Friday, February 10, 2017

these dreams of you

A little while ago I signed up to a Creative Writing class. It was a course about creating short stories.
The reason I took the course was to give me a push with a graphic novel that I've had hanging around, in various sketchbooks, for a few years. Also I was really interested in learning some of the tools for building stories as I felt they could be transferred to the graphic novel. The same rules must apply, right?
Plus, I wanted a new challenge.
Well, it was all that and more. I have loved every minute of it. In fact, I've become a little obsessed. I can't stop writing and the main character, from my graphic novel, has been following me around wherever I go. I've been thinking about her in almost everything I do and wondering whether she would do the same thing, spend time with the same people, like my favourite coffee shop (she would).
Now I'm finding that I have to divide my time, not just between myself and her, but also between writing and drawing. All of those times when I'd normally take the opportunity to sketch are now writing opportunities too. My graphic novel originally, in my head, had been all pictures. No words. But, after the course I've changed my mind and I want to get some text in there somehow. I want her voice to be heard. I'm sure I can manage that. See above.
I like to think that this is the push I needed. One way or another I will have to finish this book. Because, whilst I love Marci, I want my own life back!

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

on not looking a gift horse in the mouth

What did we do before phones? I mean mobile phones. And laptops. And tablets. How did we manage?
Our lives were so much more difficult. Everything was so much harder. Just think about how much easier phones, tablets, laptops, notebooks have made our jobs.
I cannot remember what sitting in a coffee shop was like before there were phones, laptops, notebooks. Although, actually, coffee shops didn't exist back then either. Not in this country anyway. But I can't remember what it was like sitting in cafes and greasy spoons before phones.
Or on a bus stop. Or on a train. What did we do?
I can't remember. Obviously, we'd have been much more self conscious. Exposed even.
But now, that's all so different. Now everyone is on a device and everyone around them blends into obscurity. It's great.
It is the greatest gift.
Really, technology is a complete gift to a sketcher.
For now we have models on hand. Everywhere you look. Still, focused models. Who never look up.
Who are so caught up in their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds that they never move. So, yeah, how did we manage before phones? There is, however, one downside...
*These are a tiny selection of sketches that I've made of people on phones, tablets, laptops, whathaveyou. Seriously, I've millions*

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

i've seen that road before

This is one of my favourite recent drawings (or urban sketches as they now have to be called). I made this at the end of a long day. I thought I was all drawn out, but I found a window seat in a café directly across the road from this lovely pink building.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how much my work has changed and in the comments somebody (another Andrea) said "There's a certain element to your style - organicness (? if that's even a word) which does link it all (old and new work) together." I liked hearing that. From the very beginning, and all of the drawings that I made came from an authentic place, and even though I wouldn't want to - couldn't even - draw in that way anymore, it still is very much part of me and my work. I wouldn't want to deny it or try to erase it. So it pleases me to know that others can see that link. I do. 
I think then, and now, I was always trying to achieve the same thing; I've always been trying to make the drawings that I would have loved as a kid. The kind of drawing that would have made the young me want to draw. That's always my in my mind. Well maybe not my mind, I'm not consciously thinking about it, but that aim is somewhere inside me. I think that this drawing is a favourite of mine because, I reckon, the young me would have loved it.

Somebody also recently said to me "there is no such thing as art it's all nostalgia". It's quite a bold and perhaps controversial statement. It's something I've thought about a lot since hearing it. I think I agree. 

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

how to make an urban sketch in ten easy steps

How to make an Urban Sketch (in the North of England in Autumn (i.e. it's cold)) in 10 easy steps;

(Optional step; Turn up to the location and realise you've brought all your inks but no pen. No really (I told you I was a rubbish urban sketcher). Go buy pens)
Step 1. Find a coffee shop with a window seat and a view
Step 2. Have a coffee and sandwich. This is one of the more complicated steps; I'm in the Northern Quarter, of Manchester, so will have to decide between ten different coffee beans, made in fifteen different ways, then there's the bread...sour dough, brioche, rye....
Step 3. Make a mess of the table
Step 4. Ah shit. Why did I put colour on it?
Step 5. Have another coffee. And a Danish pastry. Try to hide the mess you've made of the table when they bring it over.
Step 6. Add lettering to try to take away the focus from the awful colour work
Step 7. Pigeons
Step 8. Scrub the table then go outside and take the obligatory out of focus urban sketcher photo, whilst holding your book in front of the building with one hand and trying to take photo with the other hand whilst worrying that somebody is going to snatch your phone.
Step 9. When all else fails go shopping
Step 10. Reassess at home over a cup of tea. Followed by either throwing it in the bin or feeling a little bit smug.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

you're like Manchester, you've got Strange Ways

This is the drawing that I made with all the tools that I took out with me in my last blog post. Well, I say 'all of the tools' but obviously I just mean one pen, one bottle of ink and one sketchbook. I must say I was overwhelmed by the response to that post, and to how many people related. I assumed it was just me. It's a comfort to know I'm not alone. Perhaps we could set up a support group?
Anyway as I said, this was the drawing I made on that day. The sketchbook is really difficult to photograph as it's so long. So here's the top, middle and bottom, of the Midland Hotel, Manchester, in bite size chunks. If I'm honest, it's really quite difficult to draw in too.
Top
Middle
Bottom
I made this drawing while out with Manchester Urban Sketchers. It's a building I love. A big ornate hotel in the city. It has everything I like to draw. It's a strange thing, I'd say that Modernism and even Brutalism is possibly my favourite style of architecture. But, I just cannot draw it. I have no desire to draw it. When it comes to drawing I want the exact opposite. I want twirls galore. The Midland has that.
I made the drawing in around two hours on a bench across the road from the hotel. It's getting freezing out there on the streets now, so I retired to the library to finish it off. I'm guessing that with winter approaching a whole new set of 'things to take on a sketchcrawl' are about to trouble me. I should just give in and drag a trolley around.
And in case evidence is needed as to quite how awkward this book is, here we are at the end of the session, look I can't even hold it.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

why I make a rubbish urban sketcher

Today, for once, I am going to travel light. I'm going monotone so all I need is a black pen. Maybe two.
I'll take one sketchbook. Two black pens, one fine nib fountain pen, one brush pen and the obligatory bulldog clip.
I will need to take refills for the fountain pen. I might take my dip pen, just in case, too. 
Mustn't forget my glasses. But, I'm really impressed with how light I'm travelling. 
I'm thinking, though, that I might as well take one or two fine liners. I'm going to take a paint brush too because I'll probably want to put a wash over whatever it is I draw. Might just take my back up fountain pen and back up brush pen too. That's all though.
But then if I'm taking a paint brush I'll need some water. I'll take a jar with diluted black ink in. Then I could take a water brush with clean water in. Yes, I'll do that. I might take two jars of water with two different inky-water mixes in. And one white pen.
I think what I'll do is take another sketchbook so I have a choice in paper size/format. I don't want to get there and not have the right shaped paper. So that's all I'm going to take. Hold on...
There's no point in taking a dip pen if I haven't got a bottle of ink. One bottle of black ink. That's all I need. I think I'll take my 'Little Reference Book of Noses' too. That's always useful. In fact, it's essential.
Thing is, what if I need a bit of colour? Just a little splash of colour. I regretted it the last time I didn't take any and needed some red. I'll put the ink box in. I could always leave it in the car when I get there. Just because I'm putting it in the car doesn't mean I'll be carrying it all over town. That's a good idea. A good back up plan.
And, if that's the case I might as well take a few bottles of coloured inks. Back up. Sod it I'll take a bag full of them. You never know which colour you'll need.
And that is why I make a rubbish urban sketcher.

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

the streets are ours

For one reason or another, I seem to have been talking, and thinking, a lot recently about how my work is changing/has changed. And it is/has. It's changed dramatically.
There are a few reasons for that, which, if you're interested, I'll share with you now. If you're not interested please take a look around at some of my pictures.
1. The first reason is that I went on this ink workshop. And I loved it. It felt I'd been reunited with an old love. Way before I ever believed I could be an illustrator, I used to play around with ink. Mainly just cheap fountain pens, but I also bought a whole load of those little bottles of Windsor and Newton inks back in the day too. I'd paint with them, like in this old children's illustration, and loved the intensity. I kind of forgot about all that as time passed. But, it was taking the ink workshop that woke me up to the possibilities all over again. It truly was like coming home.
I should also mention, that just around the same time I inherited a load of old inks - a huge box of bottles of all different kinds from acrylics to Indian ink to luminescents - when an art studio was closing down. Half of them were so old or crusty that there was no way of opening them. I threw all of those away, but what was left, coupled with the W&N ones I'd bought twenty years ago (which incidentally were all still in perfect condition), became my new palette.
2. So now I'm armed with my new weapons, but I'm really stuck. I'm really...well...bored. Bored of what I'm doing. I'm still running my Drink & Draw series which I absolutely adore, so that's giving me lots of practice on the life drawing front, I'm still going out and doing lots of observational drawings, but I'm still stuck. Now, I don't think I even noticed this. Not quite. Not until my next change, but I see it now. And it's not always a bad place to be. In fact there's something quite exciting about being in that place.
Cos change is gonna come.
And, I love that. I love just knowing that.
3. One morning I woke up and just had an incredible urge to draw the Buxton Opera House. This surprised me. It surprised me because the thought of doing that before that point would have bored the pants off me. The place had been drawn and painted by every artist within a fifty mile radius of it over and over again. Quite rightly too, it's really beautiful. REALLY beautiful. But it's been drawn and painted to death. The idea of doing it just felt soooo predictable. So obvious. But this day I got up and I had a need to draw it. So, I did. Then I drew the town hall. Then the Palace Hotel. Then some of the gorgeous flats that overlooked the Opera House.....
And so I drew Buxton (I haven't got around to scanning them yet, so that's another post) until I'd drawn all of Buxton. It is only a small place. But now something was awakening.
4. And then came the Urban Sketchers Symposium, that just so happened to be in the city I work and the city that I see as a spiritual home. Manchester, the city where half of me is from (my mother's half).
Now, I've been a part of an urban sketching group (Yorkshire) for around four or five years, in fact, I now draw with two (Manchester), but I've never felt like much of an urban sketcher. My favourite outings were always the coffees shop ones. I'd always end up drawing details or people. So I always felt a bit of a incidental urban sketcher.
What the Symposium did for me was open my eyes to our amazing city and to share that and show off Manchester with people who love drawing as much as I do. I also discovered so many drawing opportunities. Around every corner there's a little surprise, a little gem, and I intend to draw them all. It was wonderful to share that with other sketchers. I've learnt a lot about the city. And about where I want my work to take me.
So, yeah, my drawing has changed. And for the first time in quite some time I'm loving what I'm doing again. That's a good feeling.
Just go with the flow kids. Don't get hung up or frustrated by your drawing funks. It'll all come around. It'll all come back around.

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