Sunday, December 28, 2014

A spy in Wonderland

Skaters II, watercolour only.
Yesterday, I was asked if I was a spy, really. It came after saying I have lived and travelled abroad and am only in England temporarily. Spy or not, I don't do cold, so the 4°C and showery afternoon was a challenge.
The London Urban Sketchers had arranged to sketch in the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and after meeting in a nice warm pub ten of us headed across Marble Arch and into the event.
Near the entrance was a big wheel complete with Santa in his sleigh, and it had to be drawn. Taking shelter under one of the many wooden food chalets, I grabbed an Inktense pencil and started sketching. The slightly unusual effect is due to spots of rain on the page.
I wasn't happy with the red, so added red watercolour at home.
Next up, Isabel & I sketched Zippo's Circus. I have to say I was tempted to go and see the show, especially as a sign boasted "It's warm inside". Instead, it was a cup of hot chocolate and onto the outside skating rink. I sketched the skaters directly in watercolour. The spots on the page due to the paint taking forever to dry.
Isabel & I sketching skaters, 27th December.
Skaters I, Inktense Pencil sketch.
 With icy feet, fingers & nose, a great find was the firepit, where thawing out whilst sketching was a perfect way to end a visit to the Winter Wonderland before heading to the pub and sharing of sketches.
Pencil with watercolour added at home.
Unfinished Pencil sketch (too cold)
Note: I was using a Monologue A5 hardback sketchbook, which the company sent me to review. I have to say that so far, for me, this is not a book that works well when out and about sketching. Firstly, it has perferated pages, which means you are limited to single page spreads and I am already loosing pages after just 3 days of use. Then, the paper is thin with even a few splashes of rain making it buckle slightly and you can not draw on the back with out the drawing underneath showing through.On a positive side, the paper takes pencil and ink well. If you don't over use the water the intensity of watercolours does remain.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lessons learnt

A selection of the great work produced by the guys.
How quickly time goes, it seems like only yesterday I was nervously heading to tutor my first class in Sanctus and now the course is over. 

The feedback I got from the class has been good as was the attendance, but as a tutor there are things I would do differently, if I got another opportunity like this. On their side, there has been improvements made in the artwork and they all seemed surprised and pleased with the quality in the collection of printed cards (above).
Sketching Fun at Sanctus 2014
We covered a range of topics ending up with Christmas cards so that the charity could sell the originals or prints on ebay. Mostly I concentrated on observational drawing/painting with them and one of the best classes, I think, was when I got the guys working in 2 groups to reproduce the street in charcoal. It was good to see them all collaborating on the piece, although a couple were keener than others and so did more drawing. I had planned a couple of field trips, which got cancelled due to the cold, so resorted to plan Bs such as drawing each other to practice figure drawing instead of people in the high street.

This course has taught me things too. One thing about my teaching is I've realised that after initial demos, my teaching was very reactive, and so I need to spend more time pre-empting possible questions and maybe breaking down classes to include mini-demos. 
Half of the group & I on the last day (a little fuzzy)
However, the biggest lesson learnt is that the majority of this social group are really nice people. Frequently, I heard that they have ended up in this situation due to the loss of work or the breakup of  their relationships. Yes, some of them drink, but as a way to stop thinking, to forget, but then some of them don't, just like in other sectors of society. Some have forgotten or lost the art of social interaction with the normal filters on conversation not being applied, whilst others warn them to watch their language or what they are saying. There was no reason to be nervous before interacting with the group and I hope that when I see someone on the street my reaction will have changed. Previously I have dropped a few coins, bought a copy of The Big Issue, or scuttled past. In future, I plan to take the time to say hello and offer a coffee or something and I hope you will too.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A gentle giant

Rob drawing. 6th Dec. Pencil in moleskin
 A volunteer at Sanctus, Rob is an ex-security guy whose size and tatoos make him quite scary-looking. However, he is one of the nicest guys I've met. Recently, he adopted a little staffie called Sweep, after Sweep's formally-homeless turned charity-volunteer owner was tragically murdered. You can see a picture of Sweep helping me sketch on my Facebook page and another on the post Down but not out.

I sketched Rob whilst he was working on a drawing on the course I am teaching at Sanctus. His eyes aren't quite right, I think because he kept moving and I didn't wait for him to return to the same angle. He's please with it though, so that's good.

 You can help people get a meal by donating to Sanctus here:

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Jimmy drawing. Pencil in moleskin sketchbook.
On a cold, grey, drizzly Thursday, Jimmy had his lunch at Sanctus then sat in my art class. Jimmy was refered to by the others as being a "Diddycoy", which is an old, often derogatory term, for someone who's parentage is not full gypsy. He is a lovely, cheerful, uneducated, old man speaking a dialect that I only understood one in three words. I gave him some paper and a pencil and he drew me drawings of the wagons (horse drawn carts and gypsy caravans) his dad used to make. He's had a hard life, if I understood half of the stories he told, and it is compounded now by his love of drink (he was sober) and health problems. He is very trusting, asking me to check his perscriptions for him, and loves talking. I don't know if I'm allowed to have him sit in with us, but I hope he comes back at least to stay out of the cold.
A proud man with his drawing. Photo taken/used with his permission.
 You can help people like Jimmy get a meal by donating to Sanctus here: