The sketches I shared from the Symposium and from our outing in Devonport may have looked a little polished, but not all of my sketches look like that. I have to warm up first! When I'm traveling, and especially at a Symposium, I make sure to do warm-up sketches in the morning, just to connect my brain and my had and help the habit of reaching for my sketchbook.
Toby calls these warm-ups skretches!
Skretches are usually of whatever is in front of me. In the morning, that's usually (always) a coffee cup. On the morning I did this sketch, I also drew everything that was in front of me - our little makeshift kitchenette in our hotel room.
Sometimes, my morning warm-ups are a joyful mess, like these from the three Symposium days. I love using my Mitsubishi double-sided pencil with vermillion and Prussian blue to do quick sketches and to help me loosen up. I made these during morning announcements and as we waited for everyone to gather to walk to workshop locations.
This exercise reminded me that sometimes I like to do loose, quick sketches. It's good practice, and it's good to be messy sometimes.
I already told you about some pre-Symposium fun in Auckland, now let me tell you about the 2023 Urban Sketchers Symposium.
I started the first day of workshops with Eleanor Doughty's workshop It's Hip to be Square! Boldly Sketching with Calligraphy Pens. It was the perfect first-day workshop, as it thrust us all into a very "urban sketching" environment - we were at a busy intersection, chasing the shade, drawing around pedestrians and trying to ignore shouting passersby and crying babies. Perfect!
I also found it a perfect start because I learned a lot about calligraphy pens and how you can get great line variation, and how adding spots of black ink into your sketches make them bold and energetic. And, I remembered that I like to sketch like this - ink lines and spots of color.
I did this sketch first in my smaller sketchbook, sort of as a warm-up, but also to give the watercolor on the larger book time to dry. I sketch pretty quickly, so I felt good about doing two sketches.
This sketch was really fun, and I loved being more bold with the black areas, thanks to Eleanor's encouragement. A big thing that I got from this workshop was incorporating typography, which I then did throughout my time in New Zealand, and have continued with since!
You can really see the influence from this workshop on sketches I did throughout the rest of the day.
My day-two workshop was the total opposite of the first one. Soaring Spaces with Stephanie Bower took place in a quiet church, and focused on precision over feeling. I love Stephanie's book on perspective, and this workshop was a great reminder of the basics of one-point perspective. Her approach to watercolor is so different to how I usually use it - I like to use it to make lines and spot color, while Stephanie uses it to express space and volume. It was a great lesson!
A few details from the workshop.
For the final workshop, I took Maru Godas' Flowing Cityscapes. I have wanted to take a workshop with Maru since the Symposium in Chicago in 2017, but haven't been able to get into one until now. The workshop's focus is "to use gouache and mixed media to create loose and colorful urban sketches," which I figured would be right in my wheelhouse. I found myself expecting to be the star - ha!
Some self-reflection during the trip made me think about the last time I saw all of these lovely people, in 2019, when I was so confident about everything. Now, in 2023, I am comfortable and confident in the knowledge and understanding that I don't know much, and that I don't have to strive for any imaginary gold stars. So, it was funny to me to find that these old ways of being were resurfacing, and I was okay with not being the star of the workshop!
But I did have so much fun in this workshop, just slapping paint around, which really is my jam. Here are some quick sketches as I looked for the best composition.
The final piece ended up a little tighter than I intended, but it was a really fun exercise. I like gouache but I want to love it, so this was another step in that direction.
I spent the rest of the last day battling the very wet air, being moved around because we were taking over a covered area in front of a business, and squeezing in as many visits with old and new friends as possible.
This Symposium was exactly what I needed. It reignited that proud and grateful feeling that I have to be part of this organization. I met and reunited with amazing, interesting, generous people. And I learned so much about sketching and remembered so much about what I love about it.
Sketchwork is sketches and work about sketching - teaching, making art, art supplies, books, sketchers, artists, Urban Sketchers, Memphis Urban Sketchers, and traveling.