Teaching at the underpass

This year I have twice taught introductory classes on urban sketching for our local Community Arts Centre. We have been sketching at a local shopping centre focusing on sketching the underpass and the toilet block.

I have actually become quite fond of sketching this underpass.

Strange subjects for sketches I know, however they are simple enough shapes to practice proportional measuring and drawing for people with limited sketching experience. I want to help people experience the satisfaction of making a ‘good’ drawing; good enough to encourage them to keep on trying.

I won’t go into the details of what this all means, suffice to say that getting the relative proportions relatively correct means a much more satisfactory outcome to the drawing.

Above is a quick sketch where I’ve demonstrated how to use a pencil to measure the proportions of the underpass.

Demonstrating the results of making light and dark shades with watercolour pencils. The challenge is encouraging people to use a wider tonal range, particularly strong darks, which if nothing else save the sketch from death by mid-tone values.

Secondly some suggestions on how to use watercolor pencils. Then a small drawing demonstrating how you can emphasize the background, rather than focus on a tree in the foreground of your main subject.

A small sketch using ‘negative space, to make a tree trunk pop out from the over pass railings behind it.

And finally my piece de resistance a sketch completed upside down. This sketch shows the relative values of the underpass and how to include the two trees in front of it, without them detracting from the main subject.

All my best ideas are nicked from other sketchers. This one is no exception. Alvin Wong, an urban sketcher from Hong Kong, once explained that one of the most useful skills he learned in his early days as an architect was how to draw and write upside down, while delivering presentations to clients. Not only does it impress the socks off people, but in this case I could demonstrate the ideas I was trying to share so the sketcher could easily follow my drawing.

Not bad for my first upside down drawing.

5 Comments

    1. Thanks Claudia. I had to think hard about what would help people learning new skills. My experience shows that most people are quite capable at getting to grips with some basic techniques. They are more likely to be undone by a lack of confidence in their ability to make a ‘good’ drawing. I have shamelessly borrowed all the good ideas that helped me from many of my urban sketching friends. As one of them said to me it is good to pass on the tricks and shortcuts, we want to encourage people after all.

      Reply

      1. I’ve been teaching a class in mixed media for some weeks and I find the same thing – the students question themselves, so I try to find ways to build skills through exercises or activities that they then can use for their own work. Like you said, we want to encourage people!

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