Playing with point of view and bending the rules of perspective 

Even in the rain, Manchester is a brilliant city to draw. Everywhere you look there is something going on between the past and the present.  

The juxtaposition of the grand, ornamental Victorian buildings, the gritty  mills – brick ghosts of city’s industrial past – and the sleek lines of  its modern architecture create visual music. You’d think it would be a jumbly mess. But instead, it’s like watching musicians jam together. It’s exciting. 

Today’s workshop got about 12 of us out of the rain and into Manchester’s Barton Arcade to bend the rules of perspective with Swasky – a talented illustrator and fearless guide to stretching our point of view.

“Our way of using perspective to express space is a convention,” he said, “…it doesn’t  necessarily capture the real sense of how we experience a space. Our eyes are always moving, taking in the whole scene by combining multiple perspectives simultaneously.”

So right in the middle of the busy arcade – we learned to combine multiple perspectives into one sketch – (mostly) seamlessly using “hinge points” to transition from one view of the space to the next. Kinda like drunk drawing really! I loved it because Swasky’s technique  gives you a tool to play with the limitation of two-dimensions and wing-it when perspective feels daunting.

The drawings we did remind me of Art Brut – dynamic, slightly wonky and alive. And that’s how I like my sketches – not perfect, I can take a photo for that – but acting as doorways to reverie.

Urban sketching in Manchester: the secret to getting started 

After getting my bearings and adjusting to the scale of the place, I found a spot in the All Saints park near The Manchester School of Art to sit and draw all the urban sketchers.  The city of Manchester is more beautiful than I had imagined – truly a city of contrasts. Victorian detail in brick and stone set against the minimalistic lines of glass and steel. The city has a pulse!

But to get started after taking a 2 month break from drawing to take care of other projects – the only way was to jump right in with loose contour sketches of people. I needed to start by just dropping a line! Contour drawing never fails to push through inhibitions and remind me that sketching is a joyful practice.

There are 500 participants from 44 countries attending the Urban Sketchers Symposium  in Manchester. Seeing so many other people who love to draw and capture the spirit of the city in their sketchbooks sure makes me feel at home here. 

Where to sketch on a rainy day

April was full of surprises. Last week, with the forecast looking rather wet, I spent an afternoon sketching under the glass dome of “The Dry Room” at the University of Zurich’s Botanical Gardens. The warm palette of the desert plants made me forget the grey sky outside.

Happily absorbed in drawing the Echinocactus grusonli’s (I didn’t make that up) spikey bits and the Opunita robusta’s (my favourite) funky shapes – I barely noticed that the rain had stopped and the room was not only dry, it was downright toasty.

Located near Seefeld, you can visit the Botanical Gardens year round for free. The spot attracts the most ameniable people. I spoke with the gardener about his favorite plants and enjoyed a coffee – always sketch within reach of a coffee shop – with a gentleman who visits regularly to photograph the subtle changes even just a few days can make.

The grounds are beautiful and next time I’ll take a pic nic and have a snooze in the grass between sketches! Unless it’s raining. If it does, I’ll be back in The Dry Room with the Parodia magnifica from Brazil and the Copiapopa cinera from Chile.

Take a collapsable, light-weight camping stool with you.
Have to go back to paint this one!
Step by step cacti
Progress shot of the Echinocactus grusonli – the big round one in the background.
The domes housing the tropical gardens.