Manchester workshop – From Macro to Micro


Teaching a workshop during an Urban sketchers symposium is a real privilege. The will and enthusiasm of the participants in the symposiums gives such a great learning environment, and everyone´s style, techniques and skill levels are all ingredients that enrich the experience.


I had the opportunity to spend three days, with three different workshop groups, at the John Rylands Library in Manchester this year. This building is a real challenge to draw, with it´s peculiar shapes and rich details. Also, since the weather was overcast (to say the least), the façade didn´t offer much differences in light and shade, which made it even more difficult to capture is volumes on paper.


Want to have a look at the handout? It´s available at the bottom of this post.

In my workshop, called from Macro to Micro, we made a collection of sorts of this library, presenting it from it´s entirety to it´s tiniest details, on the same page or spread. We discussed how to fit everything on the page, planning a page layout, and also how to simplify the shapes of the building, to manage to draw it all in the limited time of the workshop (3,5 hours). We also looked into how to include the context around the building (people, city streets, street furniture), and taking colour notes, for those times when you don´t have the opportunity to finish your sketch completely on the spot. We also walked up close to collect some of the more intricate details of this place.


As always with urban sketchers, the participants blew me away with their generosity toward each other, where everyone shares their work in progress in the group gatherings. For me, it´s these gatherings that generate the most food for learning. Seeing how everyone meet the challenges, what problems they encounter and how they solve them, is something that everyone can pick up advice from. Even when the work isn´t finished, or maybe BECAUSE the work isn´t finished, you get a unique look into the process of sketching, and you realise everyone is doing it a bit differently – and everyone is therefore contributing to the collective learning experience.


Of course, the workshop time is usually too short for getting a lot of practice, but you get to try things out, see how others tackle the challenges, and hopefully, you take some new thoughts and tricks with you that you can try out and practice more when you´re out on your usual drawing adventures at home.

The workshop participants in this year´s symposium were of the braver kind. Manchester is a rainy city, and we had some really bad rainfalls during the workshops.


Two of my workshop sessions worked out anyway, because we found shelter under awnings, scaffolding, umbrellas and such. In one session, we had to head indoors half the time, which brought on new challenges – we weren´t allowed to use colours in there! But since we started outdoors, most people had already got colour sketches done before going monochrome indoors.


The weather is the reason why I didn´t get group photos of all the groups, or photos of everyone´s work – sorry about that! It was just too wet!

A great big hug and a loud THANK YOU to all my participants, thanks for your hard work, your contributing to the workshop, and for being so patient with the Manchester weather! :)

If you want to take a look at the handout for the workshop, you can download it in the link below. Mind you, the handout doesn´t contain everything in the workshop. It is meant as a help for participants to remember the most important points from the workshop. I know from my own experience as a workshop participant, that during the sessions, you are so hard at work, that you don´t have time to take notes or remember everything that is said and done by the instructor. I hope this little leaflet helps a bit with that.

From Macro to Micro – workshop handout
(The pdf was originally printed on both sides of an A4 sheet of paper, then folded twice in the middle. This version is web optimized, so images may not look great in print.)

8 Responses to “Manchester workshop – From Macro to Micro”

  1. Jules Woolford says:

    Great post Nina! Was it really a month ago already? :)
    Thank you for your generosity in sharing the handout, some great information and advice here which I know I’m going to find invaluable. x

  2. Rebecca says:

    So generous to share and loved reading your post. I just finished a workshop in Spain and the one thing I really struggled with is the amount of time in each workshop. I mean, I struggled with so much more, but time was always running out. I really got a sense that urban sketching in general is something that you need to be quick with, capturing moving targets and sunlight/shadows all takes a bit of a quick pace.

    • Glad you enjoyed reading it, Rebecca! Workshops are always too short. But then, as I wrote, I see it as the window of time you get to try someone else´s approach, and then you take that knowledge/approach and try it out for real afterwards. I don´t think I ever finished a sketch completely during a workshop I took, but I got lots of new ideas to try out for later. In my own pace – I am normally a rather slow sketcher.
      It´s a bit difficult as an instructor to exactly how much to include in a workshop – you don´t want to cram too much in there, so noone will finish, but then you want people to get as much as possible for their spent time and money too. Always a balance, I guess.
      Looking forward to hearing about your workshop trip to Spain! :)

  3. Limarea says:

    Tack snälla för “handouten” (vad det nu heter på svenska :D ) Så användbart även för oss som inte kunde vara med. Gillar verkligen din stil! :)

    • Tack! Jag vet knappt själv vad man ska kalla det på svenska. Folder, kanske? Men handout låter bra, tycker jag. :) Glad om du hittar nåt du har nytta av i den!

  4. Janet says:

    Your work is always amazing, Nina. Your students from the workshops seem to have produced some impressive works as well. Must be the great instructor! Thanks also for sharing some info from your workshop.

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