Monday, 7 August 2017

Paint & Paddle: Urban Sketching in Chicago

I am back!

Sorry for going a bit off the radar. I have had a smashing couple of weeks, drawing and painting on the streets of Chicago with my Urban Sketchers chums.

For those who aren't aware of what it's all about, every year Urban Sketchers, which is an international charitable organisation, holds a symposium somewhere in the world. This year, 600 sketchers descended on Chicago! The event itself lasts for 3 days, but people often hang out and sketch together for quite a few days more.

Instructors, like myself, are flown in from around the globe to run workshops and do demonstrations. It's fairly hard work, especially in the heat, but I can't complain, since these symposiums have taken me to Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Portugal and Spain.  

I worked with 3 different workshop groups in Chicago: one group each day. I took them to the same location, Lurie Garden, which I had to choose before I left Sheffield, using Google Maps. It was a bit of a gamble, but it turned out to be ideal: a peaceful, 'secret', wild-flower garden in the centre of the city, with the visual contrast of massive skyscrapers all around the sky-line. I arrived a few days early and went to sketch there, to get a feel for it. Within seconds of settling myself down, huge rain splots started to fall and the sky turned purple! I had to scurry under a tree to finish while thunder boomed overhead.

Luckily the next day it was somewhat calmer:

One unique thing about Lurie Garden (which made the other instructors jealous) was the cool water channels you could dabble your feet in - spot the paddling student:

And, because we were really close to the park's big, open-air music pavilion, we were mostly painting to musical entertainment. One morning we had opera, another it was pop. Fantastic!

Like all the instructors, I was with each group for 3.5 hours. Each year I devise a different challenge for my students, something which either addresses key difficulties people have when sketching on location, or which helps them to think in a new way about how they sketch what they see.

This year I got people thinking laterally about the way they combine line and colour. I got them really experimenting with the way you can layer different kinds of mark-making. It was completely different to any workshop I'd run before and a large part of it involved using simple collage. Which meant that I had to find room in my suitcase for three A3 packets of coloured paper. I was also slightly anxious about doing paper collage out of doors in the 'windy city'...

It all went really well though and we only had one incident of having to chase down brightly coloured bits that flew off. We'll get more formal feedback soon, but people said they enjoyed themselves and that the level of challenge was good. They certainly did some gorgeous work:

I of course did lots of lots of personal sketching, in my spare time during the symposium, when I wasn't teaching, but also on the few days I tagged on either side. I was particularly excited by the fiendishly tricky El train, which runs above the street. I sketched it 3 or 4 times:

I'll post some more of my sketches in a few days. I'm still working my way through the various jobs that build up when you go away.

On the final day of the symposium, there is always is big announcement: where next year will be held. There are always rumours, but I didn't guess Next year we are going back to Portugal, this time to Porto. I went there on holiday years ago. I remember it as being extremely sketchable, with twisty, old streets, interesting cafes and of course the wide Douro river at its feet, with its massive iron bridge. Can't wait! 

By the way, I have decided to set up a mailing list for my urban sketching workshops. So, I know I don't do them very often, but sign up if you want to be contacted when I am running something, to get first refusal on any places available!


Barbara Weeks said...

It was great to meet you in Chicago!

nelson paciencia said...

Great great post Lynne! So good to see you again in Chicago.

aliette said...

I like your blog. These days at Chicago look great .

Lynne the Pencil said...

Thanks guys :-)

Nice to hang with you both in Chicago - what a great week we had together! Your sketches are yummy as ever. So much fun to see how we all coped with the HUGE buildings x

I need orange said...

This was the first time USK has gone to a place I know. How lovely, to see so many of the sketchers I follow making work about things I recognize! I was in Toronto when you were in Chicago. Toronto and Chicago share big-city size, street flowers, parks, older buildings. Watching all the sketches coming over my Instagram feed, and seeing all the flowers in Toronto, I kept thinking I was in Chicago....... But no.

So glad I've gotten to see the work you, and Nina, and Shari, and so many others did while in Chicago. Your night-time Bean....................... Wow. :-)

Thank you for sharing your work with us from Chicago. I'm still smiling, thinking about all I got to see from afar. :-)

ps -- I encountered an urban sketcher in Toronto, making a VERY nice sketch of the CN tower in setting sunlight. Alas, he and I did not share a language in common, so I don't know his name. He indicated I could take a picture of his work, but I don't know that I have his permission to share it. He was very proficient -- it wouldn't surprise me a bit if you and other sketchers might know him. :-) Pen and ink, black and white, lovely perspective..... From somewhere in Asia. 60-something, if I have to guess.

Lynne the Pencil said...

Thanks so much - it's so interesting to see places you know through the eyes of strangers. I remember feeling that last year, when everyone was painting buildings in Manchester that I had walked by a hundred times during my residency year.

Don't know who your mysterious Toronto sketcher was - have you looked up Toronto on the main Urban Sketchers blog, to see who's based there?