Manchester panoramaPosted: August 2, 2016
This begins at the end. The last sketch completed in Manchester before I start my journey back to Montreal. It was my intention to blog more along the way, all through Ireland and Manchester, but time constraints and wifi problems made it harder than expected. All I managed were a few quick photos of sketches here and there. The upside of this is that by scanning them upon my return, the image quality will be better.
The beauty of the city of Manchester took me by surprise. I’m usually a prepared traveller, researching neighbourhoods, history and culture in advance, but for this visit I’m embarrassed to say that the only reading I did was to choose locations for my workshops at the Urban Sketchers symposium, and the only expectation I had was to see an “industrial” city, whatever that means.
Upon arrival a week ago the first real view I had of Manchester, not counting the grimy exit of Oxford Road Station, was from my 10th floor hotel room. It took me all week but finally, on my very last morning, with the (rare) sun shining through the window, I found some time to sketch the view before hopping into a cab for the airport. Manchester is a city of ornate brick buildings contrasted with modern glass towers and, judging by the dozens of cranes, more modern to come. The view from my room showcased a bit of everything, including the iconic clock tower of The Palace Hotel.
With complex views like this one, I always waffle between portraying the scene in line (starting with fine pen line and drawing the contour as well as details of the buildings) or painting it with watercolour shapes. These contrasting techniques require different ways of looking at a scene and are also dependent on the time I have to complete the sketch. With an imminent plane departure in mind, I chose the faster option: big shapes in watercolour.
Building up the panorama with brush shapes is fairly simple. I usually start by drawing the line between city and sky in pencil, and then adding in the contours of the key buildings in the foreground. Next, with my biggest brush I paint the sky, and when that is dry, I work on the buildings. I begin with the largest ones (the apartment blocks, the Palace Hotel clock tower, the lower buildings in the foreground) and move towards the smaller shapes (chimneys, rows of windows, dark spaces between buildings). It’s not necessary to paint every window as long as you get a variety of large and small shapes, alternating light and dark ones as you go. In this I also used a pattern of warm reds (old, brick, industrial) with cool blues (modern, glass, steel) to create contrast. Details were added on my plane ride home. Manchester was a delight to sketch, the symposium was a crazy, chaotic, exhausting, joyful few days and I’ll be posting more sketches soon.
News travels fast in sketching circles, but if you haven’t heard yet the 2017 Urban Sketchers Symposium will take place in another stunning architectural city: Chicago! Great news for so many North American sketchers who have been waiting to attend a symposium that’s a little closer to home.