Manchester Symposium Summary

August 3, 2016 | 5 Comments

It’s hard to believe that after one year of anticipation, the Manchester USK symposium is over. It was an incredible four days – 480 sketchers from 44 countries, amazing city and lots of cold and wet weather.

I plan to write a separate article about my workshops once I get home, but in the meantime here is a quick summary of four incredible days.

Wednesday afternoon:

The opening sketchcrawl – sketchers everywhere!

The group photo at the end. Big group – hey?

The opening function at Manchester Town Hall – wow! Amazing space and so many people.

It was extra special for me this year as many people who have done my online SketchingNow courses came up to say hello. Very very nice and super encouraging that my lessons are helping people!

I am one of only three people that have been to all the USK symposiums.


Since Paraty a group of us have breakfast at 7am and go out sketching early. It is really hard to find the time (or have the energy) to sketch much when you are an instructor, so we love doing something just for ourselves at the beginning of the day.

My warmup sketch of the old Manchester School of Art building – done in under 30 minutes.

A few of the earlybird sketchers!

This day turned out to be the toughest teaching day I have ever hard. Not only did I have two 3.5 hour workshops of 16 people at a far distances from the symposium headquarters, but it rained, it was noisy and I was asked to vacate the area by security guards.

But I still managed to get through the material and we found enough settle for everyone. I will explain the workshop content in a separate article, but in summary I was really pleased with how the workshops went and impressed by the quality of the work produced. John Rylands Library is a very complex building!

If you didn’t do my workshop I will be teaching this content and much more in my upcoming online SketchingNow buildings course starting in September.

My partial demo in partial shelter!

Everyone is still smiling – so that is a good sign!

The afternoon session was even wetter and we all huddled under the awning – well except for Emma who headed out for a better view as soon as it stopped raining.


My hardy group of sketchers – thanks for hanging in there!


Raining again so we had to find shelter in front of Sainburys for our earlybird sketching.

It was my day off teaching so I took Fred Lnych’s workshop – amazing thoughts and tips about vignettes.

I love workshops that make me think… so I took copious notes.

A few of my sketches. They might not look much but I did a lot more thinking about what I was sketching than normal. That was fun!

I was a bit tired and decided not to do the last exercise (draw a list) but instead I managed to gate crash Arno’s workshop on sketching 360 degrees. I have been developing a new approach to wide angle views (faceted pointless perspective – more soon!) so wanted a sub-10 minute overview of the 360 technique to see if it would help the ideas I have in my head. Will definitely give this a try when I am home as it looks a lot of fun! Thanks Arno!

A quick walk back up to Chinatown for a wonderful demo by Delphine.

I couldn’t stay to do a watercolour sketch of my own as it was time to rush back down to the School of Art for the second shift of the big crit. This is a highlight event in the programme where people get individual advice from a number of instructors. I love this session.

Finished the day by visiting Lynne Chapman’s amazing exhibition showing a selection of work from her year as artist in resident fro the Morgan Research Centre at Manchester Uni.


It wasn’t raining so we were able to touch and feel the edges of the building – group building hug!

Workshop3-in-action Workshop3-demo
Ah! It was just so relaxing to be able to spread out and sketch without getting wet. Not as interesting watercolour textures though!

Final group photo!

After lunch I did a delightful activity run by Robyn Bauer from Brisbane sketching trees. So many great ideas and things to think about.

I can’t tell you how nice it was to do this slow exploratory sketch of a tree! I was so over red brick/stone buildings,

Didn’t make it into the park for the last big sketchcrawl but sat on the corner having a fun time with Paul and Luis.
The official photo – can you see me in it???

So many photos taken on the last evening but here are a few on my iphone: My great sketching buddies Paul and Pete, Frida from Norway (an old Flickr friend), Orn from Iceland (I still can’t get over how amazing to have people from all over the world doing my sketchingnow courses), Ed from Bath and Richard from Sydney!

Some of the Aussie gang… there were 16 in total.

And finally… a photo with Joel from Chicago – the venue for next year’s symposium! I can’t wait!

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  • SERENA LEWIS says:

    What an amazing experience it would have been! Awesome photos and great to see that the rain didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. 🙂

  • Oh dear I see your wrist couldn’t handle the sketching pressure or did you take pre-emptive action?

  • April Stewart says:

    Thank you for sharing your class notes! Good stuff.

  • Jules Woolford says:

    Great post Liz! it was such a pleasure to meet you in person, (albeit briefly) as one of your delighted Sketching Now students, to let you now how brilliant your on-line classes are. It was my first symposium, and I’m a new chapter admin too! What an incredible experience, I’m still buzzing! Next time I hope I’ll get to go to one of your workshops! If you ever make it to Bristol on a UK visit we’d love to have you come and sketch our beautiful Kings Weston House with us!

  • Barbara Beynon says:

    Thanks so much, Liz, for an embarrassment of riches about the Manchester symposium. The photos and your descriptions are wonderful. I am so glad to have met you–even if it was on the hardest workshop day you’ve ever experienced. I knew your workshop would be a stretch for me anyway and the weather cemented that — and I’m grateful for having done it. Keep enjoying that great city and safe travels home.

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