Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Visual Journal: Getting on the WRONG TRAIN!!!!

I am still travelling to Nottingham every day at the moment, doing my workshops at various schools. It was all going well until after school at Old Basford Primary this afternoon. I missed my train home by the skin of my teeth, so I bought a coffee and sat in the station cafe while I waited for the next one (way too cold to sit outside). 

I started to sketch, to pass the time and got chatting to the woman next to me. Suddenly there was only 5 minutes to go, so I packed up my pencils really quickly and jumped onto the train, before I missed that one too!

Unfortunately, Nottingham doubles up the trains on some platforms: 2 different trains actually sit end to end, so they look like one long train. The one I got on looked like it was mine, it even left at more or less the right time. 

I sketched the sunset through the window as we approached Derby. I thought it unusual to pass through Derby, but there are different routes and my geography is not that great,  and t
he ticket collector had franked my ticket as normal... So I put it out of my mind and started sketching the man across the way: 

It was very dark by now and none of the stations we passed through after Derby were lit up enough to see their names. Then I suddenly realised it was 5.15 - the time we were due into Sheffield - but we were pulling into yet another itsy-bitsy station in the middle of nowhere. Alarm bells finally rang.

By now I was only 2 stations from the end of the line: Matlock! My fellow passengers were very kind and, instead of laughing at me, told me the only thing to do was to carry on and wait for the train to turn round and come back. So I sat on the now empty train at Matlock and waited:

We had to crawl once more through all the itsy-bitsy, unlit stations until we got back to Derby, where I could change trains and finally get back on track.

Eventually we pulled into Sheffield at 7pm. At last. I jumped into a black cab, which got me home for quarter past - quite a journey. What an idiot.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Train Sketching: Sunsets and Secret Admirers

I took Sunday off: I slept in a bit then walked with John down to a cafe for a veggie cooked breakfast. Then I pottered about the studio doing fun things and trying not to get caught up thinking about worky stuff. I have been rushing about like crazy just lately, zooming back and forth on trains and I desperately needed a break. 

I've mainly been doing the Nottingham writing workshop project (still 2 more weeks to go...), but I've also been doing storytelling sessions for the NCBF in the North East and was back there again on Friday / Saturday, for their big Gala Day, along with lots of other authors. I'll tell you more about that another time, when I've hopefully got some photos to show you.  

These drawings are from train windows: I have been getting up and out before sun-up every day, and getting home after sun-down, so have watched some lovely skies slide by the window. Couldn't resist trying to capture what I could with my watercolour pencils. 

On Friday night, while drawing the top one, an elderly Asian lady leaned across the aisle to talk to me. I got into a lengthy conversation with her about my drawing, the festival I was on my way to and her grandchildren, who live in Newcastle. Afterwards, I discovered a lovely email on my phone from someone else on the train who had also watched me sketch the sunset and had been listening in on our conversation. 

As you can read on my notes on this drawing, which I did next, the email was very kind about both my drawing and my people-skills. I looked all round for give-away signs of who it could be, but couldn't tell. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Dr Sketchy: Drawn-of-the-Dead zombie night

Yes, another Drawn of the Dead event - they nicked our name!! No matter: we forgive them, as there is nothing like an evening of drawing zombies...

Yes, that's right, drawing zombies. Isn't that what everybody does on a Tuesday night? 

You see, every so often the local Dr Sketchy team invite people to join them at the Greystones pub in Sheffield, for a figure-drawing-with-a-difference experience. 

We've drawn Victoriana models in basks and knickerbockers with false beards or waxed mustachios, we've sketched a roller-derby team in little shorts and big helmets, but this time round it was the undead.

We drew to the cracking soundtrack of horror film music blasting out, and the models wore brilliant make-up, including wonderful festering sores and patches of bleeding gore!

Dr Sketchy evenings are incredibly intense. We have anything from 5 minutes to 30 minutes to try and get as much down as we can, but most poses are about 15 - 20: we only got 30 minutes for this one with all 3 figures together (I should think so too!):

Apart from a short beer-break at half-time, we get no rests in-between to gather ourselves or even sharpen pencils, it's just BANG into the next pose. At the end of the 2 hours we were all exhausted! 

I was dead chuffed that I managed to get something vaguely finished looking for every pose though. My watercolour pencils are just perfect for getting colour down at 100 miles an hour.  

I can't wait to find out what we're drawing next time!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hull SketchCrawl: Streetlife Museum

I am back on my travels again this week, Nottingham this time, doing more of the storytelling through illustration workshops in primary schools. So, in the meantime, I thought I would share the drawings from Saturday's SketchCrawl.

This year, we broadened out our membership to include sketchers from all over the north of England (basically anywhere that is within day-trip travelling distance), so you may have noticed that we've also been visiting other cities, not just sketching in and around Sheffield. Members have been taking turns to organise days in their area and this month Kerry, who lives in Hull, set up a day drawing in the Streetlife Museum.

It was a fantastic choice: if you don't know it and are anywhere near, do pay a visit. It has all manner of early vehicles set into mock-up streets, ranging from the late Victorian era through to the 1950s. As well as cars, bikes and trader's vans, there are trams, train carriages and even a plane, as well as shops complete with contents, recordings of mock-conversations from the appropriate era and occasional dummies leaning out of tram windows etc, which kept fooling me all day! 

There was even a view down the river from a glass gallery, where we could draw a ship, which was also a museum. I'm quite into skies at the moment, so only managed the masts:

I found the drawing much harder than usual, as vehicles are not my usual thing - I'm not much of a one for accuracy, so it took me longer than usual, worrying about proportions and curves. When we shared the sketchbooks though, I saw how loose some other people's drawings were and realised that, of course, I didn't have to be so 'illustrative', just because it was cars. The sketch below and at the top are by Dominic Li - I love the energy of his approach, and his vehicles are not tight at all:

Which is one of the main points of the SketchCrawl: being inspired by others, discovering new approaches and having your assumptions challenged. Cheers Dom!

Towards the end if the day, we nipped down the road to the Ferens Gallery, which had the touring Leonardo Da Vinci drawings, as well as an Andy Warhol exhibition. Then we said our goodbyes and the Sheffield contingent got back on the train. 

We had a lovely journey back, looking at more of our sketches and comparing / trying out each other's art materials. Then it was all over for another month. 

Thanks so much to Kerry for the organisation of the day. A great success! 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

NCBF Children's Storytellings: Travelling with my SketchBook

I've been off the radar a bit lately, as things are a bit mad here. First, just to make a busy period even more fun, towards the end of last week, my computer decided to take its ball home and refused to start. Dennis, our wonderful Mr Fixit, got it sorted early this week, but by then I was away to Leeds, to do a day of KS1 storytellings with a couple of local schools, as part of a project with the School Library Service.

I didn't come home after that, but took a train straight to Durham, where John had booked me into a hotel, as I had a couple of days doing the Northern Children's Book Festival in the North East. Actually, neither of my events were in Durham, which may sound a bit mad, but I had a plan... 

The NCBF is not based in one place, but in libraries and schools all over the region, so my first day was in Middlesbrough, but day two was in North Tyneside. They are a fair way apart, but I didn't want to trail my suitcase around different hotels: all that packing and unpacking and repacking, when you're already pretty zonked from the sessions, is just too grim. 

So, since Durham is about half way between, I made that my base. Which meant that the following morning I was up early again and back on the train to Middlesborough, so lots of train sketching, as you can see.

The festival events all went really well: 3 sessions a day, each with up to 60 children, all between 4 and 7. 
One group of 60 all arrived in pyjamas, including their teachers - I felt very overdressed! 

Between the storytellings there were frantic book-signing sessions, trying to not only sign them but also draw a little picture in each, and all this in time for the first batch of children to get back to school and the next lot to arrive! 

Pretty full-on, but excellent fun. The children were all lovely, as ever, and I was full of beans right up to the moment I got back to my hotel each evening. It's like pulling a plug: I collapsed in a heap. I was really pleased to be home come Friday night and John took me out for a cocktail and a curry as a reward. 

Mind you, I was up early again the very next morning, to take a train to Hull for our November SketchCrawl, but that's another story...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Coventry Inspiration Book Award - it's a Knockout!

Guess what? Baby Goes Baaaaa! has been shortlisted for the Coventry Inspiration Book Award 2013. Exciting eh? It is in the Never Too Young category, with books aimed at babies and pre-school children. There is some stiff competition but, with your help, I could be in with a chance.

SO... if you or child likes Baby Can Baaaaa! then please, please, please vote for it!! Anyone can vote. Just click this link - it takes a moment. Don't worry that it asks for your school: the books in this category are for 0 - 4 year olds, so votes will be from parents - just put 'pre-school'.

The Coventry award is a little different. A lot of awards shortlist from books published in the previous year, but this one specifies only that books must still be in print and have not previously won a major award, which means there is a mix of old and new titles. It's also a knock-out: we start with 12 books, then, starting on January 21st, every week the 2 books with the least votes are eliminated!!! HELP!!!!!

I remembered that Class Two at the Zoo was also shortlisted for the Coventry award and it got through to the final round. I looked it up on the blog and discovered it was part of my very first blog post ever. Fancy that.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Workshops and Storytelling: Fake Fur and Crocodiles Under the Floor...

Last week I helped open a fabulous, state-of-the-art museum / library in Wakefield. I did  storytelling with the local kids and they created some 'smelly' illustrations of their own, based on Stinky! 

Afterwards, I got a tour of their new exhibition spaces. They have David Attenborough no less, coming to open the museum area, with its collection of weird and wonderful stuffed animals (including an actual crocodile imprisoned under the glass floor!). 

It was quite a busy week, as the Wednesday was Bag-a-Book Day. I spent a totally crazy day with poet Paul Cookson, entertaining looked-after-children. It was even more bonkers than last year. I got the children creating funky, animal collages out of fake fur and Paul helped them make up funny poems. Then we cross-fertilised: I illustrated the poems on the flipchart, and Paul wrote poems about my drawings. Every now and then we would break into song. All good fun (though I was totally shattered at home time!).

This week, I did another of my 'creating stories through illustration' workshops in Nottingham. I've got nine more days to come, repeating the same event in different schools. There's a 2 week break first, although not really, since between now and then I am visiting a couple of primary schools in Leeds, then travelling up to the North East for 3 days at the Northern Children's Book Festival, including a joint Gala Day event with my friend and picture book collaborator, Julia Jarman.

Phew! Where on earth will I find the energy for Christmas?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sculpting from Life: Clay Murder!

I am still going to clay life-modelling sessions most Thursday evenings at KIAC. I've created two full-figure sculptures now, both quite fiddly, so I fancied having a go at something a bit more chunky. 

For the last 4 sessions, I've been working on a bust instead. It was slightly complicated, because the pose had her chin resting on her hand, but it made it more interesting, both because I got to do a big hand as well as a head, but also because of the slight distortions to her face.

I'm also trying out a different kind of clay - it's red and very gritty, so you can achieve a quite different texture:

It took 2 whole bags of clay to create her, as she's life-size. It was liberating working larger - no more tiny tools to get into eyes and fingers: mostly I was just working with my fingers. I really like the fact that, at this scale, you can keep a lot of the finger-marks in there, in the same way that I like to keep bold mark-making in my drawing.

By the time I was done, she was so heavy I couldn't see any way to get her home, and so big, I wouldn't have known what to do with her, even if I managed it. For me, the fun is more in the activity itself than in keeping the things I create, especially while I'm still learning. So, last Thursday night, I smashed her up to reclaim the clay. It was actually good fun, tearing great handfuls out of her face - very 'zombie horror film'!

Before I did it I took photos from all angles, as a record: 

The space we work in at KIAC has changed a lot since I first started going life-drawing there last winter. The area we used then is now full of artists' studios. Both life-drawing and clay modelling happen in the new gallery space next door, which was derelict this time last year. Unfortunately, it's still like a fridge, as the only heating is from the 2 calor gas fires which keep the model from freezing. But plans are afoot to move to yet another room, where an electrician is beavering away to create heating as we speak...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Drawn-of-the-Dead: a Halloween Sketch-Party

I've been SketchCrawling with my SketchCrawl North friends for over 2 years now, since our first outing in Sheffield city centre. We decided to celebrate with a bit of a party - a Halloween sketch-party!

There were various suggestions for names (ScreechCrawl, Drawcula...) but we settled on Drawn-of the DeadJust like our Mad Hatter's Tea Party, I asked people to dress up and bring themed food. John dressed as Dracula. I decided to go as a witch and sewed loads of spiders onto my dress and hat.

We separated into two groups: the chatters settled down around the fire in the front room while the sketchers sat around the table in the dining room, drawing to the soundtrack of every halloween-themed song I could lay my hands on (Bat Out of Hell, The Addams Family, Devil Woman...):

I was up the far end and didn't have a particularly good view of the best of the spooky food, so I sketched the others. It was Rose's first time with us:

I was sitting next to Andrew. He's the clay sculptor who runs the life modelling sessions at KIAC, where I made my 'Gerald'.

We drew for an hour or so, but then decided to tuck into the fabulous food that people had contributed. Wendy made a great pumpkin soup to kick us off:

Then we embarked on a general feeding-frenzy. The kids were desperate to get at the eye-ball tarts and my green spider jelly:

After that, there was only sporadic sketching. It was rather nice to have time to chat a bit more to one another. We took a group portrait at the end. A few costumes had gone slightly awry by then, but you get the gist: