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July 27, 2015

Homeless in Oxford: a reportage project

Interview with Jack Wheatley, by Marcia Milner-Brage

During the summer of 2014, having recently graduated with a degree in Illustration from Camberwell College of the Arts in London, Jack Wheatley did a three month Topolski Residency at the Topolski Studio in London. The focus was to “produce, distribute and exhibit” a set of reportage drawings “chronicling contemporary issues of the twenty-first century”. The inspiration for these residencies is the twentieth century reportage drawings of Feliks Topolski.

How did you chose the subject for your residency?

I had a free place to stay in Oxford in my sister’s student house so I commuted back and forth to London twice a week over the summer to attend the classes for the residency. So I spent most of my time in Oxford, which I explored on my bike. One thing that struck me was the large number of homeless people living in Oxford, many who looked like they had an interesting story to tell. I decided to make drawings and interviews of some homeless people the subject of my final drawings for the residency show.

.Reportage project - Homeless Oxford

How did you get started? What did you do to gain access and trust from these individuals? Was it difficult for them to agree to being drawn?

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford
The first person I drew.
It was hard to approach the first man to ask if I could draw and record him, as I had nothing to show him. He agreed to be drawn begrudgingly and asked if he could have some money for his effort which I agreed to. Once I had got so far he had a look at the drawing and immediately brightened up when he saw I had captured a good likeness of him. By the end of the drawing he was very pleased with how it looked and did not want any money. He told me where I could go to meet other homeless people. It was by a monument situated by one of the Oxford colleges. The monument is where some of Oxford’s homeless spend their evenings. I made all my drawings here in the evenings. After I had a number of drawings which I could show people, word got around that there was someone drawing their friends. After that, it was much easier to approach people and draw them.

Tell me how the words came about on the page.

I recorded the conversations I was having on my iPhone and later transcribed the recording onto the drawing. I had to pick and choose sections of the interview to write down.

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford

Some of the drawings are without words.

I had transcribed down more conversations but on separate pieces of paper, which have been lost whilst moving around. Even without words, this is one of my favorite drawings. I like the unusual angle I have drawn from, as I was sitting further up some steps. The man on the left I had met and drawn before. He told me how his friend on the right had tried to kill himself numerous times by overdosing and he had saved him every time.

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford

This lady was very friendly and we talked for a couple of hours about many things. Her dog, that helped her if she had an epileptic fit, had died recently, so she was in Oxford where she knew people on the street who could look out for her. When I was talking to someone else later they rolled their eyes and mentioned that she talked a great deal.

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford

Over what period of time did you do the drawings? How much time did you spend on a drawing? What size are they? Materials?

I spent about three weeks on all the drawings. I can’t say how long I spent on each drawing exactly but around the twenty minute mark. I drew in an A3 sketchpad with a solid graphite pencil, which was great for using on its side to put down large areas of tone quickly.

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford 14
The man on the left had a dog called Freddie who was a great shaggy hound and was well known in Oxford.
What did you hope to gain for them in doing these drawings?

I did not go into this project with the idea of helping anyone but more just to record stories and give people a voice that may not always be listened to through a form that was engaging: drawing. If the project resulted in someone being better off from it I would be delighted but I thought I would let that come naturally.

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford

This drawing is intriguing to me. What are the numbers at the top of the page? What’s SNOWY? What is a code man?

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford

I don’t really know the full story as he didn’t talk, but some of the others told me that he was a code breaker in the war and enjoyed code puzzles. He gave me the number so I could work out his name. Each number represents the position of a letter in the alphabet. His name was Snowy.

What is the takeaway that you have from this experience? What was most compelling for you about this project?

I found everything about the drawing and interviewing process very interesting as I had insight into a different world which most people don’t get to see. I was able to do this through drawing which broke down barriers which may have existed if I had been simply interviewing people or photographing people.

Reportage project - Homeless Oxford

Is there anything that you’d do differently?

I was limited for time so couldn’t create a really in depth investigation. Next time I do a project like this I will do more drawings of the same person so I have more pages to put text and get a more rounded story. There was a lot more I could have done, like put on a show in Oxford, but I was tight on time as I had to go back to Wales.

What came after your Topolski Residency and the Homeless in Oxford project? What are your plans for the future?

I am currently in my home county of Pembrokeshire (St. Davids, Wales), which is as far west as you can go. It is an extremely beautiful place and is steeped in history. It is a most incredible location perched on top of a cliff and is full of art. I draw regularly, though I have not made any new reportage work. I find my drawings from direct observation have more energy and vibrancy, you can’t dither and this shows in the energy of the marks made.

Gouache painting of the cliffs of Pembrokeshire in Wales

I am working in a hotel to save money for travelling. I plan on travelling for a long period of time; though I do not know exactly where I am going, I will start off in Nepal in September. I plan to make a blog specifically for my travel drawings. I hope to interview people as best I can.

I don't have a photograph of myself. Here's a self-portrait.

Scan 12
Jack Wheatley

Together we sketched Singapore - USk 6th Symposium

By Paul Wang, Singapore

Waterloo StreetPrincep Street Marina Bay Sands USKSingapore2015 feast 1
Last two weeks were just simply wonderful to reunite with many international sketching friends here in Singapore. So glad that they all came to support the 6th USk Symposium held here in Singapore. Together we spent many hours sketching, feasting on local food and sharing our lives. I also had the privilege to conduct the 'Wet & Wild Texture' activity for the symposium participants. Looking forward to the next symposium in Manchester.
  UntitledAwesome participants in my Wet & Wild with Texture class during our USK symposium. UntitledUntitled

Sketching with Virginia Hein

Today, I went sketching with Don Low, James Tan, Tony Chua and Virginia Hein.

The Urban Sketchers Symposium may be over but we are still sketching. Virginia Hein is still in Singapore and we went to Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay and Chinatown for a whole day of sketching. Yes, it's tiring.

The huge white building is actually Fullerton Hotel. It's a five-star luxury hotel that used to be a General Post Office Building. The more popular area would be the Merlion Park that's just right in front across the street.


While the Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay felt rather artificial, they do look pretty spectacular.

The digital sketch is by me. The right is by Tony. Sketches in the bottom row are from Virginia Hein, Don Low and James Tan respectively.

Here's the video of what we did.

- Parka

48th World Wide SketchCrawl at Seoul City Hall

By Lee Yong-hwan in Seoul, Korea

 Seoul City Hall, pen and watercolor

Seoul Metropolitan Council across the road, pen and watercolor

entrance to the Seoul Citizens' Hall, pen and watercolor

Seoul Bookstore at Citizens' Hall, pen and watercolor

a moving performance at Citizens' Hall, pen and watercolor

Jazz Harmonica player, Jeon Jae Deok Band, pen and watercolor

Base player Jeong Yong Joon of Jeon Jae Deok Band, pen and watercolor

African dance player of FONIKE, sepia conte and watercolor
( 21 x 29.6cm  sketchbook )
Seoul City Hall is one of the most favorite place to sketch in downtown Seoul, so I posted some sketches on usk blog several times. The old city hall building and newly built city hall show not only combination of the architectural style, but historical change of the modern Seoul.
Last Saturday, for the 48th World Wide SketchCrawl, Seoul usk members met at the Seoul Citizens' Hall that is located on the basement floor of Seoul City Hall. The Citizens' Hall serves as a courtyard where Seoulites share their creativity and individuality while participating in various programs such as discussion meetings, workshops, seminars, concerts, exhibitions, special events, and wedding ceremonies.
The day was wet weather with the rainy season, so at first I sketched city hall buildings and streetscape outdoors between rains in the morning. After lunch, enjoying various kinds of performances at Citizens' Hall, I drew some colorful and fantastic sceneries with excitement.

July 26, 2015

Street Corner at Mission Beach, San Diego, California

By Lydia Velarde

This is a street corner across the street from the Big Dipper Roller Coaster in Mission Beach. The San Diego Urban Sketchers met to draw the roller coaster from the park but I chose this street corner because it was so colorful.

48° Sketchcrawl in Rome

48° Sketchcrawl

indoor view of the winebar

wine bar outdoor

lunching time

relaxing time..

The summer is hot in Rome, we decide to move into a little town (very little, there are only a square and a winebar) to take some fresh air.
We spent all the day sketching, talking and eating good food at Pratica di Mare, 50 minutes by car to Rome. A lovely day with the group!

From the eyes of a USK Symposium helper in Singapore

My friend James Tan has added a page of comics on his experience as a helper at the Urban Sketchers Symposium. Check it out at

Some daily life in the City: waiting, reading and eating lunch in Brooklyn and Manhattan -- getting ready for summer in Asturias. Drawings by Sharon Frost.

Getting ready for our summer in northern Spain, takes lots of steps -- medical screenings is one of the categories in trip preparation.

New restaurant (for us) in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.  Lunch in the middle of errands -- welcome garden environemnt.
Reading a little Eduardo Galeano.  His words always ring true in my mind.  Galeano's recent death led me to get together all our hard copy versions of his works -- they reverberate far beyond his native Uruguay and Latin America.
Last medical waiting room before the airport ordeal (JFK).  I already feel I have one foot in Spain.

Blog: DayBooks

July 25, 2015

#USkSingapore2015 It's a wrap!

by Maria Regina Tuazon in Singapore

It has been an amazing time here in Singapore with sketchers all over the world convening at the red dot this past week for the 6th International Urban Sketchers Symposium! Putting faces to names,  meeting new friends, learning from inspiring people and drawing each other and beside each other  who share the same sketch fever was a total sketch heaven!

My last day started with Veronica Lawlor's The Urban Sketchers Cookbook breaking down the visual language into line/calligraphy, colored lines, marks, texture and pattern. Exploring each of the these elements in thumbnails like ingredients and then putting them together as a recipe in one frame to cook up a flavorful gourmet sketch was another eye-opening moment for the participants! Yum! 

Here's one of the sketchers with the recipe of line, marks, texture and shape.

Veronica's demo, show and tell and works by the workshoppers. Photo credit: Don Low. Thank you.

I caught up with Simo Capecchi's group doing A Collective Reportage (Religions and Popular Devotion in Multicultural Singapore). They were following devotees, sketching and taking down notes about people's acts of devotion at the temple. Later on they will be collating all the information from everyone, see the connections between the Chinese and Hindu temples which are located next to each other and report it as one big overview with perspectives from a multicultural bunch of sketchers!

Headed down at the Bugis Junction for James Richards' workshop on Capturing Singapore's Lively Urban Spaces. The idea was to catch the energy of public spaces and see the architecture as a backdrop for the real pulse of the city which is the people.  

Some sketchers are comfortable with drawing people and they claim they can't draw buildings and the other way around. This workshop broke it down and put both together to complement each other in exciting ways! 

Back at the National Design Centre, Mr Guan Dao Ignatius Yeo did a demo on folded pens. Guan Dao is a type of Chinese weapon used in martial arts and how apt that he calls it that because the folded pens look like knives! They're harmless but mean and expressive on paper :)

Zhu Hong also did a demo on Capturing Mood in Watercolor Sketches.  Now mostly seen drawing with a mobile phone, it was a great opportunity to catch him in action with traditional media! A lot of wet on wet washes left a puddle of water on the floor but an amazing explosion of color on paper!

I was able to sneak into Luisa Hung WanLu's lecture on Sketching as a Tool for Study.  In one of her case studies, a shophouse to be demolished didn't have a lot of information about it. She tracked the people who used to live there and recreated them in sketches. The minute details revealed a more personal interesting human condition and presented even some harsher details in almost cartoon-like manner to get the message across.

While both these things are going on there was The Big Crit! Like musical chairs, after a limited time, participants who signed up for it move from one set of teachers to the next and I think that's a pretty cool way to meet, get expert creative critique and talk sketch up-close and personal!

And the big sketchwalk! Yup,  all sketchers unite at the SMU Green which is a huge wide open piece of greenery at the midst of a bustling street scene! Sketching and being sketched!

 Just as we were striking a pose for the big photo, the National Day Parade practices were going on, and as if on cue, the fighter jets took off like daytime fireworks in the sky! Photo credit: TungTung Singapore

It's definitely a big celebration of the Urban Sketchers love for sketching and it's also Singapore's jubilee this year! Thanks everyone for making this happen and coming all the way to party big in the name of Sketch at the little red dot!

Here's also a big thank you for the successful auction and the winners of the lucky draw!

Here's a pic of the correspondents Murray Dewhurst, Teo Yie Chi aka Parka, myself, Maria Regina Tuazon and Gabi Campanario!

That's it for now.  From sunny Singapore, big big thanks! It's a wrap! 
See you all online and at the streets! Happy sketching :) 

#usksingapore2015 Maria Regina Tuazon