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Also avaliable: Foundations - 12 lesson self directed course - essential concepts for spontaneous sketching

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Edges and Looseness

When I’m out sketching I’m thinking about edges all the time. When I find a scene I want to sketch, I first simplify what I see into shapes and/or volumes (in my head or in a thumbnail), but it is how the edges of the parts interact that I’m constantly thinking about while I’m working. As much as I love shapes and working with watercolour, it is the interaction between paint and lines that I love the most, and sketching on location is the best way for me to explore this.

Traditionally, ink and wash can be seen as drawing outlines and then infilling these shapes with colour (colouring book style) but it’s more satisfying when there is a dynamic relationship between lines and shapes.  When my ink lines and my paint take turns sharing the responsibility for the edges, I have more fun and I feel my work is richer. There are many edges to choose from, especially when drawing out on location, but the more I sketch, the more selective I become about which edges I include and the harder I want those edges to work for me.

[This little excerpt is a preview from the introduction in Lesson 1 of my Edges course which starts on Wednesday.]

Whilst I have known what I wanted to do in this course for months, it is only in the last few weeks, as I finally put it all together that I have start digging deeper and making lots of interesting discoveries! Something that has struck me this week as I finalise Lesson 1, is how my approach to edges is a key to my looseness and how fast I work. Being selective about a few edges and then allowing myself the freedom to play with the rest gives me a great balance between fun and accuracy (which the architect in me still constantly demands).

So I am finding that a lot of the concepts we will be looking at (which are mentioned in the Edges trailer video) are linked to spontaneous sketching in surprising ways!

I haven't had much time for sketching in the last few days but I thought I would share a few cropped versions of my favourite sketches in this blog post... and oh! a cuppa sketch as well!

SketchingNow Online Sketching Courses:
Foundations Self Directed course start today! Edges 4 week course starting Sept 2
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Everyday pages in a new sketchbook

Just a quick update of some everyday, nothing special, pages in my sketchbook this week. I am really pushing hard trying to get as much content done as I can before Edges starts - less than a week! (Please excuse the photos rather than my usual scans... it is a sign of the times!)

I am using a Stillman & Birn beta book - A5 portrait. It is 2 years since I used this format of sketchbook so am finding it very different. I work very wet these days and find that the sizing on this paper makes it harder for me to work in my normal wet, loose and fast way as the water just sits on the surface. So I am giving it another go!

Friday night: A new book so I sketched my palette as I always do on the first page. It is hard to believe... but this is the first time I have done one of these palette sketches shape first!

Saturday and Monday: Completely random page over two days. I was feeling a little overwhelmed on Monday, but am a lot more in control now! Doing a quick wee sketch is always a bit of a release when I am flat out like that - a bit of colour makes me happy. And more significantly re-reading what I wrote in the morning makes me realise what is really important in life!  BTW this A5 format makes my sketchbook feel more like a journal than a landscape format book does.

Tuesday: A leisurely sketch while having lunch with Evelyn Yee from Melbourne. Trying to wind down from a morning Edges filming session...

.... chatting and taking it easy, so I was just sketching randomly without my plan.

Wednesday: Had too much work to do (review Lesson 1 handout)  to pull my paints out, but couldn't have a sketchless visit to Sparrow - my favourite cafe in Crows Nest. It was a quick visit between appointments.

Today: Oh ah! First time drawing a new cup is very exciting!!!! This is my 'Edges cup' bought to demonstrate important edge decisions I make when I sketch! Not going to reveal any more of the design of the cup till lesson 2 ‪of Edges.

BTW I am using my favorite brush Ser 772 dagger from ‪Rosemary Brushes. Whilst the brush is not required for the course...but I can confirm that there will be at least one demo when I do use it!!! I am still discovering new ways to use it... LOVE it!

SketchingNow Online Sketching Courses:
Foundations Self Directed course start today! Edges 4 week course starting Sept 2
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A new (free!) cup

How exciting! I got  a new FREE ‪‎teacup‬ today from ‪T2 (with my purchases of 2 boxes of tea).

I went to get a new special cup for the launch of ‪SketchingNow Edges‬ and, guess what.... I ended up with two. Oh dear!

My new 'edges cup' will be revealed during the course (you will have to wait longer for it to appear on here on my blog). It was specially chosen to demonstrate an important edge concept and will be a nice elegant addition to my every growing collection. New colour and shape with a design that is of a quite different style to my other 'everyday fancy' cups.

But in the meantime this blue checkered cup will be heaps of fun to draw!!! I wouldn't chose the cup normally but how cool is it,  that its pattern is like hand drawn graphite work? And just for the record, I wasn't trying to be literal on this first sketch... but I guess you figured that out!

Ok! enough of a tea break. Back to work!

SketchingNow Online Sketching Courses:
Foundations Self Directed course start today! Edges 4 week course starting Sept 2
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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Edges and shapes: A preview of my SketchingNow Edges online course
Things are getting very busy as my SketchingNow course Edges gets very close… only 10 days to go!  I am also getting very excited as it all starts coming together…. I know I get excited a lot but there is something very very special about putting my online classes together!

So I thought I would share with you some of the things I have done this week and give you a little preview into the course.

I am trying to have more prepared content before the course starts (I created all the content of Foundations each week as it was running!) but it will still be substantially put together during September. I am very used to working this way as an architect and I love the creative energy of working along with the group. I found that during Foundations, I was able to tweak the content a little in response to the work or questions of the group. It feels like a weekly face to face class this way.

The title Edges might imply that the course is mainly about lines, but in fact at least half the course focuses on shapes and how the edges of shapes interact with each other. I will be sharing insights into some of my sketches from my recent trip to Singapore and Cambodia - such as a preliminary photo of this sketch of Chinatown Singapore.

What has really crystallized for me in the past week or so as I pull together all the content is how important our treatment of edges is to establishing a strong focus and creating depth in our sketches. This is a major theme that we will look at each week.

There is a lot of content specifically designed for working in ink and watercolour wash, regardless of whether you want to work carefully with a lot of detail or more loosely. This course summarises a lot of the concepts I have explored over the years as I work with my ink pen and watercolour.

As much as I love painting, it is combining strong ink lines with the fluidly of watercolour that I get most excited about - edges and shapes together and how the two interact!

Like Foundations, I will be sharing lots of concepts to expand our visual thinking and these will be explained via lots of diagrams. I am especially excited about Edges because I will be sharing the things that I am thinking about right now in my own work!

I learn new stuff every time I teach, both from preparing the lessons and from the group discussions and work, but expect to get even more than normal out of this course due to the nature of the content and because it is so hot off the press. I am especially looking forward to the lesson on lost and found edges!

I have decided to add a “tea break” to each lesson - a little time out for a cuppa. I could do an entire 4 week course on how all the fundamentals of drawing can be learnt from sketching teacups (one day!) but for Edges it will be a little fun containing a few insights into how important my thoughts about Edges are for my various teacup sketches.

Each week I will go on a different SketchingNow adventure to a new part of Sydney to put the week’s concept in action. As next week will be insanely crazy I had Lesson 1’s outing a week early. I went to Petersham, basically because I had a hankering for some pasteis de nata from Sweet Belem.  I had a fun time  - including a very nice surpise of Royal Albert teacup in the cafe where I had my lunch. Honestly…it was not planned! Full report of my day in Petersham will be posted on Wed 2 Sept.

I have also been out filming on location “urban sketching” demos. Each lesson in Edges will feature an indoor demo AND an outdoors demo. There is something really special about putting these videos together. I know a lot of people find sketching out on location scary and hard work because of all the distractions, but it is all the things that happen around me while I sketch that I love the most. I love being part of my surroundings and somehow that is encoded into my sketch. Seeing what actually happens while I am sketching (thanks to the camera work of Chantal using my second camera) is an eye opener. We have been blessed with some gorgeously sunny and warm late ‘winter’ days in the past week for filming and it has been amazing to see how vibrant my watercolours look in the full sun.

Ok… better get back to work. I have a lot of items on my to do list. I took this photo today of my wonderful new paper planner - The Get To Work Book by Elise Blaha- and the rough sketch I did of it when I received it back in June.  The format of the planner and its quality has been working so perfectly for me as I tick off all my action points each day.

Ok. tha'ts it… better get back to work.

Click here for more details about Edges - starts on 2 September
(All lessons and videos remain accessible indefinitely – you can come back and review them over and over, whenever you like!)

Please note this is a 4 week course with teacher interaction and I will not be re-running it is this format again (only as a self directed course).

SketchingNow Online Sketching Courses:
Foundations Self Directed course start today! Edges 4 week course starting Sept 2
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Pointless Perspective workshop - with downloadable handout!

It was a complete honour and thrill to be teaching again this year at the Urban Sketchers Symposium, and my workshop “Pointless Perspective and Coloured Shapes” was really Part 2 from what I taught last year in Paraty Brazil.

It was highly ambitious to try to teach perspective in a 3.5 hour workshop - so what do I do? I spend the first 1/3 of the workshop doing shape exercises! Of course!

We had tough conditions as well. Although we had a shady spot there was no breeze making the humidity quite heavy - especially for the teacher who was expending a lot of energy! If you don't know by now, I am not a fan of hot humid weather!

One further challenge was our subject -  the gorgeous Singapore Art Museum! It is a richly detailed classical building with curved side wings. I normally find a nice simple box of a building to teach perspective!

You can read a description of the workshop here and some of my ideas behind my 'Pointless' approach to perspective here. But in essence I believe that

“perspective should be felt not diagrammed”

(quote from Walt Stanchfield Disney animator and legendary teacher...I need to tell you more about Walt's notes in another blog post soon!)

The more that you can understand about perspective the easier it will be to draw, BUT the core skills needed are foundational drawing skills - the ability to see shapes and draw angles as accurate as possible and to know how measure distances especially to check foreshortened sides of objects. Also you need to have an approach to simplifying buildings in order to draw them and this is independent of being a perspective master.

So the first exercise was all about painting shapes not buildings...

and the second was all about thinking of the building as a few basic volumes (boxes) with elements either carved out or added on to those volumes.

The remainder of the workshop was spent trying to simplify the complex ‘rules’ of perspective with emphasis on the most important concept to grasp: eyeline is king! Although I call my approach ‘pointless perspective’ I am not ignoring the existence of vanishing points, instead I am acknowledging the fact that most of the time at least one VP is off the page - what we are left with is a pattern of evenly converging lines. Considering how complex the building was, and how tired we were in either the afternoon session or the last day, I was blown away by the quality of the work done!

When I sketch I want to do it with freedom and not a lot of setup lines coming from a point on the edge of my page, so at the end of the workshop, before the last review, I did a quick demo showing the loose crazy way I work now. Although I don’t do any setup I am thinking about perspective all the time and I am working with shapes and volumes… and even though I draw lines that are 'a bit off', in the end it doesn’t matter so much.

The top image of this post is another one of these demos - I often do more ‘safe’ (well tested) demonstrations when I teach, but these two examples were at the cutting edge of the latest ideas  I had been playing with during the lead up to the symposium. I ran out of time to do a demo in the last workshop, but that group got more perspective tricks and tips!

Each group I had to teach were fantastic - I loved meeting you all!!! Here is Workshop 3: Saturday morning

Workshop 1: Thursday morning

Workshop 2: Thursday afternoon

And a very special thank you to my 3 wonderful assistants who each helped me during a workshop and took all these photos.

Trying to seeing the angles as they really are, not what we think they are.
It was nice to have a smaller group on my afternoon workshop - I didn't have to madly rush around so could spend more time with everyone.

Doing a demo in my current crazy way - alternating between shapes and lines

The final wrap-up (with two correspondents recording the moment - Parka with the video and Maria in the background with sketchbook)

Being sketched by the other correspondent - Murray Dewhurst.

I had a folder full of step by step diagrams that I went through during my workshop and ... before someone asks...  yes! I am planning to put all this content together into an online course next year - I am super excited about this!  In the meantime below is a link to download my handout from this workshop. It is only a summary of my approach but I hope it will make some sense.
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Download PDF file: LizSteel Pointless Perspective

In summary, I do strongly believe that every sketcher who draws buildings should understand perspective, but often the biggest problems when drawing buildings are the result of not really seeing angles or measuring lengths carefully enough…. which by the way, is what I explain in depth in my Foundations course!  And just for the record, you don’t have to be super accurate (something I have never achieved!) - just enough to make it look convincing.

SketchingNow Online Sketching Courses:
Foundations Self Directed course start today! Edges 4 week course starting Sept 2
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cambodia2015 Sketchbook Part 2: More Temples but more colour as well!

Ok... here it is! My final post of sketches from my recent trip to Singapore and Cambodia

See also 
Cambodia2015 Sketchbook Part 1: Temples and Markets

Initial Review of the whole trip
Singapore2015 Sketchbook Part 1: The first two days in Singapore
Singapore2015 Sketchbook part 2: Leading up to the Symposium
Singapore2015 Sketchbook part 3: The Symposium Days
Singapore 2015 Sketchbook part 4: Post Symposium Days

Here are the sketches that I did on the last two days of sketching, and my day of departure (back to Singapore- refer to Part 4 above for the sketches I did back in SG!)

Thursday (Day 3):
The group was all starting to leave but a few wanted some colour... so we headed into town and to the local wat!

Out the back I was attracted to these houses, a bell rang and then a number of monks came out, wrapped themselves up fully and went for lunch. This was the only time I saw monks when I had my sketchbook out.

Just back to hanging out with Marc and Laurel again! We managed to sketch both sides of the south gate into Angkor Thom with sun.

I was hot on the bridge but I was thankful that the shade of one of the figures was big enough for me to hide in. First time we were questioned by the official guards - it is good to have Marc to do all the talking!

Next up the Bayon (with 200 faces) _ had missed sketching this earlier in the week as the group went on their first day before I arrived. I was excited by the sun but then noticed the dark sky - it was a VERY dark sky! No time to finish the sketch.
I am very thankful that I did this sketch by starting with a very quick overall outline in yellow pencil, then the shadow shapes and then a few more details. So even though this sketch wasn't finished it was complete enough when we had to make a rapid exit!

Friday (Day 4) - Last sketching Day:
Doing a few lesser known temple - first up was Banteay Kdei. At first I thought it was very dull compared with the others, but then decided to sketch what made it different... a lineal arrangement of buildings.

Went then to find Marc... time to be social as our sketching time was coming to an end...So a simple sketch at the front.  Laurel told us about the tree at the back so we went to check it out... and sketch it.

One more temple before lunch - Pre Rup. A simple (comparatively simple!) structure. It started to rain and I let the drops fall on my page - giving my watercolour pencils lines a nice texture. Then decided to do another quick one with watercolour.

Our hotel had lovely teacups... so I HAD to draw it, but was amazed at how damp my sketch was. Hmm, this is a good indicator of how humid everything was.

Marc wasn't feeling 100% so it was just Laurel and I now... back to Angkor Thom palace area. The humidity was the worst of the whole trip this afternoon, so I was struggling and just did a few smaller sketch.

Right at the end, 40 minutes left to go, I summoned up enough energy for my last temple - The Baphuon. A huge massive mound of dark stone once again without any strong light to help find shapes or form... but this one came out fairly easily as I had finally worked out a strategy for these insanely complicated buildings. But it was time to go, and although I wasn't totally templed-out, I was running seriously low on Van Dyke Brown!

Composite Page of a few sketches - lunch on Thursday and trying to sketch a tuk tuk... it wasn't to be! I tried to sketch a warrior on the last afternoon but humidity and heat was too much for me.

Quick sketch at the hotel lobby before getting my tuk tuk to the airport and my lunch at the airport.

Composite Page.One final sketch on the tuk tuk ride(it was so bumpy!) and some people at the airport.

And well there you have it... thanks for scrolling through all my sketches! It was an amazing trip and it is incredible that I can share it with you all here on my blog.

Now back to normal life!!!

SketchingNow Online Sketching Courses:
Foundations Self Directed course start today! Edges 4 week course starting Sept 2
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