Thursday, September 18, 2014

Brazil Trip: Symposium Workshop A - The Joy of Movement

For me the symposium could not have possibly started in a better way… I wasn't teaching first up so was able to join the workshop of Behzad Bagheri.
Workshop A: The joy of the movement (of learning) from simplicity to complexity (in sketch)

To say that I am a fan of Behzad's work is an understatement! So it was a real highlight of this years symposium to meet him in person and see him in action and …of course do his workshop.
These are all the pages that I did during the workshop… a little crazy in terms of output but most of all, I really got what I wanted from it as my 'takeaways'

In summary the workshop involved playing with line and shape and composition. Creating compositions from our imagination out of lines or shapes of paint on the page. We even swapped work with the person next to us and developed their blobs of colour. And then finally we used a random composition of colour and shape as the basis for one part of the scene in front of us.

It was such a refreshing and inspiring way to loosen up and work with more complex and interesting shapes. To break out of the mode in which we normally work… and therefore a perfect starter for an event like a symposium.

To be honest, I found the working from my imagination really challenging… I was so much in the groove in terms of responding instinctively to what was before me that I found it very hard to tap into my imagination. … Perhaps attempting to do similar exercises in the comfort of my studio will be easier for me. Also I am not a great student… I am always wanting to jump ahead, to not do the exercise at hand but try to work out in advance how to implement the particular idea into my own work. It didn't help that I was getting more excited by the shapes and the crazy pigment interaction of my initial washes than the thought of completing the exercise!
We had a great group and there was some incredible work done during the 3.5 hours. It poured with rain a number of times during the workshop but we had shelter with views so didn't bother us at all. We also had a dog join the workshop!

So here are a few comment on the pages that I did and what I got out of the workshop (and I am hoping that it is in line with the learning goals that Behzad had in mind!).....

Our first paint composition was to only use the three primary colours... I was having fun putting plenty of paint and water on the page and letting them run. I then realised that if I turned the page upside down I had this amazing shapes and chinese roofs. I did not want to develop this composition any further - wanting instead to preserve these interesting forms - shapes that I would never create by design.
Similarly the next exercise when we could use whatever colours we wanted. I liked the shapes and the pigment effects and was scared to do anything further.

One more... using two of my favourite Daniel Smith paints- Transparent Red Oxide and Indanthrone Blue... just look at some of those crazy textures. You can see that I was getting carried away with pigment excitement... and thinking about how to get this kind of painting in my normal work.

The final exercise: we had to find some part of the scene in front of us to fit into the composition of paint we found on the page.
Sadly I made a mess of preserving the white in the middle of the page but was amazed by how the crazy shapes did in fact relate more or less to the trees and the bulky form of the church in Matriz Square on the other side of the river. Some of the watercolour textures in this work are amazing... how did I achieve them?

Ok... technically the workshop exercises were over but I wanted to quickly do two more....

1. First I wanted to re-do the Matriz Square painting and be more careful about preserving the white. Of course this composition is a lot more planned than the first time. I was putting the random strokes of colour down in more or less the places I wanted them. I was certainly more and more excited about this approach... but wanted to do one more final version that was a step closer to the way I work....

2. Looking briefly at the white church (yes Marc's church again!) I tried to get a feel for the main masses - where the white should be, the rough shape of the trees and water and then without looking at the scene started playing with paint. Then I picked up my pen and looked at the scene again and started working it up. Oh ah! loving this approach!

Thank you Behzad for what was truly joyful movement of pigment on the page for me!

Brazil Trip: Symposium Thursday early morning sketching group

Before I get into the serious reports about the symposium… I am going to do a separate post about one of the highlights of the trip for me. (I know I have already mentioned it!) It was the solo sketching group outings each morning. 'Solo group'? Yes, I think that is the best way to describe it. We were all doing a sketch for ourselves and deeply focused on our on work and yet in great company.
It is really important for me when I teach to carve out some time to produce work for myself - finding this time in the context of the symposium with fellow sketchers everywhere is a real challenge. I was also worried that a few important scenes of Paraty were not yet in my sketchbook… and so the idea of going out after an early breakfast was formed. Thursday morning we went to do the signature view of Paraty from "Marc's spot".
Sometimes when you go out sketching with a group there is a desire to sketch and chat - you want to make the most of the opportunity to catch up with your fellow sketchers(the symposium is normally the only chance to bounce ideas off each other)… but this morning we were all focused on our own work (even I was quiet - and that is saying something!) And it was such a rich collection at the end - each person working in their distinct style. A special thanks to Laurel Holmes for taking these photos on my camera. It is great to see in progress work of us all.
 In action: Marc
 In action: Nina
 In action: Suhita

 In action: Esther

 And here is my finished sketch

Just a word about one of my mottos "We share but we don't compare"

This is such an important attitude to have at any sketching event - and particularly when you start hanging out with the likes of these people! I mentioned in one of my Rewind! posts a very helpful comment from Isabel on the first meeting I had with other Urban Sketchers…. about each one of us having our own strengths and weaknesses. When you get together on occasions like these there is a danger of only seeing your own weaknesses and others strengths… and comparing in a negative way. This must be resisted every time!

The name of the game is to be inspired,  to pick up ideas from others and to absorb them inside you! To develop your own work! Everyone of us is different - the secret is to have confidence to be YOU.
Doing double page spreads in my A4 moleskine is a lot of fun and certainly great to see in real life. They don't translate as well to the limitation of a 640 pixel width blog post… so I am including 2 crops of my sketch so you can see the details.
The above 'in progress' photo  reveals that I was working with paint initially and there are quite a number of parts of this sketch that I like very much - examples of watercolour working its own magic on the page. This seems to happen a lot more often when the paint goes down before the lines... and in fact this would be a theme of the first workshop coming up real soon....
I was working fast this morning and had time to do any other quick sketch of the dredging… the photos might look idyllic but it was VERY noisy! (hey- maybe that is why I was quiet and not talking… because it was too noisy to hold a conversation - ha ha!)

Ok... time of the serious fun to start... the first workshop of the symposium....

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brazil Trip: Symposium Wednesday

One of the really great things about the programming for the symposium this year was the Wednesday afternoon start… so today was officially Day 1. But the morning was just sketching time. Most people had by now arrived and the fun of working out "where to go sketching and who are waiting for?" had begun.

Suhita and I shared a window sill of our hotel for a 'fill in' sketch while plans were being formed…. an incomplete and yet complete sketch. I am really having fun developing more and more options for travel sketching -  mixing up line and colour - squeezing in sketches when there isn't really enough time to do so - and working in a way that I can stop at any time.

Anyway- the easier place to go sketching was right outside the hotel…. group of old-timer USKers and instructors gathered - and more walked past and joined in till we had an impressive group from many nations. Oh! it is just so special to see old friends again - and meet new sketchers whose work you admire… hard to find the words to express how great this is. We didn't actually get to see what everyone was doing…so now I have to track down various flickrs/ blogs/ Facebooks to try to see if they have posted their work yet (part of the symposium after-party.... the online follow up!)

Here are my two sketches… first of the church at the intersection of the two major street in Paraty

And then a crazy one of Pousada do Sandi. Ah! all those coloured windows and lights and balconies… all fun to draw.

I wanted tea (actually Sue was the one that was desperate for tea not me!) - and after being given a very good suggestion (thanks Chris!) a small group headed off.

I don't know why I had photographers but I was certainly a happy girl drinking this tea… the best tea of the trip - in fact the ONLY  good tea I had the whole time…so it was a memorable occasion for me! Such a lovely time with Esther, Sue, William and Nina... very relaxing and pleasant.....

And then a few of us went to sketch 'Marc's church' .....Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores - as opposed to 'Liz's church'. Places in Paraty got their unofficial names due to workshop locations! Shocking I know!

(Ah! It feels like a real sketchbook now that I have a spread with a tea cup sketch on one side and a building on the other side! ) and a closer view of my sketch.....

I was playing with mixing greys and although the sky was grey isn't wasn't quite that threatening.

Meanwhile at the Casa Cultura the queue was forming for registration… excitement building…

As instructors we were told to go away till our faculty meeting… so I turned the corner and found Matt and Suhita sketching today's high tide… time to join in.

It was lots of fun watching the tide swell in and out….

and worrying about Matt and his location….

Time for official instructions as instructors, meeting the organising team and then the opening ceremony…

sketching from the back of the lecture hall…

finally sketching my dinner and crazy tea (2 tea sketches in one day!)

being sketched by Marc over dinner is always a treat…

and finally, meeting Rafa and a gang from Rio and planning a workshop in the week afterward for architecture students in Rio University and our photo shoot for the workshop flyer (yes,  always thinking ahead to the next project)

Ok..warmup for the trip now complete... the main act - three full days of the symposium coming up....

Brazil Trip: First 36 hours in Paraty

Today's  Preamble:
Going on a sketching trip which includes an Urban Sketchers symposium is such a big adventure and at times overwhelming. Overwhelming in a good way,  in terms of all the people to meet, to sketch with and be inspired by (seeing their work IRL and seeing them in action is 100x more meaningful than following blogs - hmm, that is saying something) but it is also overwhelming in terms of the amount of sketches to scan and post and all the ideas to process and absorb when you get home. I am feeling that sense of being overwhelmed this morning. Ok… I am still not back to 100% well after my terrible cold I caught in Rio and the sheer volume of stuff I want to scan and share has hit me …not to mention all the other work that is on my plate (I am going away this coming weekend to teach a workshop on travel sketching). But I know that if I just plug away it will get done. In fact I am trying to hit it hard this year and post as quickly as possible so I can get on with other projects…so I know that it will be overwhelming for some of you to keep up with my posts in the next fortnight. Ok… enough of a preamble lets get to Paraty!
 (warning this is a long post!)

This years symposium was in the small historic colonial town of Paraty that is located half way between Rio and Sao Paulo… and the only way to get there was via a long bus ride. So on Monday I joined a hired bus with 8 other USKers headed for Paraty. The bus ride took all day, no one in the bus sketched - instead we either napped or chatted (no guess which I did)It was a lot of fun but tiring. On arrival in Paraty Esther, Emma, Suhita and I were told our rooms were not ready. Not ready in the sense of still of being still under construction!

We were then taken to another Pousada and got our first experience of Paraty's rough cobblestone streets (river bed boulders would  be a more accurate description) - pulling your trolley suitcase along these streets was not an option!

And then it was then start of the running into USKers everywhere on the streets and trying to work out which group to have dinner with… but Suhita, Esther and I just had to do our first sketch before we ate (one can't have a sketchfree day leading up to a symposium can one?)

Dinner: sketching the sketchers had begun but honestly I was a little too tired (I did do a few but never finished the page so I will spare you of the half hearted attempts)

The next morning - getting up for breakfast at 7am (something we did every morning!) included a quick sketch from the window of my room. Perhaps one of only a few water view rooms in the whole of Paraty.

Suhita was out sketching boats - check out her boat sketches here.
Sadly I never got a chance to sketch boats or the front of our lovely Pousada. Funny how some important subjects in a town that you are staying in for a full week just don't get captured! You have to be really focused and make the most of any opportunity to sketch to be able to record everyone you want. I was going to write that this is particularly the case when a symposium is coming up - but in fact it is the golden rule for travel sketching - seize the opportunity you have NOW for a quick sketch as you might never get another chance.

Suhita and I had wanted to do each others workshop  but couldn't due to ur teaching schedules so we decided to do a condensed dry run of each (rather than just do a quick personal check out of our workshop location) and Esther joined us for both.

So here are my sketches  from my 2 hour dry run during the morning - sketching the lovely Santa Rita church.
I will write more about the workshop content later.

We then went 'beyond the chain' (of the historical pedestrian area) to a more local square for Suhita's dry run. I picked up a lot of great tips from Suhita.
The most significant was that you do not need to finish the outline of people that are moving fast through the space. The incomplete figures in the sketch create a sense of movement.
A lot of good reminders of drawing people first
- drawing more people than you would see if you just took a photo (ie. spaces feel more active and filled with people over time than they are in a single moment)
- Don't get distracted drawing the context till you have enough people populating the space
- Try to include someone in the foreground

I get bored with doing the warmup exercises… though I know that I do NEED to do more of them… and then was keen to record the square where we were. I can't help it I love SPACES and buildings.

The time went very quickly so here are two quick sketches of the square and the road opposite that I did towards the end of the dry run. Omar Jarramillo and Richard Alomar walked past and then joined us.

Lunch - too busy talking to sketch the food and the amazing jugs of suco ....

but as everyone else was sketching towards the end of the meal I did a quick vertical slice of the cafe.
We wandered back to check out what the sun was doing with Santa Rita (an important part of my workshop prep is to check relationship between the sun and the building facade during the day and as I would be teaching both morning and afternoon )

We had just missed the highest part of the high tide flooding the streets... Marc had set up his portable easel and was sketching the view down one of the streets. Suhita and Esther wanted to sketch the church… and I wandered off to do a little solo sketching.
Paraty has been designed to let the high tide waters flood into the streets (we believe it was a special kind of sewer - the water was to clean out the streets) I understand that it only floods to this extent during a king tide and this is what we had for the 5 days we were there. Holes in the sea wall let the water in. There are only a few planks put up to cross the flooded streets - most of the time you could walk around the block or use the huge cobblestones as stepping stones. I never had to get my feet wet. The high tide normally last for a few hours in early afternoon...and certainly added a lot to the charm of the place.

One of the things that is so great about a symposium and the lead up to it, is being inspired by the work of fellow sketchers. So, I had just seen Marc painting the reflections and  I had Matt Brehm street scenes in my mind (after seeing his sketchbook on Saturday evening) so I went in search of a good spot to capture both.
One of the tensions in my mind when I sketch is between wanting to focus on describing a single building and wanting to describing space - it is hard (impossible?) to do justice to both in a single sketch.

Describing the building: Sitting front on and exploring its elements and proportions - working at a scale that I can really get my teeth into the details and having fun with paint.
Desire to describe space and street scenes: I don't really like drawing rows of windows as slots and lines as it feels too much of an abstraction of the building… but at the same time I do want to record the sense of light and the sense of space and depth looking down the street.

So this afternoon I did two a few different sketches exploring the different options and how I best describe both in a way that really clicks with me.

Evening: once again I was a little tired and lacking in energy to sketch. We had a huge group from dinner and then went to the opening of an exhibition of local Urban Sketchers in a very nice bookstore. There were a number of books in the store that I would have liked to buy… but sadly I didn't make it back to make my purchases.

BTW - oh! I was so happy with my camera… look at these night time photos!
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