In the afternoon we prepared the timetables, information and their for the workshop attendees who started arriving (eager and early) at 4pm for a quick welcome, introduction gathering and we gave to them their goodies bags (Stillman & Birn Watercolor sketchbooks, Rosemary and Co. pocket brushes and Canson sketchbooks and some more little presents), followed by drinks at the nearest pub:)), where we started to get to know them.
Preparing goodies bags (Stillman & Birn, Rosemary and Canson presents)
Isabel), people (Swasky) and line (Miguel).
Each day we took a group each in the morning and one in the afternoon and took them to one of six locations to explore our themes. At the end of each session, we gathered the sketchbooks and each person put forward one sketch for the exhibition for each workshop, that we copied and we pinned up on the walls of the exhibition. The result a “work in progress” exhibition for all to see and that got attention from the visitors to the venue and the local press albeit the article was published after the event. The group photo by freelance photographer David Fleming for the Oxford mail captures the nice feel of the group at the gallery space at Arts at the Old Fire Station.
Colour and Texture is what I love the most and I wanted to get the participants excited about. I got them to try watercolour even if some were not confident at first, I hope they all felt they can now try without fear. Most of them normally sketch neatly something and colour it afterwards, whereas I got them to work in colour first and primarily, without drawing first, and in blocks of colour and tone, in layers to approximate the sketch that only at the end could be drawn over if desired. I think that most were out of their comfort zone but they were all very receptive to new ideas and experimented in ways they had not done before and pushed themselves, in their own styles, to use more colour and lose the fear of not doing it “right”.
The morning session was outdoors (except when we had to use a cafe in the vaults of St Mary’s as the rain was pouring down), and watercolour run freely and colorful.
The afternoon session, at the Oxford’s University Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museums, was more challenging as we could not use media inside that involved water. Also the two museums have a multitude of potential subjects that i find fascinating (loads of animal skeletons in one and loads of ethnographic artifacts in the other) and hoped others did too. To overcome the “rules of the museum”, I thought we can use a multi visit approach, choose the subject and sketch it in colour first (with watercolour pencils for example), looking for tone; then come out and do a watercolour sketch based on that first sketch whilst seating out in the green in front of the museum, and finally go back in and finish it with further colour touches in watercolour pencils and or pen indoors.
The afternoons were hot and we did suffer a bit on that front, luckily we had an ice cream vendor on the green! I also got them to do a couple of “games” which involved using candle wax to do an invisible sketch only revealed after they applied watercolour over it, and using an ink pad to create colour blocks over which sketch inside. I was very interested in seeing the different responses from the students to this challenge. Some did a single very detailed sketch based on multiple additions in colour inside and outside whereas others did various drawings using the different techniques. All in all these afternoon sessions were exhausting but loads of fun and with good results.
My workshop was about drawing people and my two sessions were focused in getting to draw people without fear. I know that sometimes we sound like coaches, even some people called me “Yoda”, but in someway we are I also recognize that sometimes we may sound “weird” because we say obvious statements, but we have forgotten most of them and we need reminding.
Once we started I really enjoyed working with a small group, they were 10 people. For me it was a need to work a maximum of 10 people, I suggested it when we were talking about organisation issues and we all agreed that it is the best number for working individually and as a group.
Oxford is a nice city with a bustling city center. I was lucky and in two sessions we had the chance of drawing in a open-air market, and in another one, due to the rain, in the covered market. Open-air markets are quite similar to the mediterranean markets, relatively speaking, but the most important thing was that we found what we needed: people.
On the other hand, the covered market was different, nice as a venue but sometimes quiet. Luckily there was a nice bakery where bakers worked behind a big display window so we took advantage of this and drew people doing things.
Before going to the venue I started with a series of warm up exercises, plenty of exercises and then relax... It is like when you go to the gym and do a quick series of exercises and then relax, it stretches you.
I have worked now for 3 years with Swasky, teaching together and at the organisation of the USk Symposium that took place in Barcelona in 2013. I knew he’s a great partner. The great surprise was Isabel, a true force of nature, it’s been a pleasure to work with them, or should I say to give them my little help. I feel so grateful to both of you.
My workshop was about line and my aim was to give the attendees new tools to face drawing on location as some kind of personal writing, to get a “hand” as one used to be say in calligraphy. I tried to give some tips to take memory references that allow to translate what we see on the paper, but the hidden idea is to acquire a way to approach what we see and what we draw as a life moment to be captured in the sketchbook.
I saw some perplexity on the attendees about a way of teaching that does not give instructions but tools. I must say that it all disappeared when they perceived and felt that it’s not so important if the drawing is right or wrong but only whether it is or is not what you want to tell, and it allows you to express yourself as you want.
It’s been a great experience to collaborate with Swasky and Isabel, meeting some old and new friends and having again the opportunity of sharing the joy of drawing together.
Party and Sketchcrawl finale:
After all the work we wanted a small party to finish off and to show off the exhibition to the participants that they had put together so we had brought a little surprise Cava! to say thank you to all participants!
Isabelle, Judith, Francesca, Jane, Jon, Len, Robin,Rebecca, Martine, Guylaine, Zahra, Andre, Chris, Jeanette, Bridget, Enuma, Helen,Rachel, Simon, Claudia, Zofia, Cristiano, Barbara, Natalia, Caroline, Lawrence, Martin, Livia, Nicola and Catherine for all the hard work and for making it possible! Thank you Emily for your help along the three workshop days.
And I want to thank also Swasky and Miguel for coming such a long way to help me with the workshop, it has been a great project! This is the beginning of loads more sketches, adventures and projects! I look forward to seeing you all soon.
The final act of the workshop, albeit in free format, as the 44th Sketchcrawl with the Urban Sketchers London held at Portobello Rd Market on a swelteringly hot day. Thank you to all of them and specially to James Hobbs. A very fun day FULL of people and we made an impression as Isabel got a request for helping the market celebrate their 150th anniversary next year!