“The rest of the of the world must be looking on us in disbelief,” I hear someone say.
Despite the grey clouds of depression hanging over half the UK population Isabel and I are pleased to see all our ten guest sketchers have turned out for a rehearsal of the workshop we’ll be leading at the symposium.
Our workshop is called Focus Your Sketching Stories and is all about really thinking about what you want to say with your sketches before you put brush or pen to paper.
“Quite often we sit and sketch what’s in front of us,” Isabel suggests to the group, “without much regard for what might be the main focus or mood of our sketch.”
We’re in Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, an in-the-round auditorium of steel beams and colorful staircases that resembles a lunar module. The theatre has ‘touched down’ in a cavernous space that served as a trading room when Manchester was the centre of the world’s cotton trade.
Our guinea pigs are mostly friends from the Manchester urban sketchers but also include Joe who has made the train journey across the bleak Pennines from Leeds.
“We’ll run the workshop as if you are all symposium delegates,” I say, “but afterwards you must not hold back. We welcome robust feedback from you all.” They all nod enthusiastically as we distribute our workshop handout.
Isabel and I introduce ourselves. She tells about the other workshops she has run for the USK community and how we met at one that she co-hosted in Oxford. I talk about my work as a photographer for the past two and a half decades in Manchester and how I’ve incorporated sketching into my professional storytelling repertoire.
“Our workshop is split into three,” says Isabel, holding up three digits. “Len is going to talk about how the composition rules he uses in photography can translate to sketching. Then I will encourage a different way of looking at applying colour in your drawings. And then we’ll put it all together.”
“Now we’d like you to put it all together in one final sketch,” I say, “but remember, if you’re feeling out of your comfort zone, that’s good, go with the flow.”
Once everyone switches back from being symposium delegates there is, thankfully, overwhelming approval for our workshop and some constructive criticism of how we might improve parts of it.
As we pack away our brushes and pens we’re all jerked back to the dreadful reality. “I’m going to apply for individual EU membership,” jokes Joe, “you know, as if you’re joining a gym.”
Thanks to everyone who helped with our dry run. We’re looking forward to meeting all the symposium delegates in July.