7th Internat’l Urban Sketchers Symposium, Manchester, England


We arrived in Manchester, England shortly before the opening reception of the Urban Sketchers Symposium. The event was in the 19th century grandeur of the Town Hall with its crystal chandeliers and muraled walls.  We were met by waiters bearing trays of wine glasses.


But I knew I’d truly arrived when I found the string quartet with a host of sketchers on the floor doing what all urban sketchers worth their salt do. . .plop right down and start sketching. So I joined in, and when the emcee stepped up to the mike, I found myself right at his feet.

UsK03These were some of the 478 participants from all over the world. A unique multi-cultural tribe with their own customs and rituals.


I jumped into the fast moving river and was carried along for the next 3 1/2 days.

UsK022Early the next morning I boarded a double decker bus for a ride out to the John Rylands library for Liz Steele‘s “Architecture in Edges, Shapes and Volumes” workshop. Liz has been one of my favorite urban sketch bloggers/teachers for a while and it was a thrill to be caught up in her irrepressible energy and light heartedness for the morning.


And what a morning it was. There were few breaks in the rain, but she soldiered on, giving us a week’s (month’s?) worth of teachings in 3 hours while dodging raindrops and struggling with poor vantage points for viewing the building. Meanwhile I grappled with poncho, umbrella, puddles and sketch gear and have little in the way of art to show for the morning.  Luckily Liz has an on line course called “Buildings” coming up next month. Architecture has been the weak link for me, but I’m convinced she has the key for unlocking the mysteries of doing quick sketches of buildings.

UsK07I’m the one in the middle under the black umbrella. How many hands does it take to sketch in the rain? More than I had.


At lunch time happily I got a window seat in a deli right between two other sketchers from England and enjoyed a dry half hour of sketching an urban scene in comfort!


In the afternoon another double decker bus took us out to the canal area of the city for a “Puzzling Out the Picture” workshop with Veronica Lawlor, author of One Drawing a Day among others. The rain followed us there and remained for most of the afternoon, but at least there were bridges to stand under.

We were to think of the picture space as dimensional with things entering and exiting and moving in directions, and start by composing thumbnails.


Eventually I was able find a spot where I could sit long enough (in a bit of drizzle) to watch a dimensional story unfold – to have a conversation with the old guy who’s lived on the canal boat for many years and the geese, who periodically marched right up to me and shrieked/squawked at me in argumentative tones (I’m guessing they were expecting food ).


Next morning was the Fred Lynch workshop, “Hunting and Gathering: Sketching Vignettes and Lists”. Fred kept us extremely busy for the 3 1/2 hours capturing quick vignettes and visual lists. “A vignette is an irregularly shaped image on a page that isolates and focuses attention on a particular subject.”

We had only minutes to go out and find a subject and do a vignette. I got this one done before another cloudburst.

UsK010and decided to stay dry inside for the exercise on sketching a page of a Visual List, an arrangement of objects that make a singular statement. There were plenty of sketchers inside the great hall of the school, and I became particularly fascinated with their sketching hands.

The vignette format lends itself so well to the quick capture type of sketching which tells the story of a place and time. In my experience there is rarely time to do a finished sketch but it can be so satisfying to include what is most interesting and design out the rest!

Next: the final days of the Symposium and Ireland/Manchester adventure!