Last little bits from Manchester

It’s almost time to say goodbye to Manchester. Blogging my sketches sort of extends my time in the city, but it’s drawing to a close. This is last little bits, most from my last day in the city, spent with Liz Ackerley showing us around the murals of Ancoats that she documented as urban sketches.


Here are the terraced houses of Ancoates built for the workers in the factories. There was so much more to sketch in this neighborhood, but by this point in my trip, I was running out of sketching steam. (yes, it happens !)manchester_terraced_houses

The afternoon was wet and best spent indoors. At the Museum of Science and Industry.

Here is a page of sketch notes for that afternoon among the huge cotton mill machines.

Looking back at my week, I think I did too few of these little pages of notes and sketches.

So it’s now  on my list of “do this more often”:quick little observational sketches, my shorthand memories, like these below.

working_peopleThe ever-present construction crews of Manchester.

Day 1 in Manchester, 3 relaxed pre-symposium sketchers.

People on the corner of Oxford and Whitworth Streets, Manchester.

That’s about it from Manchester (well, except my workshop review and pdf, coming next).

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Taking a break in Kendal

To take a break from the red brick of Manchester, I hopped on a train with sketcher friends from California, and visited the market town of Kendal on the banks of the river Kent. Kendal is a market town built on wool weaving and dyeing. It had everything: a castle, lovely narrow Yards that ran like labyrinths all through the town, fabulous gardens, panoramic views, bridges, tea rooms ( yes always important) and of course chimneys. Too much to sketch in a half day. And you’ll see I didn’t get far.

My chimney obsession continues.

With a break to draw the bustling life on High Street.

Then it was back to chimney pots.
Our hosts Lynda and Christine (the urban sketching community is amazing, everywhere you go there’s a friendly urban sketcher willing to show you their town) took us to a lovely tea place. Again, no photos, no sketching, too busy eating.
And then we had time for one last sketch before we caught our train back to Manchester. Here I try capturing how the streets in Kendal are all sloping. Sketching all the people that populate this space not only makes the scene come alive, it also helps define the space.

And since I sketched so very little of this amazing town, I’ll leave you with some photographs of things I wish I’d sketched. And of our merry band of sketchers from that day.

Back to more Manchester sketches tomorrow.


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A lazy day in Manchester

My Manchester sketching didn’t end with the symposium. The symposium is super fun and packed with events, and I love all of it. But I also love the couple of days after that I hang around and sketch and chat with friends. More relaxed sketching, even a long afternoon tea. And lots of catching up with old friends, lots of sketch talk, lots of throwing back and forth ideas of where we’re going with our work. All while sketching, of course.

It was a glorious morning and the sun came out. I could have sketched the spectacular Manchester Cathedral, but I’d have to sit in the shade to sketch. So instead I sat with my back against the cathedral wall, and sketched the Hanging Bridge Chambers. Looking at my sketch now I can tell I really enjoyed the sun, because that building wasn’t really as sun-bathed as I made it seem.

I wanted to take a break from drawing all the red brick of the city and draw other stuff that caught my eye. These two little pieces capture other aspects of Manchester I loved. On the left, road signs: everything is under construction and the city is full of signs and diversions. Great for urban sketching. On the right: bright shoes. So great how so many people wear really fun, happy-colored shoes.

But the break-from-sketching-buildings didn’t last long, there’s just so many great scenes to draw in the city. Every little alley is interesting. Another quiet sketch from a pretty mellow morning.

But that afternoon I visited the superb John Rylands Library (which many people know as the Harry Potter Library) , where the architecture is anything but quiet. Just like my sketch.

I could have sketched at the library forever, but was tempted away by the suggestion of tea and scones. No sketches through a rather long tea: when you give me a pot of clotted cream, it gets my full attention.
Afterwards, another sketch ( I did one on my first day in Manchester from almost this same spot) of Albert Square.

If you are totally tiring of Manchester sketches, you are out of luck. I’m posting some more before I’m done.

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Manchester 2016 : Day 4, the final day

You can tell by day 4, the final day, that it suddenly hits everyone: the symposium that just started is drawing to an end. On my morning walk to the symposium center, I see sketchers everywhere, grabbing one last sketch before the day begins. Here are Jane Blundell, Shari Blaukopf and Paul Heaston all enjoying the sun while they sketch.

Today I decide I have to draw a construction site because I can’t leave Manchester without sketching one: The city is full of cranes and construction crews everywhere you look. It would be interesting to see the city again in a few years with all the new buildings added to the skyline.

And amazingly, we have sunny skies today! And to top it off the city is full of people attending Comicon , which will be fun for my workshop to draw! You can see them show up below in my workshop demo sketch… but more about my workshop in another post.
day4_comicondemoIn the afternoon I attend Robyn Bauer‘s activity, The Body Language of Trees. We sit under trees in the park, look at them for a long period of time and then draw them using different prompts. Such a great way to slow down and look carefully at just one tree and record what you see and feel.


The rest of the evening just flies by with the final sketchcrawl, where I manage one small sketch.


It’s fun  to see a landscape littered with sketchers.

Since I’m busy sharing hugs and farewells, it’s hard to do more than add a few people sketches to a page as I wander around.  And while I add a little sketch of Marina Grechanik (Don’t know her work? Check it out now!), look at what she did!


Here is my finished page of sketchers. That rainbow pencil sure comes in handy when you want color but don’t want to carry around too much. I’m having fun learning to gain some degree of control over the color without giving up on the surprise element.

And it’s time for the group photo. How do they manage to fit us all in with our ever growing numbers. About 500 participants this year, from 45 ( 44?) countries!

More random shots of too few of my big family of urban sketchers.

And it’s a wrap. Thank you so very much to the organizing team that made this massive event possible. And now for next year…See you in Chicago!

The symposium might be over, but I stayed on a few more days, so there’s more sketches from Manchester coming soon, and also that workshop post I promised.

And if you missed my posts on day 1, day 2 and day 3,they’re all here.

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Manchester 2016 : Day 3

Sorry for the very long silence. I meant to post everyday through the 4 day Urban Sketcher’s Symposium in Manchester, but by day 3, I gave up: the buzz, teaching, running around and sketching and attending activities when I was not teaching meantI never had the time to blog my day. So here is a very late report on Day 3.

The day started with another quick sketch session before teaching. This time it was boats on the canal and then a very quick view of the skyline. When I sketched the boats the sun broke out for a wee bit, and I hoped for a day with no rain during my workshop… but that didn’t last.manchesterday3_skyline

Here are photographs from another wet day with 16 brave sketchers sketching in the rain and putting up with being squeezed under little ledges for sharing and teaching sessions. I guess if you must do stuff that’s hard to do, you might as well do it in a workshop!

I have to say I kinda like when the weather paints a part of your sketch. Here is my demo sketch from that day, of a building with a lovely name: The Grosvenor Picture Palace. And if you look at the closeup, you can see that the rain painted in quite a bit of the texture for me. I liked this piece enough to donate it to the auction of original sketches on the last day of the Symposium and was so thrilled it went home with a sketcher friend.

The highlight of the day for me was the fantastic and very inspiring show by Lynne Chapman. In Unfolding Stories, created over a residency at the Morgan Center, Lynne says so much: Just the scale of what she achieved in a year is amazing. Even more amazing was walking up close to her pieces, looking at, and reading details of these accordion panels. ( no edits, no sketches thrown away, no erasing in this documentation, just a long, long string of sketches that tell wonderful stories of the everyday: amazing, isn’t it?) Lynne manages to bring alive whatever she documents. She give us a sense of the space she works in, and we feel like we know a little about every person she records. She explains really complex stuff in ways that make it simple to understand and touches on big concepts, little details, global truths and very personal stories. All in a voice and with a sense of humor that is truly and uniquely her own. I could go on and on about this show, but instead here are some photos from that day.


Did you miss Day 1 and Day 2? Day 4, the final day,  coming up next.

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Manchester 2016 : Day 2

By now you know the drill.. start with an early morning sketch before the start of workshops. On the left, the early sketch gang, on the right, the early bird correspondents.

Today was the start of workshops and I got to start my day not with teaching but with taking Fred Lynch‘s workshop, Hunting and Gathering: Sketching Vignettes and Lists, a great reminder to not always paint a full page, but to consider other forms of visual storytelling and recording. We explored vignette and list drawing, and I drew a subject that fascinates me here in Manchester, chimneys: so many of them, standing like sentries on the top of buildings.chimney_fred-vignette

It was fun to sketch these chessmen while walking around in the rain, but best of all the workshop left me with so many things to think about and consider: about making art, telling stories and seeing with all your senses.

In the afternoon was my workshop, People and Places: Life in Contrast on what was probably the rainiest day I’ve seen in Manchester so far. But my super-enthusiastic group of sketcher sheltered under dripping awnings and gesture-sketched people on the street before we took a break and wandered inside for some respite from the rain. Which might explain why my little gesture-drawing demo is of Tina and Jason , who were hanging out indoors at the Manchester School of Art.

But we headed outside again for our very last sketch the juxtaposed the grand architecture of the city with the energy of the people on the street.
Here they are, my fabulous (and slightly wet) group of sketcher from today.

That just about wraps up today. Looking forward to teaching yet another session of my workshop tomorrow!

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Manchester 2016 : Day 1

It’s here! Day 1 of the Urban Sketchers  Symposium in Manchester. Symposium days are crazy, with so many people to meet and workshops to conduct and attend. If you want some uninterrupted sketch time, the only way to do it is get up super-early and join an early-bird gang for a some sketch time before the day begins. Today’s early morning sketching was by the canals.

Boats, bridges and reflections. Even the sun made an appearance.


Afternoon sketchcrawl. I love seeing a landscape littered with sketchers.

I didn’t miss the chance to draw a few sketchers.

No sketches from the opening reception at the really grand Town Hall.

But I did do one more sketch at the Museum of Science and Industry. A sketch of a lovely car the museum, in remembrance of Flaf.

That’s Day 1 of the symposium. Tomorrow I teach my workshop and get to take one with Fred Lynch. Crossing my fingers, hoping for no rain. Or maybe just enough rain to create really interesting texture in our sketches.

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