Saturday 11 July 2015

Sketch Crawl #1: Sunderland

Sunderland University 
(Pitt medium fibretip and Pentel Brush Pen in A4 sketchbook)

My very first sketch crawl! And it was fun. I met Michael Lee, who'd organised the day (he might quibble at the use of the word "organised") at Sunderland University on a bright sunny day and after some brief introductions we set to drawing. While I decided on this rather minimalist building (best not to be over-ambitious at the beginning, I thought), Michael opted for something else. Whatever it was, here he is drawing it.

Having limbered up, we moved on to something much more taxing - the Empire Theatre.

Empire Theatre, Sunderland
(Pitt medium fibretip, coloured pencil 
and grey brush pen in A4 sketchbook)

Talk about complicated and fiddly! I got totally lost with that columned thingy at the top and the swags round the lion's head (for that is what it is) went far too wide. But hey! it's only a sketch. 

By the time we moved on, the band rehearsing in the pub over the road had still not mastered the song they'd been hammering away at.

And so to Keel Square, a new development in Sunderland. Or rather, a new open space, we found, with wind whistling in from all directions and a crazy BMX biker determined to whizz across anything we chose to sit on, so we retraced our steps to find a more sheltered view of the Londonderry:

The Londonderry, Sunderland
(Pitt medium fibretip, grey and blue brush pens in A4 sketchbook)

One of the hazards of drawing in the street is that you may attract the attention of interested but sometimes opinionated passers by. I attracted two today: one who seemed to be the cook in the Londonderry who just wanted know what we were doing; the second who I suspect was a patron of the Londonderry ventured the opinion that what I was doing was "not bad, not bad".

He may have been right. I added the blue wash after I got home and think it may have been a mistake, but too late now ...

Michael, who I think had produced two sketches for my every one, kindly pointed me in the direction of the Metro station. When I got there, the Metro was broken. I dunno, the good folk of Sunderland moaned for years that the Tyne & Wear Metro didn't go as far as Sunderland, so they built them an extension. What did they do? They broke it and made me get the bus home.

Transport snags aside, it was interesting to see Sunderland again after so many years and all in all, it was a Great Day Out. Thank you, Michael!

Friday 10 July 2015

Urban Sketch Crawl

I'm filled with trepidation. My Regular Reader will know that I am not a stranger to drawing outside. I'm not even a stranger to drawing outside in towns. But I've always been somewhat averse to drawing outside in towns in the UK. 

For some reason, I'm prepared to stand in the street in a town in Crete or Croatia, get out my pen and sketchbook and spend an hour or so drawing what's in front of me. But I've always hated the prospect of doing it in British towns and cities.

Having said that, in the early days of my artistic endeavours I drew this building in Newcastle, standing in the street:

Northern Goldsmiths, 4th November 1990 
(Fine point marker and sepia ArtPen in A4 sketchbook)

I didn't enjoy the experience; it was terribly cold and once my feet had thawed out, they ached. I did no more drawings of this sort until I began my BA Fine Art course at Newcastle University in 1997, when we were required to go out every day for a week, drawing the urban environment. Here's a couple of the sketchbook drawings I did then:

 High Street Fire Escape (A4 sketchbook)

Concrete Walkways (A4 sketchbook)

Looking at the drawings I do every year on holiday you'll see that I often draw houses. I don't draw houses in the UK, but choose instead (if I'm put in the position of having to draw in a UK town) big chunks of urban concrete. There's a reason: Mediterranean buildings are often quite simple in design and are not cluttered up with neoclassical columns and bloody windows! Since the repeal of the Window Tax in 1851, we've stuck windows in every available wall and not just ordinary openings-with-shutters like Greek houses have, but complicated, fanciful structures with ornate lintels and ... oh, you get the picture, I'm sure.

But really, this is just another excuse for not getting down to drawing my world. Windows and architectural fol-de-rols may be awkward but they will no longer stand in my way. I will act! And hence my trepidation: tomorrow I'm off on my first Urban Sketch Crawl. I tried to link up with SketchCrawlers a few years ago, but no one in this area seemed up for it. Just last week, however, I discovered Sketch Crawl North East on Facebook : a group of occasional sketch crawlers in and around the cities of the North East. And by chance someone proposed a crawl tomorrow.

Now all I have to worry about, apart from what I might find myself having to draw, is what I'm going to draw it with and in which sketchbook. Life is full of difficult decisions ...

Thursday 2 July 2015

Gateshead Art Society Exhibition

Gateshead Art Society is my other Art Club. I have three paintings in this show and there will be a small selection of my greetings cards for sale (other greetings cards are also available).

Unison Pastels

St Peter's, Falstone, 1 July 2015
(0.8 marker and Pentel Brush Pen in 21 x 26 cm sketchbook)

The North of England Art Club organised a good day out yesterday to the Unison Pastels Factory at Thorneyburn.  I've been twice before, but I still find it rather amazing that a world-wide business is run from a such a tiny place in the middle of absolutely nowhere. 

It's always interesting to see how the pastels are made, but I resisted the temptation to add to my untouched supply of pastels from those previous trips. I was keen to press on to Falstone where we were to have lunch and do some sketching.

A tiny village in Northumberland, Falstone boasts two churches, but only one pub. The pub was closed until the evening, but St Peter's, the Anglican church, was open, so I wandered around there for a while. It was refreshing to be in the cool air, after what had become a scorching hot day outside.

I'd just about given up finding something to draw and was on the point of ambling off to Rose Cottage where Ian and Judy were promising tea and biscuits at 2.30, when these gravestones set against the big cypress caught my eye. I managed to finish it just as the ink in my Brush Pen ran out and the need for tea and biscuits became overwhelming.