Mark your calendar! The 2015 Symposium will be in Singapore, July 22-25. Read more here.

August 18, 2014

Oxford Workshop - Pushing your Sketching Boundaries - July 2014

It was great to see the long planning coming to fruition and we were getting more excited about the Oxford Workshop as the day approached. On Saturday morning I hear that Swasky has started his journey on a Mini Countryman and it is heading for Calais - Dover - Oxford where he would arrive on Sunday night. You can see some of the sketches of that journey here. Meanwhile I (Isabel) was finishing off preparing all the handouts for my colour workshop and the prints for the exhibition initial set up. On Monday, Swasky and I met at the Arts at the Old Fire Station to set up the boards for the exhibition and that initial setup was finalised on Tuesday morning.


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 sketchbooksRosemary 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)

Delays on traffic and flights made it impossible for all to arrive on that earlier date including Miguel who suffered some overbooking on his flight and managed to get to Oxford late on the Tuesday night (nerves!!).
Work proper started on Wednesday morning with the workshops on colour (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.


Isabel says:

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.


Swasky says:


Preparing this workshop was an idea I got two years ago. I was staying in London and I met Isabel, we went drawing to the Tate Modern and also Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It was a great time and we enjoyed it a lot. From the first time I realized that Isabel is an energetic woman who doesn’t stop working and she was the person who I wanted to organise a workshop with and I love her work with watercolour. Nevertheless, at that time, I was busy with the Barcelona Symposium so we had to wait. After summer 2013 and a great symposium in Barcelona, I got some free time in my life and my desire to organise a workshop was even bigger so I sent a-email to Isabel. She was busy (as usual) but we agreed to start organising the workshop. One last thing I suggested, before we started is that there should be three instructors, three points of view, three styles, three are the minimum number of supports to have a chair, a stool …so, I suggested Miguel Herranz a great sketcher and great teacher. She didn’t doubt and said yes.

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 to say thank you to Isabel because I know how difficult is to organise something and you have been in charge on place, thank you so much!


Miguel says: 

I must say I was the last one who arrived at this project. I knew that Victor was working on some workshop with Isabel but at some point (it was february or so) he asked me whether I was interested in joining the project and it was some kind of unexpected gift. Teaching for 3 days in a row, 6 hours each and in english was a big challenge, but of course I was interested, actually I looked forward to it!

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!

Thanks to 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!


9 comments :

Laureline said...

This looks like it was absolutely wonderful! Would have loved to have been there!

Swasky said...

Thank you, Laureline! Maybe next time, ��.

Isabel said...

seemed like a wonderful experience congats all

Swasky said...

Thanks Isabel! It really was. As always workshops are very engaging, intense and… funny.

Marina Grechanik said...

Thank you for sharing this great experience with us! There are a lot of wonderful sketchers, but finding different ways to transfer to other people your skills and experience is a real gift!

Swasky said...

Thank you Marina! Sharing your knowledge and skills is always really rewarding.

James Hobbs said...

It was great to meet you all in London and draw with you!

Swasky said...

Thank you! It was great to meet you all in a great venue as Portobello. See you soon!

jaguarish said...

Inspiring!