun and games, I had two days to sort out all my hundreds of back-emails (honestly, email is simultaneously the best and the worst thing about organising my working life), before heading off for a week away. Nothing major - my head wasn't up to the challenge of anything fancy - we just packed up our new tent and drove two and half hours, up to the coast of North Yorkshire.

It took two days before I stopped constantly thinking about work at any point when I wasn't actually sleeping, but eventually the countryside and long walks worked their magic. I suddenly realised that I was actually relaxed!

I didn't stop sketching of course. Don't be daft. It was really lovely to paint the scenery. I have not yet had the opportunity to do any landscape work this year, so I had a great time. We spent two half-days at Staithes, which is unbelievably picturesque:

It's a really old fishing village (now mostly a earning it's crust from tourism), built on ridiculously steep hills, either side of a gully where the river meets the sea and lots of cute little boats are tied up. I drew the river mouth from up above:

Then next day we climbed to the top of the other side of the gully, where you get a great view of the actual harbour. very tricky to fit into my sketchbook:

I sat down on the beach and sketched it from below too. There was only one a fly in the ointment, literally: every time I sat myself down to sketch, I had about 5 minutes of peace before a plague of little black sand flies found me, then proceeded to crawl all over my face. Extreme sketching!

Half way through the week, we moved inland to the North York Moors for a change of scenery. It was just as beautiful, but wilder. It was not dissimilar to the Peak District, near where we live, but much quieter. We hardly saw anyone once we got out onto the hills.

We discovered a wonderful old ruin, Bylands Abbey, which neither of us had heard of, but which would have been at least as big and spectacular as York Minster in its day, before Henry VIII got to it. I experimented with KK's stick and ink technique, though I can't get his versatility of mark:

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but after a week it was time to come home to deal with more work things. I had to write a 2000 word report about the results of my artist-in-residence project, for the Leverhulme Trust, who gave me the money.

Plus, I had to sort out the paperwork for getting a Chinese visa, ready for my working fortnight in Beijing. But that's another story!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A Week to Remember!

Okay, so first of all I'm sorry for abandoning you Gentle Reader, for probably the longest break EVER in my blog history. It's been so busy (and so exciting) with so many extraordinary things happening one after the other. There was no time to blog at the time, then afterwards I badly needed to rest.

So here I am, suitably re-charged. Where to begin? Well, after I I put up my exhibition, I stayed in Manchester in student halls for a week, to be with the 500 other sketchers, from all around the globe, who were coming for the Urban Sketchers Symposium. Which meant I had to be in both exhibition and symposium mode simultaneously, the whole time I was there. It was pretty exhausting, but also exhilarating.

I went to some excellent workshops and demonstrations at the symposium, including working with the legendary KK (above) who showed us how to draw with a sharpened stick (yes, really), a lovely relaxing session in the park, drawing trees with Robyn Bauer:

...and sketching the John Ryland's library with none other than Liz Steel. She taught us to think about volume first, to get the structure and 3-dimensionality of a building described, before we get bogged down with detail. 

This was really good for me, as I always get side-tracked by interesting twiddly bits, so quite often can't fit the whole building on the page. Here is Liz, doing a demonstration piece, after which, we all did a 2nd, longer sketch. I didn't get a photo of mine unfortunately, before I donated it to the symposium auction - an annual fundraiser for Urban Sketchers. The symposium team scanned all the donations though, so there's a copy out there, which I'll get once the dust settles, I expect.

One of my favourite pieces from the symposium is this watercolour I did at Castlefield, shortly after my painting workshop with one of the most beautiful watercolourists around, Shari Blaukopf. She focused her session on painting with a limited palette, which really works. This is only 3 colours:

Shari has a new Craftsy class out  by the way. Great stuff. It's really so useful. I recommend it!

During the symposium, I went to lectures too. One on graphic-novel storyboarding, by the urban illustrator Favian Ee; another on teaching non-artists to draw by ethnographer, Karina Kushnir:

Karina's was especially interesting to me, having just taught the Morgan Centre team to sketch and it was interesting how many similar techniques we had devised. I did a couple of beginners workshops along similar lines at my exhibition, with family groups. We had loads of fun and they produced drawings, collages, watercolours - all sorts of  lovely work. I concentrated on demystifying different media and showing people simple but effective this everyone can manage. Here are a couple of pieces from my final session, on the last day of the exhibition:

If anyone is interested, I am now offering these 'empowerment workshops'. At the moment this is just available for ready-made groups in the UK, such as schools, libraries or art clubs, but I am thinking of running a workshop individuals can sign up for next year. Let me know if you want to hear about that, once I've got it together.

I also gave two lectures at the symposium, well, the same lecture twice, about my year as artist-in-residence of course. That went down really well, which was great, especially as it was being filmed (no pressure!). Lis Watkins sketched me strutting my stuff as well:

The film of my lecture will be available in a month or so on my new website (yes, that's another thing to tell you about... next time perhaps). My lecture was the perfect opportunity to plug the exhibition again of course, which was luckily only down the road.

The private view of the show was on the Friday night, to coincide with a free evening for the symposium delegates, to make sure lots of people came. That plan worked like a dream. We had a full house. I changed into my best frock and Sue Heath and myself took it in turns to climb up onto the windowsill and say a few words:

Mostly though, I spent the evening being hugged and kissed, signing copies of my Sketching People book and being told how clever I was - how nice is that? Free wine too. Oh yes. Worth all the hard work!

The symposium visitors hung on in Manchester on Sunday and we did yet more sketching (naturally). This sketch was done in the evening, when a small group of us were hanging out at Albert Square, sketching people at the Jazz Festival (which looked more like a beer festival to me, to be honest):

I was especially pleased with this painting that I did sitting quietly on my own on Sunday morning (thanks for those volume tips Liz):

I was pleased to have the company for the rest of that day, as I had to hang on in Manchester until the end of Monday, when we took down the exhibition. Sigh. It felt really sad to dismantle everything I had worked so hard to construct over so many weeks.

So, that's the story of my busy, busy week. There have been more adventures since of course, but they will have to wait until next time.

Monday, 25 July 2016

My exhibition is Up!

As you will know if you look in here at all regularly, my exhibition, Unfolding Stories, where I am displaying a year of sketchbooks created during my residency at the Morgan Centre, is opening in the morning. Hurrah! It runs until next Monday (but comes down at midday). It's been quite a roller-coaster getting it all ready, but it's all done and ready to go now. Phew.

I have been in the gallery with John all day and into the evening, getting everything up on the walls. We've had lots of help, luckily, from the wonderful Sue Heath, my partner from the Morgan Centre, as well as Chris, a fantastic technician at Z-Arts, and Graham from Dataprint, who printed all the enlargements, labels and wall text for me and who worked alongside us installing the prints. We were all there until 7pm.

It was really hard work, but it has been totally worth it, as it is looking absolutely gorgeous. I am chuffed to bits. 

Here I am modelling my street banner. We still have to put that up when I get there tomorrow, as well as a few other little finishing touches, like setting up the workshop area. 

If you come along to see it, you will also be able to see the 15 minute film the university has commissioned about the project. Lots of footage of me in my posh frock, trying to sound as though I know what I am talking about! It's hot off the press too - the final cut was delivered direct to the gallery at lunchtime by Howard, the film maker, when I saw it finished for the first time. He's done a great job. 

There's a special screening room at the gallery, which is perfect. This is a quick sketch I did while we were shooting the film. They were interviewing Sue (who really does know what she's talking about!):

It's all happening at Z-Arts in Manchester, which is a 15 minute walk from Oxford Road station. Luckily very easy to find too:

Though the show opens tomorrow morning, 26th July, we are having the official preview event a little later, on the Friday evening, July 29th, to coordinate with the Urban Sketchers Symposium (and so people from out of town don't have to travel home, then get up early in the morning). The preview event runs from 6pm until 8.45, then there's a bar which stays open.

If you would like to come to the preview night, you have to sign up for a ticket. Unfortunately, we need to do this, as we are only allowed 120 people. It's fire regs, or insurance, or something boring, but I suppose important.  

If you would like a ticket, click here, (but please only sign up if you really intend coming.

He looks a bit like I feel, after the last few weeks! It's been pretty full-on, and in fact, with the various other things I've had running in parallel, it's been the busiest six months I can remember. It'll all be worth it though, to see all the work up together. 

This week should be good fun all round, what with also taking part in the 4-day Urban Sketchers Symposium as well. I'm delivering a 1 hour lecture about the project at the symposium too. I'm really looking forward to telling everyone about it.

So, come along to my show if you can and, if you want to follow the project online or give any feedback on the exhibition, the hashtag is #sketchresearch. 

Maybe see you in Manchester!

Monday, 18 July 2016

My Exhibition is NEXT WEEK!

My big exhibition of sketchbooks from my year's residency is being hung this time next week! I can't believe it's so close now. I am still frantically trying to sort things out. I designed a logo to be printed onto a vinyl stencil and pasted along the gallery wall. It'll be about 2m long:

It works really well on the poster I designed too:

I've also designed postcards with maps on the back so people can find the gallery. Luckily it's very easy from Manchester Oxford Road station and only takes about 15 minutes to walk:

The postcards will have various different pictures on the front. I've done 6 different versions, because each of the 500 delegates at the Urban Sketchers Symposium will get one of these in their goody-bags and I'm hoping that them all being different will make them more of a talking point. There's another 1000 postcards to be distributed by the university's marketing department too, so hopefully we'll get at least a few people turning up!

I have even designed a street banner to go outside the gallery to entice people in. It's just over 2m high and will be one of those that's like a flag, with a post going into a floor weight, which you fill up with water, so it doesn't take off halfway through the exhibition!

Inside the gallery, I am exhibiting 27 of the 2m long sketchbooks I have been creating over the year. Because they are relatively small in such a big space, I was worried about visual impact, so have created eight A0 size boards, with details from the sketches blown up HUGE. There are also a couple of AO boards telling people what it's all about: one from my perspective and one written by Professor Heath. I sploshed them with watercolour, to make them more groovy:.

Today I am working on workshop sheets. I am going to be running actual workshops on the mornings of both 26th July and 1st August, but we are also going to have an area with art materials supplied, so visitors can have a go, if they feel inspired. To give them some starting points, I have written 5 workshop sheets, which we will have laminated on the art table.

It's all going to be brilliant, but everything takes so long to prepare. It all has to be written, illustrated, designed then prepared for print. I think I am going to get it all sorted in time, but only just. I've left the least vital things until last, just in case!

Wish me luck...