[By Liz Ackerley, Symposium correspondent in Manchester, UK] Day 1 kicked off rather splendidly without rain and with a lot of excitement about the start of the programme. In true Manchester style, the rain came well and truly today, but of course it didn't stop any of us hardened Urban Sketchers! I thought I would make an early start and got to Peveril of The Peak before the sessions to do a quick loose sketch. On heading to the school of Art it was wonderful to see so many sketchers out and about capturing Manchester. I ran across this group too. I am in ore of their portable kits and organisation! Then on with the start of the day and announcements, before setting off for the workshops.
My first workshop was Paul Wang's Shape Shifters on the canal adjacent to Rain Bar. The workshop uses a shape drawing approach to establish ways of simplifying complex scenes on location. I stayed for the first half, before the weather really came in. The participants were guided through a shape qualities and relationships approach and were provided with a limited colour pallette to practice their approaches. In the first instance they were exploring shapes and their qualities before moving on to create thumbnails of the rain bar and surroundings ready for a single drawing piece.
I then had difficulty finding several of my workshops because of the weather but I did run into Paul Heaston's workshop: The Big Picture and the tiny details . This workshop was well and truly underway in the arches of the Town Hall extension. They provide great views of some wonderful buildings across from the Town Hall extension and shelter from the rain. I dipped into it during the last part of the morning when the first two sections: Establishing a wide angle perspective and refining and tightening the drawing prior to the last part, putting in the details. By this time the rain was coming down even harder.
Back at the school of art at lunchtime, the place was buzzing with sketchers: meeting, eating, shopping, scanning and using the cafe. It is really exciting seeing the group producing work that reflects Manchester in their own styles. For me, it was a good chance to find out about workshop locations for the afternoon. First up was Lapin's Cars in the City workshop which took place in a carpark and surroundings under the Manchunian Way, on Oxford Road. The noise was quite something but it was a great place to draw cars and shelter from the weather. I stayed for the first half of the session where participants were first of all asked to draw car portraits first from a distance of 3+ meters and one from very close (a meter) firstly as a quick sketch and then spending time doing a fisheye in much more detail . The last part of the workshop was to create multi-faceted sketches whereby the cars were drawn in the context of the city/urban environment.
My final workshop of the day was Suhita Shirodkar's People and Places: Life in contrast which is just up my street! I missed the first part which covered gestural figure sketching and sketching people, capturing different actions and activities but joined for the second part where the combination of styles and media was discussed with the idea of capturing people and architecture using different approache!. Participants were asked to develop a final third piece that combines moving people and architectural sketching whilst Suhita demonstrated the development of one of her pieces. A number of key tips were shared including the idea that in order to develop believable scenes, figures need to be placed in the foreground, middle ground and background but not too uniformly. The idea of heads being approximately at the same level but diminishing in size the further away you get and this is paralleled by the level of detail of the figures. In addition, the level of detail is relative rather than absolute. As a rule, Suhita puts her figures in the scene first before adding the architecture into the background, this is because the figures are an important focus and it can make you too worried to make a mistake with your figures once the building detail has gone in! But there are no rules. I had an inspiring and interesting day despite the rain!
Please watch out for my day 3 instalment tomorrow, hopefully with some good news about the weather!