My workshop at the 6th Urban Sketchers symposium in Singapore was called Light in the space inbetween. The workshop location was in Princep Street, at the charming Selegie Arts Centre building. I had three sessions, with 15 fabulous participants in each.
Basically, we were dealing with two things in this workshop:
1. how light changes on it´s way down to street level in a city. Light gets reflected by facing buildings, weakened by tall buildings, “eaten” by trees – in short, there is a lot less light at street level than at the top of the buildings, and knowing/seeing this adds a lot more atmosphere to a location sketch. (The quick example sketch above is from Renstiernas gata in Stockholm.)
We also looked at how different kinds of shades usually take on different values. For example the shade side of a wall is darker than a sunlit wall, but the shadow that it casts onto another wall will usually be even darker, as in the example above (from Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona).
2. how to mix watercolours without making mud of everything, and then treating this changing light with colour in your sketches. Here I demonstrated how I work when I mix watercolours. In theory, I use this colour wheel as a guide, to add a bit of complementary colour to darken or dull down a colour. But of course in reality, pigments do not always behave the way you think they will. To get good at colour mixing you need to know your colour palette well! I also did a demo on how to do a relatively trouble-free gradient in watercolour, without too much blooming and brush strokes showing up. I use a lot of gradients in my sketches, when working with light and shade.
So, in the workshop, we started out with pencil sketches, to concentrate on seeing light and shade, without worrying about colour at this first stage. As usual, all the participants very generously shared their results with each other, and we had some good discussions about what happens with the light between the buildings. In one of the workshop sessions, the weather went from bright sunshine to overcast three times, which added some interest to these discussions.
Then we went on to sketching the absolutely charming Selegie Arts Centre in colour, to practice some watercolour mixing. I am sure some of my workshop participants now have a love-hate relationship with this building, since it offers a lot of tricky light/shade challenges, as well as difficult colour mixing, especially when the weather changes. Everyone did a great job, and found pigments in their palettes to work on the shadows in the façade.
In the last workshop sketch, the participants put all this stuff together, and drew a subject of their own choice, and worked with both light and colour mixing at the same time. I am always in awe of this stage of a workshop, when everything comes together and sketches of all shapes and styles are created! It is so much fun when everyone returns at the end, laying out their sketchbooks on the street for the end discussion. Everyone is looking, pointing, asking each other questions, and sharing their own experiences with the group. This is such a great learning opportunity, and everyone is welcome with their input/questions/tips and tricks.
It is an absolute luxury to teach in these symposiums, because you have students that are super dedicated and interested, from all skill levels and from all walks of life. Everyone is willing to try anything you suggest – and share their results with everybody else in the group. And the cool thing is that I often see very experienced sketchers learning something from the beginners, as well as the other way around, which of course will encourage the beginners to keep up the good work.
A big thank you to all the participants in my workshop this year! You worked so hard and were so dedicated, in spite of 31°C and blazing sun! I am still full of energy and inspiration from seeing your efforts and fabulous sketches! And a big thank you to my assigned assistant, Siew Huan Kok, who took a lot of the photos in this post.