A couple of weeks ago I did a session on how I see urban sketching. I generally don't like to see anything in any particular/strong way. I don't think I sketch enough to start getting cocky about any aspect of pen and paper. I love to get on with it and part with my own ideas while having a pint or a coffee somewhere. However, I have been urban sketching for about 2 years now and, with the risk of contradicting what I previously said, I have collected some tricks and learnt some ink-stained lessons along the way. Also, the reason I am such an urban sketching junkie is due to its social aspect. I really like going out and doing it with others. Some of it has to do with my fear of being stalked or harrassed by 10-year-olds if I ever did it on my own, somewhere on the street. There you have it, I am not a solo sketching polar bear. I also love company and I have proof: sometimes when I'm on my own for a day and the postman knocks and I need to say something, my own voice startles me. That's not to say that I ever get the postman to sketch with me. I just don't like to sit quiet for too long.
My mate/former lecturer, Paul from Salford University told me about Greeniversity a while ago and, despite the idea having simmered under there for a while, I never quite got the chance to do anything with it. To put it in a nut shell, Greeniversity's core idea is teaching skills in exchange for another skill. You teach me how to sew and I'll teach you how to weave a basket. I don't know how to weave a basket! I also don't know how to sew, which probably contributes to my spending habits in TkMaxx every few weeks... Anyhow, Paul sold me the idea and asked me if I fancied doing something similar on sketching. I am always up for a challenge and this one was exciting.
Of course, weaving and sewing aren't the only skills these guys specialise in. Volunteers at Greeniversity do running, cooking, plant potting and a myriad of other things which would all count as very useful life skills! Urban sketching, in my view, is also one of those things that everybody can do and my plan was to attempt to prove this.
Our venue was The Font in Chorlton, South-ish Manchester, a nice and quirky pub, just perfect to spread all the papers and pens out. Once drinks were sorted, off we went. As a small and diverse group, we did a couple of activities to get the pens running. The first one - evil me - involved being given a card with the name of an object and having to draw it out of imagination. Once this was done, the object would come out of my wheelie case or the person's bag, and they had to draw it again - this time, much more detailed.
Grafting at our phones, scissors and other miscellaneous objects. Stage 2. What surprised me is that I've noticed there was a proximity sensor on my phone - I had to sketch it to know this!
In this shot everybody looks pretty disgruntled at the task I'd set out. Draw a USB cable? A spinny top?! Paul's spinny top looks great, though. He must have played with one before, can't explain otherwise.
On to the second task, and this was a 'draw the person sat opposite you' kind of thing. The results were hilarious and potentially violence-inducing. The pitfalls of this exercise were mainly linked to the fact that everybody added roughly 20 years in wrinkles on each other's faces. Not a great start.
A happy enough bunch. We all got past our portrait skills and laughed about it. The furry thing on the table is Otto. He's come through a hole in the brickwork of the Berlin Wall. This is a story for another time, though. Hang on. I think the Berlin Wall was made of concrete slabs...?!How...?
Aside from doodling, I brought along some of my current obsessions: the Dr. Ph. Martin's liquid watercolours, my pro markers and a couple of books on urban sketching which I found useful. One of them is THE BIBLE of all urban sketching: 'The Art of Urban Sketching'.
I do hope everybody has had a good time and took away some interesting tips. Urban sketching doesn't have to happen on the street, in my opinion. It can be a moving person in a crowded bar or a cluttered table with lots of objects around that keep being moved. Observation is key and your eyes should be on the subject 75% and 25% on the actual paper.
This is certainly first of the many sessions I plan to do. Thanks to Paul for letting me know about Greeniversity, for treating me to some very nice German beer and thanks to those who turned up and surprised themselves with something different. If you think you would like to try it out, I am doing similar sessions over the following months so, please get in touch via the contact page. Auf Wiedersehen from myself and Otto!