Thursday, 18 August 2016

MANCHESTER: the Urban Sketchers Symposium 2016

This year I had the great opportunity to attend the 7th Symposium of the Urban Sketchers in Manchester.
What an experience! Imagine more than 500 participants from 44 countries from all over the world sketching together for 4 days. Arnaud and Zita were the two other participants from Luxemburg.

At the beginning I was a bit overwhelmed. Many people seemed to know each other from previous symposiums or from their own regional groups. The other half was sketching feverishly every free second - which had rather a paralysing effect on me.
Adding to my confusion was the chaotic and vibrant city of Manchester: old and new, 3-levelled city, rich and poor, highbrow and underbelly, graduation day and comiccon festival, harry potter and homeless people, road works everywhere...
But gradually I totally warmed up to the city and the Symposium and it turned out to be a fantastic experience. The warming-up as a matter of speaking, because every day the weather got a bit wetter and colder. I suggested a nice sunny and dry Greek island for the next symposium!


I had been lucky to ‘catch’ a workshop pass, which allowed me to follow workshops, activities, demos and lectures. It was not easy to choose between the vast offer of so many great topics and teachers, but I am very happy with the choices I made. I selected some teachers whose work I really admire, or picked a theme that interested me or where I feel a lack of experience.

In her workshop “What & How: Creating your Story” Marina taught us that the process of making an exciting and communicative sketch is all about making decisions: focusing on one central idea, deciding on format and dynamics, choosing a specific tool. She guided us through this process with a range of quick and clear exercises, working towards a final sketch.
choosing a format

choosing a theme

No time to rest! The afternoon workshop of LK Bing, “Capturing Atmosphere Using Dramatic Lighting and Fast Spontaneity” did justice to its title: rain poured down on us and some unexpected spells of sunshine brought the right drama! With fast and firm movements LK Bing showed us not to be afraid of scratching, mixing and pouring the colours.

The next morning it was time for some fine-tuning. My architectural knowledge is nihil and perspective scares me to death, which is why I choose a more ‘technical’ workshop, “Soaring Spaces”. In the impressive staircases of the neogothic City Hall of Manchester Stephanie taught us with infinite patience and gentleness the basics of drawing an arch and how to move our eyes from there upwards high into the sky. My sketch is a far cry from the subtle sketches I saw around me, but at least I got rid of my ‘cold feet’.

Daniel’s “Reflecting on Water” was not a workshop but a demo in the beautiful area of Castlefield, along the world’s oldest industrial canal. It is quite inspiring and instructive to see how others work. On my way home I tried my own hand at the Canal reflections.

I have been admiring the work and the palette of Marion Rivolier for a long time. The quintessence of Marion’s workshop “Paint like nobody’s watching” was learning to play with warm and cool colours and, by doing so, to construct and ‘tame’ the space.

Only some hours left before the end of the symposium! I certainly do not regret my choice of a last activity “Drawing a collection”, led by Emma with a gentle and attentive hand. The Manchester University Museum proved to be a rich subject matter for collecting the most unexpected items...
Fayum portraits 1st century AD


Time for the family photo

And goodbyes...

See you in Chicago next year!

P.S.  I left Manchester without seeing any football! The only football I saw was the table football at the pub Peveril Of The Peak, one of the drink&draw spots of this Symposium

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