Liège in drawings

July 16th, 2018

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I felt like I won the grand lottery when I was invited to Liège in Belgium in May, to sketch the city with 200 other urban sketchers, during the Dessiner Liège 2018 event. Three days of sketching in the company of others, enjoying great food, exploring an interesting city and making new friends. Such a pleasure!

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One of the initiators of this event was Gérard Michel, avid urban sketcher and Grand Master of Complicated Perspective (check out his Perspective games album on Flickr!). Gérard is a great source of inspiration to me drawingwise, and such a great person to be around. I only wish my French was more fluent so I could speak properly with the man! Oh well, I´ll practice until next time.

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On the first day, there was an opening reception at Liège City hall (Stockholm, you have so much to learn), where the mayor welcomed us all to draw the city.

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Strolling around town with my sketchbook I kept bumping into urban sketchers on every corner. You need never wander alone at an urban sketchers event.

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The first day was a bit rainy and cold, and of course that was the day when some of us decided to head up to the Terraces des Minimes to sketch a panorama view of the city. Took me all day, apart from a warm-up lunch, where I had the pleasure of being portrayed by Vincent Desplanche.

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In this event, every participant got an accordeon sketchbook, handmade by the Liège urban sketchers. And in a very clever way, they organized an exhibition of those sketchbooks every evenings, in a beautiful room at ESA Saint-Luc Liège (École Supérieure des Arts). So much fun to see what everyone had been up to during the day!

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Eating is always interesting in the company of urban sketchers. Usually, there is not much room for the actual food on the table, since everybody´s sketchbooks and drawing gear is already filling the surface. Fun, though, and I feel lucky to have been sharing so many meals with this crazy drawing crowd.

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On the last evening, the local vintage car club came by the ESA Saint-Luc with their gems, a treat to sketch!

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After the Liège event, our sketchbooks were on display at the Saint-Luc, along with work of the students at the school. So much beautiful work on display!

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Barcelona workshop with PYSB

July 16th, 2018

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In April of this year, I had the opportunity to join PYSB, Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries, in Barcelona to teach a workshop called Watermarks, all about watercolours in urban sketching. Behind PYSB are Isabel Carmona and Swasky, expert workshop organisers and teachers, and this time me, Isabel and Marion Rivolier were the lucky instructors of a fabulous group of sketchers.

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PYSB keeps a very nice format in their workshops, 30 participants divided into three groups, with one morning and one afternoon workshop session each day, for three days. As a teacher, that means I meet each group twice, ten people at a time, so plenty of time to get to know everybody, and nice amount of time to spend with each and every participant, for feedback and discussion. And Barcelona is always fab, no matter what you are doing there, so this whole event was a real treat!

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We were moving around the Barceloneta for all the workshop sessions, and got to work in different kinds of environments – squares, streets, beaches and parks. La Barceloneta is a fairly small area, so no need to travel far for each session, we had everything we needed within walking distance.

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Our main hub was the Centre Civic Barceloneta, and each morning, Swasky and Isabel added images to the photo wall that they always keep during their workshops. The photo wall is a great way to a) let the participants see what the others have been doing the day before, and b) spread the word about Urban sketchers to the surrounding community. The wall grew every day, and it became a daily habit to swing by to see what had happened since yesterday.

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The beauty of urban sketchers workshops is that everyone is so generous in sharing their work. Everyone learns from everyone else, newbies and professionals side by side. As a teacher, I seldom have a more perfect pedagogical setting, everyone is interested, eager to work hard and then show their work and discuss their experiences. So much fun.

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The whole Watermarks workshop experience was an amazing treat for me, I came home tired but full of inspiration and ideas. So grateful to have had the opportunity to join in with this lot in drawing a lively and beautiful part of Barcelona.

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Bic Cristal – surprisingly great

February 18th, 2018

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On a whim, a while back, I bought myself three Bic Cristal pens, you know, those classic cheap no-good ballpoints that´s been around forever. I bought one black, one blue and one red. And I started drawing with them.And wow! These things are pretty fantastic drawing tools!

They´ll give you super soft hardly visible values, and strong, bold colour, depending on how much pressure you put on the ball point. The ink flows surprisingly well, and it´s easy to make nice transitions between light and dark.

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I have been plaing around with using the three colours together, or one or two together with my usual fountain pens with black ink, putting one colour in the foreground and another in the background, to make a clear distiction between the two. I was a bit surprised how well it works to use bright red as a background colour in the top drawing!

These drawings are from the last meetup of 2017 with Stockholm Urban Sketchers. We had lunch and listened to super cool music with South Station Stompers at a bar called Lilla Wien at Södermalm in Stockholm. Such a great environment to draw in, we stayed for hours! :)

Top drawing: 19 x 25 cm, Pilot Falcon with black DeAtramentis document ink and Bic Cristal ball point, bottom drawing: 19,5 x 16 cm, same drawing tools, only different Bic colour. Both on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook pages.

Urban sketchers Eskilstuna

February 15th, 2018

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I am part of the Urban sketching community, and Stockholm has it´s own local group that meets up on the last Sunday of every month to draw together. Good fun, of course, and new friendships as an extra bonus.

Due to work, I have had the opportunity to join the USk group in Eskilstuna too.  The Eskilstuna crowd has a higher tempo than we do in Stockholm. They meet every Tuesday lunch, do a sketch, have a fika and chat, and then head back to work. For me, this limited time is a challenge, but a lot of fun. I am constantly trying out ways to speed up my sketches a bit, not always succeeding, but the process is fun.

20 x 20 cm, Lamy Safari with De Atramentis document ink, and watercolours, on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook page.

Drawing everyday chores

February 10th, 2018

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Doing laundry is a great chance to draw one of those things that we do without even thinking about it. It is a slow process and leaves heaps of time for sitting down, observing the everyday grind. Which always turns out to be more interesing than you´d think.

18 x 26 cm, Pilot Falcon with DeAtramentis document ink and watercolours on Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook page.

Century pens in Chicago

February 10th, 2018

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I have to add one more thing about the Chicago trip in the summer of 2017. I had heard beforehand of Century pens in Chicago, so of course had to visit. I have never really been to a store completely devoted to fountain pens before, so this was a real treat.

Ed Hamilton is such a nice guy to chat with, and a neverending source of knowledge about fountain pens and inks. I had a great time hanging out in his store for a while, and of course, the visit added a pen to my collection – yet another Pilot Falcon.

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I´m almost embarrassed to confess that I own three of these (they are not too cheap – although less expensive anywhere else than in Stockholm). Two of them are customized for extra flex, while this one, from Chicago, is the original semi-flex pen. The customized ones are lovely to draw with, but very sensitive with their flexibility, one cup of coffee too much and my lines are squiggly for hours!

I love drawing with the Pilot Falcons, they suit me so well. The resin barrel is lightweight and rather small, which I love, and the Soft Fine nib gives a very fine line. (Though I wouldn´t mind trying a Medium out too…). They´re real workhorses, I have never had any trouble with ink flow in these pens, even though I´m not an avid pen cleaner.

If you are into fountain pens, and plan to visit Chicago, DO give Century pens a visit. It is such an inspiring place, and a good chance to get some serious fountain pen talk off your chest! :)

Quick sketches in Chicago

January 7th, 2018

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I spent one of my last days in Chicago with fellow urban sketchers Liz Steel and Suhita Shirodkar. I am usually rather slow when I draw, and quite enjoy the process of spending time on a drawing, so no worries there. But hanging out with these Queens of Quick Sketching, their speedy habits made me want to let go of some detail, and keep up with my company. So, lo and behold, a sketch done in about half an hour (while sitting in blazing sunlight, at that!). It actually works! As much as I like details, you don´t really need that much of it to capture the essence of a place. Fun, and something I need to practice a lot more.

Otherwise, when I want to speed things up a bit, due to time constraints or so, I usually simplify my colours, as I did in the demo sketch below during the symposium. Sloppier drawing, loosing a few windows here and there, and working with only two complementary colours is my go-to repice for speeding up the sketching process.

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Top sketch: approx 20 x 24 cm, bottom: approx 19 x 17 cm, both drawn with fountain pen with DeAtramentis document ink and watercolours, in Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook.

The L

January 3rd, 2018

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The L train, or El for “elevated train”, was a fascinating feature of Chicago. I have only seen this in movies and tv-series, some when I was quite young, so actually standing there in the noise of these rattling trains made me feel nostalgic, strangely enough. Wabash avenue quickly became one of my fav streets in downtown Chicago.

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Top drawing: 42 x 29 cm, fountain pens with DeAtramentis document ink, grey Copic Multiliner and PITT Artist brush pens, bottom drawing: A4 size, fountain pens with DeAtramentis document ink, grey Copic Multiliner and watercolours. Both in Stillman & Birn alpha series sketchbook.

Workshopping in Chicago

January 1st, 2018

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My workshop in Chicago was called Make room for a view, and the top of the Kemper Building was the perfect place for it. We had the whole top floor at our disposal, with panoramic views in every direction. I could not believe my eyes the first time I went up there – THE VIEWS!!

We worked our way through some basic perspective rules (and at this height you actually have good use of three-point perspective too), simplification of details (a tough part, with aaaall those windows out there…), and aerial perspective, for those who wanted to work in colour.

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Being a workshop instructor in an urban sketchers setting is a real treat. The best part, in my opinion, is the sharing of work that is so generous and free-flowing in these workshops. When we gather, either in the middle of the session or at the end of it, everyone opens up their sketchbooks to let everyone else in to their process. It doesn´t matter if you work professionally with sketching as an everyday tool or just got started on your drawing journey, if you finished a fantastic sketch or just barely got your first lines down on paper – everyone shows what they are working at. And this is where the magic happens. Seeing someone else´s process with a subject you are working on yourself is golden. This moment is so much fun! Questions are asked, discussions arise, tools are tried out, techniques and colours are looked at, and everyone sees something great in other people´s work – and gets possibilities suggested for their own!

And I promise you, I learn just as much as my workshop participants, from a teacher´s point of view. Everytime I teach one of these workshops, I get at least ten more ideas for the next time!

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My three workshop groups during the urban sketchers symposium in Chicago. See those happy smiles? That´s what drawing together does to you!

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Another treat you get as an urban sketchers workshop instructor is the possibility to take someone else´s workshop. I usually go for the ones that do things that I normally don´t.  This year I signed up for Marion Rivolier´s How to reach the sky, to try out her fantastic ways with watercolour. Wish I had had a couple of sheets of proper watercolour paper with rough grain for this, since this is more about wet paint than my normal sketching technique, but still – so much fun! And I have oh so much to learn!

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New Year´s interlude

December 31st, 2017

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This is perhaps not the most successful sketch of the year, but it´s definitely the last – had to bring out the watercolours in the cold at least once on this side of the new year! Aspudden in Stockholm was gray today, but people were cheerful, full of expectations for new year´s eve. A family with kids stopped by to chat, which is always good fun.

Happy New Year, everybody! I am sure 2018 will bring us the normal harvest of good and bad, but I hope it will also be full of creative endeavors and lots of love and friendships! See you next year!


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