Small sketch notes

I love using the big square wood-bound sketch-book with bamboo dip-pen, but it doesn’t work for an everyday carry. So I’ve been carrying a much much smaller notebook  (£1 from Muji) for daily sketches. It’s shirt-pocket sized and works really well with a fude pen and tiny watercolour kit. The paper buckles a bit with paint, but the drawings are looser as they’re so small and brief. It also allows me to sketch very discreetly, catching more of the passing human parade! Here’s a selection of recent gleanings from around town, including a hot-air balloon take-off, a baby on a bus and several sleepy commuters…

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Posted in Bath, fude pen, kit, line drawing, people watching, sketchbooks, street scene, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

“…through the square window”

Apologies for the lack of recent blog posts; we’ve welcomed a Schnoodle puppy into our home and posting on Facebook better suits my sleep-deprived attention span… But I have managed to make a new batch of sketchbooks; they’re still bound in super-light plywood, and are even bigger than previous versions (they don’t fit on the scanner, hence the oddly lit sketches below…), and they’re now square. Instagram abandoned the square a couple of years ago but I’m enjoying working inside this new shape after years of using the usual rectangle. The square echoes Polaroids, and my first experience of photography using a Kodak Instamatic; it also means one less choice to resolve before getting down to sketching (landscape? portrait? nope). I’m finding the square a more ‘democratic’ shape for composition, it encourages me to use the full frame, and also seems to lead to wider angle vision. But I was leaning towards these approaches anyway,  and maybe the increased size of the page is what matters, so who knows?! Here’s a set of recent square sketches, all in bamboo dip-pen (another decision already made before I settle to drawing); let me know if you spot any patterns. They’re certainly easier to arrange in a grid…

I’ve also been looking for discussions about the reasons for choices between landscape/portrait/square formats in drawing/sketching/art and couldn’t find much. There were a few articles related to the ‘golden section’, and some on photography, focussing (ho ho) on sensor shapes etc. These led to interesting descriptions of the human visual field and how we perceive the space around us. Plenty to ponder…

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Posted in bamboo dip pen, Bath, comparisons, line drawing, sketchbooks, square, street scene, technique, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Compare and contrast…

I love the way urban sketching explicitly celebrates the different ways we respond to a location. Here’s an example from Monday when I had the opportunity to sketch in Bath with Gary Yeung (a member of the USK Hong Kong group who’s visiting the UK), and local sketcher Jim (who shares his artistic explorations and discoveries here). It was raining, again, so we sheltered in the Abbey and settled to sketch for an hour in our various ways…

I sat right at the back and focussed on drawing the many visitors, who were draped over, leaning on, and sitting in the pews. I was using a bamboo dip-pen in a large sketchbook, looking for the key expressive lines that described the figures as simply and speedily as possible. I added the colour when I got home, and the overall effect is ‘cartoony’; Jim thought so too and later added some speech bubbles…

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Jim also drew figures, but used pencil in a small Moleskine. He worked on capturing tone alongside the more subtle shapes and structural lines. Jim’s sketches are careful studies that also carry enough information to inform future works; I think they reflect the time he has spent researching and experimenting with technical aspects of drawing and painting.abbey-sketching-20170731 (1)Gary focussed on the building, capturing the height and light of the interior space. He used very light pencil to plan the composition, then worked confidently in watercolour, followed by black pen to build and focus the darker elements of the sketch; the complete opposite to my usual sequence (ink lines, then paint). Figures appear as outlines framing white space, giving scale but allowing the building to speak for itself.20476148_1106238929477515_2309508500798312584_n

I love seeing how other people sketch the world, and hope I can continue to learn by enjoying the diverse results, both online and in person. Thanks to Gary and Jim for a great afternoon!20597957_10155762890440676_1146073588_o-1

Posted in bamboo dip pen, Bath, comparisons, pencil, technique, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Busy busy world’

Reaping the benefits of good weather by indulging in my default sketching mode: people watching.  Bath is blessed by a huge variety of visitors from around the world adding to the interest. I’ve been trying to focus on crowds, groups and collections of people interacting as they seem to be a key part of the urban experience, looking for ways to merge their forms when possible. But some individuals are too interesting too ignore! So here are 27 sketches in all the usual media, mostly posted on Facebook over recent weeks; click on the image and you can see the full uncropped version…

Posted in bamboo dip pen, Bath, collections, figures, people watching, street scene, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Some fillums…

Trying out timelapse sketching, using this goose-neck camera mount and this type of GoPro camera (when it was even cheaper!) which has a 170 degree very wide-angle lens. The films are fun to do, and an interesting way to reflect on your sketching process/approach/bad habits etc. The top one was done using a new ‘Franken-pen’ which combines a bamboo dip-pen at one end, and a water-brush at the other; I can dip both into the ink-pot (top right) for line and tone with minimal disruption to the ‘flow’ of drawing. Ridiculous looking, but it seems to work well!

First, a busy Sunday afternoon by Bath Abbey…

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Second, a busy afternoon at the Roman Baths…

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Posted in bamboo dip pen, Bath, dip pen, from life, people watching, street scene, timelapse, urban, urban sketching, waterbrush | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A weekend in Birmingham

A few weeks ago I went to the first UK Urban Sketchers meet-up, kindly hosted by the Birmingham/Midlands sketch groups (sketches and reflections from the other participants are here). About 50 of us were there at various times over the weekend, sharing time, chat, sketch-books, kit ideas etc. It was like a very small and relaxed Symposium; no lectures, demos or workshops, so no tickets/costs! Instead we had a series of meet-ups each day at planned locations, introducing (most of) us to central Birmingham, and open to anyone who wanted. Apart from the social side it was very instructive to see other sketchers’ work on paper instead of on a screen, finding out how they’d achieved various effects, and how they chose their subjects. And it was lovely to finally meet online friends like Stuart, chatting about daily practise, considering why we post our sketches on Facebook, ‘next steps’ in our sketching etc. I hope this was just the first of many such UK meetings; any ideas for the next location?  Bristol? Liverpool? Glasgow? Here are my sketches from the weekend

First some ‘urban regeneration’ in progress. It took me a while to realise that the tower crane was hard to draw because it was moving, ‘weather-vaning’ in the wind…P1270730 (2)

Here’s a BBC reporter reporting on a demo. The cameraman told me the camera’s worth £50k, with £10k of that for the transmitter on its back, sending the images directly to the editing suite in the tower block looming in the background!arnos vale_0003 (6)

Stuart and me, sketch in progress, with the cameraman just visible between us. Sorry about the oddly toothy grin…19029688_380471462347089_8767819441251427777_nHere’s the demo they were reporting on.arnos vale_0002 (7)

A hen party at the bar we all met up in one evening. I had to stop sketching as some of them had spotted me and I was scared of being drawn into their exciting evening…arnos vale (21)

Fellow sketchers and one of the beautiful Burne-Jones windows in the small and light-filled Birmingham cathedral.

And finally sketches from the first evening; my speed-sketch of  Isabel speed-sketching me, and Homephoenix Wong.

Posted in buildings, people, urban, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

‘Things to make and do’

As a sort of late Spring-clean I’ve updated various bits of the blog for your perusal and enjoyment. Most of it’s kit related, but this seems to be the most popular content!

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‘Daily sketch-kit’ – now includes a couple of my bent-nib fude pens. I’ll do a full post on these soon; there’s much fun to be had with variable line width, and many types/brands/nib-angles to navigate. Here’s Parka Blogs comparison of some of the more popular models to whet your appetite.

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‘Current inspiration’ – looks at A Chinese Life, full of wonderful high contrast black and white ink-brush drawings.

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‘Paint’ – includes the opaque watercolours I’ve added to my palette (instead of gouache, which I never warmed to) for sketches on toned paper.

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Palettes – now has instructions on how I made the latest of many models; it’s lighter than ever, with more and deeper mixing wells and extra opaque colours and won’t be coming to a shop near you soon, so have a go at making one and bespoke it to your hearts content!

Sketchbooks and paper – has instructions for the plywood-covered completely fold-backable sketchbooks, and concertina books. And I’ve removed a couple of book-binding links that had died.

Bamboo dip-pen has links to nib-improvement and multi-coloured ink-pots.

I’ll probably update the ‘Useful Books’ section next, but let me know if there are other bits that seem a bit dated or if there’s any useful information that you’d like me to add to the blog. Thanks

Posted in bamboo dip pen, concertina sketchbooks, kit, opaque watercolour, sketchbooks, urban sketching | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments