Urban Sketchers Yorkshire, Sketchcrawl – Sheffield, 1st May 2015. Felt hugely pregnant for this one (hindsight-lol). Had to go home for a wee after this stop and didn’t catch up with the others. They must have been hiding behind a wall or something. Bit gutted as I wanted to sketch the Abbeydale Picture house with them. Will make it down there on my own one day when I am brave enough (foresight-lol).
There’s something sublimely ethereal and satisfying about Autumn in the Peak District. To wander amongst the quiet and the heather and the stones, taking occasional shelter from the cold winds between the tors where the crows circle and caw-caw, while the clouds loom over, threatening to drench.
With my head fully recharged with imagery and daydreams of crow castles, I’ve been creating these illustrations in ProCreate (which is a great graphics app for the iPad if you’re in the market for one). I’ve got a few ideas for them, but if anyone happens to be writing some songs about crows or moorlands and needs some artwork for their album cover, please get in touch ;)
I always like to carry a sketch kit around with me just in case I happen to have the urge to draw. This often means I’m switching bags and kit around and losing things, and generally lugging all kinds of weight around unnecessarily. I’ve seen a few DIY watercolour kits on the internet (probably Pinterest, let’s be honest) and the ones in Altoids tins looked perfect for what I needed, plus those little tins look really cool. Finding an Altoids tin in the UK turned out to be the biggest challenge but – top tip – I (my lovely, thoughtful bf) tracked a couple down for me by the checkout at Morrisons.
Once I’d munched my way through all the Altoids, which became quite addictive after a few days, I tried to be as minimal as possible with refilling the tin. So I’ve just glued in three primary (ish) half-pan colours that I had kicking around (Talens/Rembrandt Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium yellow, plus a Winsor & Newton Ultramarine), leaving space for a tiny Kuretake pocket water brush, and a square of kitchen roll. The lid of the tin works as a mixing palette.
Now I can put an A6 sketchbook, small Moleskine notebook, Tombow pen and mechanical pencil AND a set of watercolours in a small waterproof zip-up case, and just throw it in whatever bag I’m taking out. Very handy. Below are all the colours that I’ve discovered that I can make from those three colours so far. This was a mostly very unscientific process, except that I definitely wanted a dark grey, a couple of purples, a grass green and yellow ochre so I’m pleased I know that I can make those if I need to.
Next job is to get out and test it :)
It was a fantastic treat to finally get out and about with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire again at the weekend. They are such a talented bunch!
The National Emergency Services Museum in Sheffield is an intriguing place. Entirely run by volunteers, it’s based in the old Police/Fire station on West Bar and is packed to the rafters with old fire-engines, police cars and ambulances. I usually avoid drawing vehicles as they are several miles outside my comfort zone, but I thought I’d give it a bash. Bearing in mind that about 80% of the vehicles on display are fire-engines, I’m slightly disappointed that my sketchbook doesn’t successfully convey how much RED there was, but here are my sketches anyway.
After lunch I went inside and listened to a very short video about the making of US firefighting helmets on loop about 63 times while I drew international firefighting helmets in the International Firefighters Exhibition. It was actually very interesting but, if you’re planning a visit, I’d say it’s probably not necessary to factor a whole hour into your schedule for this.
The Great Hall of Firefighting in the next room contains loads of history of the South Yorkshire Fire Service, including some wonderful old newspaper clippings (my favourite!). The little portraits below are taken from a report of a fire that broke out in a factory on Matilda Street around 1930, in which all four men were injured when the roof collapsed on top of them.
Superintendent Breaks is a fascinating character. Surviving this and several other catastrophes, the Sheffield Star once described him as a “dauntless and indomitable leader [who] flirted with death a thousand times”. He went on to be appointed by the Home Office as the first Inspector of the Fire Brigades Division in 1937 (later becoming Deputy Chief Inspector), and was awarded an OBE in 1940. Read more about Tom Breaks here: Sheffield Fire Brigade History.
Finally, I attempted to draw a police car. I don’t like this drawing very much, but I enjoyed trying. Oh and I only discovered the (super creepy) police cells 5 minutes before we left, so I’ll have to go back and investigate those at some point. Incidentally, the museum is believed to be haunted and you can go on ghost hunts there! Anyone? No?
Please go and have a look at the other amazing sketchers’ sketches of the day over on the Urban Sketchers Yorkshire Facebook group. Theirs are much more red than mine.
Many moons ago, in the final few months of my Geography degree, I went on a field-trip to southern Morocco.
We were only there for about a week but the memories have really stuck with me, because we were asked to keep a field notebook to record observations and sketches. I’m not sure if my drawings of the lovely views and colours were exactly what my tutors were looking for, but I had an amazing time :)
I’m experimenting with materials at the moment, in an attempt to whittle down my travel kit and loosen up my sketching for drawing on location, so I thought I’d revisit and draw from a couple of my Morocco sketches using some of the techniques I’ve learned or re-learned in the last couple of months.
The first is a rocky slope in the tiny Berber village of Agadir-Oujgal in the High Atlas mountains, where a rare sub-species of dragon tree grows. The second is an unfinished but picturesque visitor centre in the Souss-Massa National Park, between Agadir and Tiznit. I used a combination of Schminke watercolour, Inktense pencils and Neocolor II.
Here’s a close up of the visitor centre. I wonder if they’ve finished it yet?
By the way, if you’re on Instagram, find me @siansburys – I share lots more sketches (and photos of my cat) there!