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August 1, 2014

SketchCrawl in Leeds: Playing with Architecture...

A sketch-buddy of mine in Leeds organised a drawing day last Sunday and, since the sun was shining and John was off doing something else, I jumped on a train and tagged along.

We had a lovely time, strolling round the city centre, sketching all the gorgeous architecture. Leeds is so much more dramatic than Sheffield. I was so excited - at last, I actually managed to get outside and do a day of drawing buildings, after all my bad luck with rainy SketchCrawls. 

I started with the civic hall above and managed a couple of views of that from different sketching points. I did the one above before everyone else arrived, when the sun was still shining (my train was a bit early), then we all sat down for coffee at the museum cafe and I did another, while the black cloud rolled in and I though the Lynne Chapman Rain Curse was about to strike again:

It got really cold and windy (and, stupidly, I was in a skimpy sundress - brrrrrr). We thought it must surely pour down at any second, but somehow the clouds didn't quite let go of their load and we got away with it. 

There was a church round the corner, with a great rose window I had to have a go at next:  

I was in the mood for experimentation and fancied a change from my pen, so got out my rainbow pencil. I really wished I had brought a bigger sketchbook though. I was struggling all day to fit things in.

There was an odd bit of time left before lunch: just enough for a 20 minute quickie of the museum itself. I grabbed my Inktense pencils. This is so very different to the last sketch I did of it, when I took my group there a couple of years ago.

We walked to the art gallery for lunch in their fabulous tiled hall cafe. That was well worth a sketch too, but we were too busy scoffing. Then it was off to George Street, where there is the most sketchable hospital ever. I loved the Gothic feel and the way it was so heavily decorated:

This is just a tiny bit of it - it's a huge building with several of these towers. Unfortunately, I was sitting on the shady side of the road to get this vantage point and got quite chilly again. All my chums were sitting in a little garden outside the hospital itself, in the sunshine:

I joined them to warm up. It was lovely to sit together for our last sketch of the day too. 

I tried a quickie of our youngest sketcher, little Katie. Unfortunately, like most 3 years olds do, she got up and went to investigate something else, just as I started to draw, but I caught her pose with paint and did the line from memory (a perfect example of the usefulness of the colour-before-line technique):

There was a good view of the Town Hall clock tower from where I was sitting. It was peaking above the roofs:

Unfortunately, those black clouds were never far away and, as you can see, by the time I was done and taking the photo, it was looking decidedly dodgy again:

We went to a cafe to share our work as usual and, as usual, we had a great time, nosying through each other's sketchbooks. 

Metamorphosis of a prison: in Volterra the jail becomes a cultural space

At the entrance of Volterra state prison you can tell something unusual is going on. Tourists see people queuing to enter in the Medicean Fortress and try to join them. But to get in it's not so easy! In fact we applied for a permission weeks ago to see Santo Genet (see the trailer here), the new performance by the Compagnia della Fortezza, a theatre company that involves more than 70 prisoners with the direction of Armando Punzo and that celebrates its 25th anniversary of activity.  "Santo Genet" show is based on a collage of Jean Genet plays, essays and diaries. 

Sketching was not easy at all, packed as we were, all of us moving from small prison cells to the main courtyard in a kaleidoscope of actors that performed simultaneously. I probably missed a large part of the show. On the other hand, the public could have a face to face relation with the actors/prisoners, an experience that can't be easily forgotten.

"I keep on believing that the community of artists should unite and open up to the sensitive people and all together should work to create dreams behind the times. I cannot see any other possibilty to get out of this condition of alienation and conformity"  says Armando Punzo here.

I'm not qualified to discuss the theatrical aspects of the show but what has been evident to all the audience that entered into the jail as inside a theatre, is the amazing opera that Punzo has accomplished during 25 years of work with such a large group of prisoners, prison guards and with all the prison's staff. A real metamorphosis of a place of suffering and mortification into a place of dialogue and hope, a place that could give another chance to a human being through art. An utopia that I would certainly subscribe.

I am so grateful to the Volterra Teatro Festival that included officially our 5° Urban Sketchers Workshop in their program. More drawings of mine here. Photos of our four days of hard work and sketching in "impossible" conditions with a group of ten brave sketchers, here.

Simo Capecchi

My London travel sketchbook

I was in London after the Oxford workshop, spending my first week of vacation.

Londres Julio 2014

Sometimes I walk through unknown places as if I was at home. I like watching the almost unknown places slowly, confidently, as if I had always been there. That is why I like to draw, because I can spend a long time looking at things and people around me.

Londres Julio 2014

Sometimes when I walk through the streets of Seville (where I belong), I do the opposite: I watch the streets and the people as if they were foreign, seeking new ways to draw the buildings, trying to convey how I see them and feel them. Sometimes in one way, sometimes another.

Londres Julio 2014

I make up stories for people who crossed me and I draw their faces thinking about these stories I guess. Stories that are behind us and that shape our character, our personality... Sometimes public, others intimate.

To know the unknown and to unknow what I know. I like to play this game.

Londres Julio 2014

I walk in London and look around: streets, people ... And I think maybe in the end we are not so different.
(More London sketches here)

July 31, 2014

south west of france with the buddies

2 weeks ago, tazab, one of the usk france administrators invite the lapin family, and a few more sketchers, as gérard michel, to spend the holydays swimming in the dordogne, and sketching around the old medieval villages. that was a dreamy week, thanks dudes!

here is the portrait of tazab, I met 3 years ago at the clermont-ferrand travel book fair (the place to go if you wonder how the biggest travel book fair looks like):
and his famous 2cv we were riding all the week (did you spot the lapin?):
la tazab mobile
a sneak peak of martel and carennac:
gérard michel at work (I'm his personal fashion designer, in a short time, he will not only wear a hat, but some pink flowered shirts, I swear):
gérard michel
and some good cathes at a flea market there. look at this tiny watercolor box, I never saw such a small one before, that will be my new pocket kit:
les puces de gluges

more drawings of this peace of paradise on my blog!


By Carol Hsiung

Looking at my sketches, I realize that most of my sketches occur while I
am waiting....waiting for the train....waiting to see the doctor.....

I don’t like waiting.

As a mother, there seems to be more waiting.

I wait with the other parents.

My sketchbook has saved me from the agony of waiting.

Carol Hsiung is an architect in New York and you can see more of her work on Flickr.

The trees of Stanley Park

When I arrive on the West Coast from Montreal it's the trees that always make the biggest impression on me because they are so much grander than what we see back east. This time around I spent a bit of time in Vancouver's Stanley Park. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't venture too far into the park itself (you don't have to go far to see sketchable stuff), just spent a day painting around the Fish House at one entrance, and another in Coal Harbour where hundreds of cyclists pass on their rental bikes on their way to ride around the seawall, but it was enough time to make sure I got a few Western Red Cedars in my sketchbook. 

The backdrop of inky dark trees and mountains is what makes Coal Harbour so dramatic contrasted by the white boats and this tudor-style boathouse for the rowing club. On the day I sketched there were rain clouds in the distance, but that doesn't deter either the rowers or the cyclists who seem to go out in any weather.

A sketch at the new National Stadium



This is the new National Stadium at the new Sport Hub in Singapore. It is HUGE! The turnout was HUGE too.
It was a difficult subject so I told myself : "A sketch is a sketch, let's not get into the details." Looking at the final product, I felt that there is a potential to develop this into a nice painting by adding more details and colour contrast using a better quality pigments. I forgot to bring my colours. I left it on the table after squeezing some fresh yummy colours the night before. So I borrowed a set of colours from a sketcher's son and it was student grade quality. I made do with what I had and I was happy with the result.

size : 240 x 680mm

The train to mainland Europe

Unlike most of mainland Europe, the UK doesn't have a lot of choice of direct international rail getaways. The Eurostar from London heads under the Channel to France from St Pancras, a glorious cathedral of brick and ironwork that was lucky to survive demolition in the 1960s.

Last week we headed south to Avignon, with a change at Lille, travelling, it seems, at up to 200mph. I've been enjoying drawing from moving trains lately: subjects that are close up pass almost subliminally, gone almost before they are there. The drawing below was done south of Paris on our journey home. There are more drawings on my blog.

Direct to Watercolor Part 3 of 4 : Step By Step Process


Terrebonne Mill, L’ile des Moulins]

Ok, this is from the second week of this painting project. Now that I was more confident with this process, I took the time to make progress shots. These are just handheld snaps, so the quality is poor, but I think they will serve.


Here’s the location. Out in Terrebonne QC, at a historic site on L’ile des Moulins (Google Map).

There’s a big old mill here that makes for a dramatic subject. Water flows through a kind of sluice gate/pedestrian bridge thingy, and under the foundations of the old stone structure. It’s a great subject for this kind of painted sketch. The architecture and parkland behind lend themselves to graphic simplification.


At this point I’m not even seriously doing the Dot Plot method any longer. I used perhaps three marks to establish the placement of these two buildings. I one at the chimney, the roof line, and the base of the rightmost structure. Mostly I just visualized it all in my head – since the composition here is fairly simple.


I’m blocking in ‘logical chunks’. Not working all over the painting, just drawing each major shape as it interlocks into the next. I’m able to make some transitions by letting objects touch in small ways. And I can charge color into my wet shapes, making the interiors of the washes as interesting as possible. The paper is dry, so that the edges of each silhouette shape are clean and sharp.


Putting in the bridge was a bit nerve wracking. I was sorely tempted to get out a pencil and give myself a guideline.

Thankfully, I knew I’d have that moment of weakness, so I didn't bring one with me.

The only way I've been able to pull off this whole series, is by taking all drawing materials out of my bag, putting down the pens, and walking away from them. Honestly, if I had a pen, I’d have used it.
Since I had no choice, I had to figure the bridge out with the brush. Looking at the silhouette – finding the key shapes – the repeating piers that support the pedestrian deck, creating the gaps where the river flows down a concrete embankment.

It was important to me to drastically simplify things. There’s a lot of pipes and mechanics under the bridge – but this is not the focus of the painting. The eye is meant to go to the mill on the other panel. So I know I need to limit this to a calligraphic silhouette.

The river was comparatively easy - you can’t really go wrong painting water – it has no particular shape. Just keep it flowing and let the watercolor do the work.


The bridge comes to life when I put in the tree line. I create the sunlit upper deck simply by leaving it out. Just like the shiny tile roof of the mill. The bridge deck is drawn with negative space. I have to prevent myself from putting people on the bridge. It’s not the focus – so it doesn't deserve too much detail. I’m referring (yet again) to my foundation principle ‘The Gradient of Interest’. (There's at least three or four exercises on this topic in my upcoming book. To me, this is the essence of a 'quick' sketch. The strength of the composition, the control of where the eye goes).


The last step is the darkest darks. The semi-opaque touches, most visible in the windows on the mill. This stage is the closest to drawing in ink. The dark paint mix has a similar consistency. I usually use a mix like Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. Or these days, Shadow (Perylene) Green and Burnt Sienna. Warm and Cold, in varying proportions. I’m still using the relatively large #7 long hair W&N for this detail work.

I feel like this painting has come full circle, bringing back some of what I love about ink drawing, but in a subdued way, more suitable to plein air painting.


Here’s a better look at my diptych setup. Two watercolor quarter sheets, taped onto Coroplast panels clipped to my lightweight folding easel. Sort of like a giant sketchbook spread. You might say, why not one long panorama? Well, no great reason. Except that with two panels I can turn them face to face and put it all away into a large courier bag. If it was a single sheet, I’d have to carry the paper under my arm. I've certainly done that before – but I’m trying to field test how I might work on a long term trip –  and I don’t want to be travelling with big drawing boards.