The best-laid plansPosted: October 16, 2016
When I give an outdoor workshop demo, I love to have the luxury of a little time beforehand to sketch in my location. Since I like to paint in the shade, it helps to give me a sense of the light at different times of the day. As well, I can see if there’s pedestrian traffic, wind, noise, or other factors that might affect how I teach. Plus, it helps me work out problems in the composition and think about colour too. But the best-laid plans don’t always work out.
At the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester this past July, my workshop “Bare Bones: working with limited palettes in watercolour” took place at the restored Castlefield Urban Heritage Park and Rochdale Canal district. I chose the location because the canals, the longboats, the restored brick buildings and the train viaducts offered endless sketching opportunities.
The day before the start of the workshop I did a series of sketches in the area, using different combinations of limited palettes, mostly primary triads. For the first one I chose Phthalo Blue, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Gold for my sketch of the longboats on the canal.
The second sketch was done sitting beside the historic Rochdale Canal, and for this I used a combo of Hansa Yellow Medium, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue to capture the traditional Manchester brick.
For my third planning sketch, I combined the unlikely trio of Cobalt Teal, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Gold to paint another section of the canal (and more brick!) where the River Medlock flows into the canal.
But despite all my good planning, for each of my three workshops, the skies opened up, the rain poured down, and we had to take shelter under the arches of the train viaduct. So for all that good planning and research, well, we didn’t get to sketch any of it. The view from our location was of, yes, more viaducts. And if you look closely at the sketch below you’ll see that even under our shelter, the wind managed to drive fine droplets of rain onto our sketches.
I was still able to do series of demos (the one above uses Cerulean Blue, Organic Vermilion and Yellow Ochre) and as a reward to all the shivering participants who toughed out the wind tunnel and the rain, we finished our sketches under the welcome warmth of the outdoor heaters at the restaurant next to the canal.