Friday, 14 August 2015

Third workshop and finally.....Colour!!!!

An entire week has sped by and I realised I'm only halfway through my workshops. For those of you following my blog closely sorry for the delay! And for those just stepping in here are my previous posts on the symposium:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

The first day's workshops had been entirely pen and ink work. The next morning I was doing this workshop with Nina Johansson. Given that ink outlines with a watercolour wash is my favourite medium, I was really looking forward to this workshop. Nina's work is terrific.

The workshop was talking about two things - the first was how light gets eaten up as it comes down into the city, into the urban scene that you are trying to capture. We all know and feel it instinctively but the best way to capture this is by doing tonal studies. So our first exercise was a pencil sketch focussing on which surfaces get light, how the shadows are cast and how gradations happen. Part of it was trying to understand more consciously why one wall is darker at the top and another is darker at the bottom and so on. A good tip at this point was to squint and look at the subject so you see tones and shapes rather than colours and outlines.

The second focus of the workshop was how to paint with bright colours, how to mix darker shades and get gradations within a colour without making it muddy. This part was all about colour mixing. Using the complementary to get a darker shade and not adding black (or white) to change tone. The second exercise was to choose a very simple small subject so that we could focus on pigment mixing, and we were all asked to focus on one building The Selegie Arts Centre. It's a peculiar building with a striking form and the colour of the ground floor walls is different to that of the upper floors. So while trying to capture that I didnt quite get any sort of gradation at all!

And finally we got to do our own watercolour sketch in the last half hour. Subject of our choice but keep in mind the tones and gradations and the nature of light from the first exercise but remember our colour mixing too.
Choosing my own subject freed me up and I guess I fell back to my usual style but I did try to keep a few points in mind. These 3.5 hour workshops have all been super intense. You are assimilating on the go. I'm hoping a lot of great things I learnt will start showing slowly in my sketches to come but all in all I really liked the structure of this workshop and the two previous exercises came together to make perfect sense in the third.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Capturing people in action and crowds

Straight after my workshop with Ching I went into an afternoon workshop with Marc Holmes. The focus was on capturing people while they went about their business of doing whatever they do. Essential stuff for urban sketching as you can't ask them to pose for you.

We started off sketching each other very rapidly trying to capture the "head shape and hairshape" and soon moved on to capturing the hands. Again a handy trick. Get the hands down immediately after the head and then even if they move away you can fill in the rest later!
So we were sent off into the market area in front of the chinese temple on waterloo street. In twenty minutes we gathered back. I had these 6 people with head and hands which meant I had captured them doing whatever they were doing.
Raffle ticket seller, fruit vendor packing plums, old man sleeping and a cobbler working on a shoe while smoking his pipe.
An essential part of the workshop was also how to use two kinds of pens - one thin for the initial quick capture and then work with a darker brush pen for shadows and highlights. I wasn't very familiar with the use of the brush pen and really felt myself struggle with the darks.

The final part of our workshop which I found the most exciting by far was how to quickly capture a crowd scene. It's funny how different this workshop was from the previous one and yet in some ways the same. The idea of a foreground, a focus with more detail and then getting the depth and background with perspective and alternating darks for contrast. Except instead of buildings it was a whole horde of people on the paper.
We had to create a point of interest by quickly capturing one or a group of people in the foreground. Sketching what they were doing and getting in the head and hands first. Adding depth by putting in a whole row of heads behind that. Again, the trick is to look at people here and there and sketch them in. It doesn't really matter if the person on the left is finally on the right by the time you captured them.
Accessories like bags, specific kinds of shoes add character and by adding bodies and alternating dark shapes between the whites at the back one can very quickly achieve a sense of a crowd while also having a few authentic people about whom you are telling the story. Above is a scene of two sketchers meeting after the workshops in the crowded market and swapping notes while the rest of the busy shopping crowd mills around them. Below is a guy in a wheelchair talking to an old lady with the shopping stalls behind them.
Marc Holmes has pretty much distilled people sketching to its essence in this workshop. I really enjoyed the structure where each exercise built on the previous one and watching him stand there in the bustling market and demo one great sketch after another is a memory that will stay with me.