Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Quick-on-the-Draw Sketching Workshop: Dry Run

On Saturday, a few of my SketchCrawl North chums helped me out by agreeing to be guinea-pigs. I needed to try out the speed-sketching workshop I'm going to deliver at the Urban Sketchers Symposium next week.

We'll be sketching outside in Santa Domingo, so I wanted to do the same for my dry-run. Our garden seemed perfect, with interesting shapes of chimneys, roofs and trees all round, but the weather was not that keen on my plan. It was one of those 'Yahoo, hot sun! / heavy shower: quick run inside... / Yahoo, hot sun! / heavy shower: quick run inside...' sort of afternoons. 

We started off outside, and one or two brave souls kept on giving it a try, but mostly people contented themselves with drawing things in the house or looking through the windows.

The idea was to push people out of their comfort-zones. Over a series of four 30 minute exercises, I challenged them to try new materials and new techniques, designed to prevent them from getting bogged down in the detail that prevents you from mastering speed-sketching.

I introduced the afternoon with a look through my sketching kit and we swapped tips on favourite media, then we got to work...

To begin, we focussed on what I like to call the 'sexy line'. I showed lots of examples from my own sketchbooks then lent them all graphite sticks and asked them to concentrate on fluidity and instinct, to try to hot-wire their hands into their eyes, by-passing the bit of your brain that wants to plan and measure and looking more at the subject than the paper.

I next asked them to forget line totally and look at tone. We each chose 2 colours, one darker than the other, in pastels, coloured pencils or watercolour, then used them to describe a scene or subject, disregarding naturalistic colour, assigning them instead to tones (if you want to try this yourself, try squinting: it really helps you to sort out the darker and lighter areas).

Between each session, we came together to look at and discuss the results. Many people found this one hard, but still enjoyed the challenge. 

For the 3rd exercise, I let people use naturalistic colour, but only 3 colours and with no mixing. The challenge here was to first apply loose areas of colour without line, then only afterwards apply the line using graphite, ink, conte or chinagraph. I wanted people to combine what they'd learned from the first two exercises, keeping the line fluid and sexy!

I showed sketches I had done at last year's symposium, for Richard Camara's 'Lining Over Colour' workshop, which has greatly influenced my technique. Applying colour first is a wonderfully simple way of loosening up your style.

I did each exercise with them as we went along, to help show what I was trying to acheive, but also so I could get a feel for how the limitations of each felt, and to generate specific examples to use for briefing the actual workshops at the symposium.

During the final 30 minutes, we created not a single image but an 'impression' made up of several quick observations, bound together by areas of handwritten text.

Text is a great compositional tool, but also a way of incorporating non-visual aspects, to help capture a particular moment in time: smells, sounds, snatches of conversation etc.

When all the hard work was over, we cleared the table, put the kettle on and laid out a feast to reward ourselves. Everyone contributed something (there was some amazing home-baking). We chatted and laughed and stuffed ourselves silly (especially me - mmm, those chilly brownies...).

I must have worked them hard, because not even Matthew stopped to draw the food!!


dinahmow said...

This is a valuable breakdown of the technique and I intend to share the ideas with another sketchy friend(I'd like to get a sketch crawl group started here!)

Good luck in Santo D! Wish I could be there-our temp is just a few degrees above freezing!Kinda like Buxton!!!!!!

jabbott said...

What talent under one roof!

Ethna said...

Oh this is great!...thanks for posting, Lynne. Can't wait to try out these ideas.
I'm sure your workshop will go down a treat!
Warm regards from Oz!

Lisa Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Thompson said...

Great exercises! Sounds like you are all ready for SD. have a great trip,No doubt your session will be a hit! Have a great time. I hope John gets to go too

Lynne the Pencil said...

Thanks folks - glad you think it will be useful. Poor old John has to stay home and hold the fort this time, though I suspect he will run wild in my absence!

I am getting in training for the temperatures, as it may not be sunny here at the moment, but it's been really hot and sticky, and outragiously humid this week. Thunder storms though for later today, so it will probably be just cold and wet again soon...

Holger Wendt said...

Brilliant process Lynne! Gives me lust to try it out with a group. I'm a fan of your train sketching ...

Lynne the Pencil said...

Hi Holgar - thank you! Good idea - why not give it a go with a group of your own? :-)