I got sent a copy of Marc Taro’s book The Urban Sketcher and I promised to write a few words about it. Marc has run his own site citizen sketcher and has been a prominent member of Urban Sketchers since its inception and has always been very generous with advice on painting and drawing techniques over on his site and in person as he runs regular workshops. He carefully runs through his own techniques on how to plan a drawing and the various stages through to completion.
One thing that did become apparent to me that I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners its aimed at people who have basic drawing skills and a degree of confidence in going outside to draw. Most of the projects are the ones Marc enjoys drawing, you can tell he loves big pictures that involve a broad panoramic vision filled with detail.
Lisbon- Marc Taro
An early drawing by me – 2006
I did this drawing in 2006 when I started to draw again. I still remember it vividly and drawing outside when you’re starting is a lot of different to how I draw now. For a start I’d usually only draw for about 20 minutes at the most as it takes time to learn how to keep your concentration going and I’d hit the edges of what I could do. At the time the most important thing to me was to keep that interest going making small steps and being comfortable with the marks I was making.
For those early drawings the mistakes and awkwardness of the lines have a small beauty in themselves and its the exploration and tiny steps that are important. When you’re starting I’d recommend not measuring and working in calculated steps but dive and just get used to making pictures and you’ll find yourself wanting to broaden your knowledge when the time is right. I think for someone starting to draw this is quite a lot to face and a huge task but for someone who has been drawing this book will certainly take your skills to a new level and I think that’s where this book shines.
There’s a good introduction to materials that you’ll need and thankfully doesn’t go into too much detail. I’m a huge fan of taking a small amount of equipment just enough that you’ll need and you’re good to go. It would be nice if if he talked a bit about the palette he uses as the paint kits you buy off the shelve generally come with basic colours that can be enhanced by buying a few select colours.
The book is split up into mostly drawing with a third dedicated to watercolour painting. The drawing section talks about drawing in various situations like still lives, architectural scenes and people. As well as this he goes through sight measuring, composition, shadow shapes all insightful techniques. One method which the whole book focusses on is his three pass technique or in his words Tea, Milk and Honey. I think when you’re starting out drawing you find yourself starting at a detail and work out from that point.
If you can learn to do the opposite of this and start with the big shapes and then work inwards you can end up with a much stronger picture. My art teacher used to say “Start with a shovel, finish with a needle!” Marc goes into this theory in the drawing section and expands on it further in the painting section.
I hope more people take in some of the ideas in this book, would love to see sketchers broaden their scope and think outside their sketchbooks to make some amazing paintings – level up!
The book should be available at your local book shops, it would be good to support them by ordering it in.
The Urban Sketcher by Marc Taro Holmes published by Northlight books
It’s worth checking out his site Citizen Sketcher for more info.
This Thursday I went to Forever More Tattoo in Glasgow for some more ink. I’ve had a small empty rectangle on my arm for years now, and I’ve been meaning to have it filled in but couldn’t figure out what to fill it in with. After seeing Ria Barrenechea‘s beautiful animal tattoos on instagram I booked an appointment. I got a small bumble bee to fit (just) in the space. It was fun getting back to being inked though I did forget it’s still sore but a pain you can get through. Strangely enough I found myself thinking of new designs I’d like to get done later.
Just back and still wrapped up, looking forward to taking the cling wrap off to let my arm breathe.
Only 10 minutes after being tattooed I was left for 10 minutes to let my arm settle so Ria could take a photo afterwards and maybe give me time to take a minute before heading to the street. It was good to use the time to draw, I finished it later.
And finally some Bepanthen to help me heal.
I’d really recommend Forever More Tattoo, who were really professional and welcoming, it has been 10 years since my last visit to a tattooist so I was a bit nervous. If you are looking to get some work done I’d do some research on finding someone who’s work you like first rather than walking into a shop blind. Instagram is pretty good in that regard as you can see artist’s work without committing till you’re ready in your own time.
202 Hope Street
G2 2UG – Glasgow
I was asked to do a painting to show off Links Road in Leven. Initially it was planned to do a picture with a single view point but I couldn’t get a good viewpoint that showed off the variety of houses on the road. So I proposed doing a panorama with the houses shown side by side. This was the initial sketch to show the idea, I reduced the gardens and garages by quite a bit and shuffled the houses along to sit more side by side, like a line up for a dance :)
After I got the go ahead to start I pencilled the outline out. There’s an initial pencil drawing where I just get the proportions right and the basic shapes like windows and gardens right. I generally do this on rough paper as this is the messiest part where I generally do a lot of rubbing out and it takes a bit of time to work things out. After that I scan it in and correct any obvious errors on my computer. Then I print it out with a lower opacity direct on watercolour paper. I like to do this as when it comes to painting its easier to take risks than have that daunting aspect of drawing the whole thing out again.
This is the secondary drawing where I’m drawing over the faint printed outline its good just to use the outline as a rough guide and not get caught up with tracing over it. There are elements I’ve really simplified moving the garden gates to sit more in the centre of each side, removing trees, lowering hedges and walls. You can draw the houses by removing the perspective completely but I like a bit of depth and have each house with their own point of perspective as if you’re walking along the road and looking at the houses as you pass them.
Then its my favourite part doing the watercolour. I tend to do big washes to start off filling in the sky and houses all in at the same time not too worried if colour run into each other. Folk sometimes ask how I do brick work, there’s isn’t really a quick way of doing it. I roughly mark them out with a pencil and mix up a few colours I want to use so I start painting a brick at a time changing the colours as I work. One thing that really helps is being okay with colours running into each other, I like it when you get a nice balance of accurate and going with the random nature of watercolour. Also before you add the brick work it really helps to get the basic shape of the building painted in tonally with the light and shadow blocked in.
Add that’s it!
I’ve recently completed some more watercolour studies of Leven a seaside town on the east coast of Scotland.
A cottage on Links Road, Leven, Scotland.
The White Memorial Baptist Church
Continuing the religious themes there are some God/Devil statues on the side of one of the houses on Links Road.
A detail of one of the houses focussing on the tower style of the living room area.
On Monday I headed eastward to visit No1 Peebles Road a coffee shop in the scenic town of Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders. Its well worth a visit as they serve top notch coffee from Steampunk with a real care for service. You can tell that the café is a real community hub as folk were constantly popping in saying hello full of regulars as well as cyclists making the most of the famous mountain bike routes. There were also anglers stopping by to pick up their lunch in full gear and waders.
No1 Peebles Road,
Scottish Borders, EH44 6QX
I couldn’t resist taking a few photos of a shop with some original shop art deco fittings. Its now a sculpture workshop but it used to be the Buttercup Dairy Company.
I’ve been meaning to draw Bostock Bakery since I visited a few weeks ago. As well as their amazing bread and pastries they’ve got a beautifully laid out interior. Their central table/display is said to be made from wooden floats made to support submarines? Glad I asked if it was okay to draw as I could sit by the window in the sun and quietly draw as a steady stream of people came in for their baked goods.
42 High Street,
North Berwick, East Lothian EH39 4HQ
I’ve been experimenting with new colours and expanded my kit a bit. It was easy enough to remove the central part and lightly glue the pans in place. I opted out from using a filler type substance in between the pans which I’ve seen a few other folk do. Looking forward to trying it out this weekend.
I’ve taken the basic one I’ve used for years and expanded it with colours I’ve enjoyed experimenting with recently, I think half the fun is finding colours that work for you.
I really enjoyed this commission of this café. It was done in the style of the earlier coffee shops I’ve done but since it only really has one floor I added a picture of its famous stained glass window “a flock of fishes” by John Clark.
64 Albion Street
Glasgow G1 1NY
I went down to Dumfriesshire to check out this year’s Spring Fling a great annual arts festival where artist’s open up their studios over the bank holiday weekend. I only had the Saturday to visit along with fellow artist Moira Buchanan so had a fairly broad range of artists to see from Auldgirth down to New Abbey.
The first artist was Denise Zylgadlo near Auldgirth, an area I know really well as I was brought up just round the corner so it was fun seeing the area again. Denise has a beautiful studio converted from a barn (housemartins flying around making the most of such a good day) ideal to see her work based on photocopying close up of her body – part performance, part photography.
Then it was down to Auchencairn to see Trevor Leat’s beautiful willow sculptures. He also shared a studio with Jennie Ashmore who made very intricate pictures from pressed flowers and leaves, she also decorated part of the walls as well (see above) She really took the practice of flower pressing to levels I’ve never really seen I enjoyed her feeling for colour and pattern.
Over to Kelton, near Castle Douglas to see the ceramicists Fitch & McAndrew. While there popped into see Hazel Campbell’s paintings. She works mainly in watercolour but uses it in a very expressive way with gouache, crayons and inks that really making the colours zing with a real joy in the medium with the act of mark making as well as appreciation of the landscape she lives in. Felt it was really inspiring and has made me rethink how I work with watercolour especially with allowing supposedly contradictory materials to crossover.
Also fun to see Fitch & McAndrew’s ceramics again, I’ve visited them a few times at previous Spring Flings so it was great to hear they’re newly married. Such a fan of their slipware ceramics so was good to see their new work.
Then it was over to New Abbey to see Moira’s friend Laura Hudson Mackay a photographer who lives in a stunning border tower house (really a castle). Her work has a real feeling of journey with a careful balanced sense of composition that somehow lets her views of life and spirituality to come through. This was a view through her studio doors with her Scottish Terrier Knick Knack in the shadows.
And lastly a sign I saw in New Abbey “By Hammer and Hand All Arts do Stand” an old Blacksmith’s motto. A good ending for an inspiring day.