This week I was lucky to be able to go to the first UK Urbansketchers gathering based in Birmingham and organised brilliantly by Tessa Dadley (@tadapole) and Isabel Carmona (@Isacarand).
It began on Friday late afternoon with a starting point at Victoria Square near The Floozy. Arrived early and sat under the roof of the Council Offices to have a go at drawing this sculpture. The water has been replaced with planting around the sculpture which is great to draw, especially in the Spring with some bright pink flowers out.
At the same time a political demonstration was being set up and as we met at 6pm we were handed leaflets. I went off to draw Antony Gormley’s sculpture ‘Iron man’, also in Victoria Square. Its kind of embedded into the paving at just below knee height and a at strange angle which is hard to convey in a drawing. The contrast of the dark and rusty metal against the elegant old buildings was interesting to draw, although the view was often obscured by tourists. Throughout we were entertained by the protest songs of the demo in the square. So much so that when I got home I did a collage remix of the sketch using one of the leaflets I’d been given.
At 8pm we all retreated to the Bacchus Bar in the Burlington Arcade – a great location to sit and compare sketchbooks and catch up. there sketchers from all over the Uk and beyond, many of whom I ‘know’ from social media but hadn’t met.
The next day began in the cathedral grounds with sketching in and out of the cathedral and around Birmingham School of Art. I had spotted a view down a narrow street that I wanted to capture on the previous day.
There was a handy coffee shop where I could sit along with Eva, Marissa and some other urban sketchers, looking down Eden Place towards the side of Birmingham School of Art. It fit my watercolour Moleskine perfectly and took up til lunchtime to finish. The colours and patterns of the windows and the brickwork captured my attention. It is n’t often that I work in this vertical panoramic orientation but sometimes its just right for what I cam looking at and trying to sketch, as here.
We all met in the cathedral grounds for the lunchtime throw down and there even more sketchers present on the Saturday from even further afield. It brought back memories of the USK Symposium last summer in Manchester – walking through the streets coming across sketchers all over the place!
In the afternoon most sketchers went to canalised but I wanted to explore Birmingham Library – a building I’ve often walked past but never been in. There’s a great viewing balcony but it was a bit too blustery to sketch there on Saturday afternoon. I was lucky to find a place at a table facing a window in the library, surrounded by people studying and reading.
I switched to 4B pencil to try to capture the old building in front of the modern tower blocks.
When the building work is complete the views of Birmingham and down into the squares will be a great location for drawing.
The next day (Sunday) I joined sketchers at Millennium Point, near the ThinkTank. It was another windy day, with some sun and blue sky breaking through from time to time. I found a spot that allowed me to try a view including the strange Selfridges building. It was very hard to find a way of representing this in pencil and watercolour! It emerges from the older and more dilapidated buildings and overgrown green spaces looking like something from another planet! In the afternoon we walked back to the library and settled outside the Symphony Hall. It was even windier and often we had to go in search of things that had blown away. I had a go at using collage from a ‘What’s On’ magazine I got the day before in the library. The strange reflections in the Symphony Hall were interesting to look at and hard to sketch.
I really enjoyed meeting up with sketchers I know and meeting new sketchers whose work I’ve seen. By the time we met in the Java Lounge at the end people were already talking of where to do it again next year – I’m already looking forward to it.
You can see more of the event and the sketches produced by others here.