Monday, February 25, 2013

Urban Life: Describing City Spaces Through the Life Lived There (Workshop K)

Instructors: Marina Grechanik and Ea Ejersbo
Location: Mercat de la Boqueria

The workshop will provide an introduction to a number of ways the subject may be approached. We will look at a selection of examples, illustrating various artists’ ways of exploring and incorporating urban life in their sketchbooks.

The workshop will focus on describing city spaces through the life lived there. Focus will be on people and activity, and we will explore various ways to capture the sense of life and activity.

We will cover ways to animate a scene, deal with the changing scenes of people coming and going, and make use of the sketchbook spread in composition.
We will show our approach to sketching as sinking into an environment, understanding it, and becoming a part of it.

John W. Gardner  said that “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser”. Urban Sketching is perhaps the closest you can get to this “real life” form of art - we sketch life while it is happening. Our sketches capture not frozen moments, like in the movie “The Matrix”, but moments and actions as they are happening; so our sketches include many moments that occurred over a period of time, forming together a kind of static animation.


Approximately 15 minutes - introduction

Exercises - 3 exercises of 30 minutes to 1 hour duration each

30 minutes to conclude - sharing our sketches and insights


1. Looking for the story and capturing its heroes
The exercise will include 2-3 quick sketches in monochrome only (pen, brush pen, graphite pencil) (10-15 minutes each)
  • observe the place you are going to sketch
  • choose your "heroes"
  • characterize the people: who they are, what their stories are, the mood, what they are doing, what they are up to
  • observe and give a name to your sketch - general impression, a message that you want to capture and express
  • choose which object or person to give detailed care and which parts to use loose sketching
  • choose which parts of the scene you will include - what to draw and what to leave out of the frame

2. Room in your sketchbook - making use of the space/spread and leaving room for imagination
2-3 sketches using medium of your own choice (15-20 minutes each)
  • focus on composition
  • make use of the sketchbook format, incorporating the gutter, letting the format of your page/spread dictate the composition
  • incorporate empty spaces and unfinished parts in your sketch
  • stick to indicating, rather than minutely describing, minimum one element in your composition - inviting the viewer to participate with her/his imagination

3. Capturing the moment with watercolour and watercolour pencils
1-2 sketches (40-60 minutes in all)
Use a combination of watercolours and watercolour pencils. Try to apply the principles we’ve learned in previous exercises. We will try out some new approaches to working with watercolours.
  • examples of use of watercolours and watercolour pencils will be demonstrated
  • focus on using shapes and lines together to build a form - avoid drawing contours and colouring them in afterwards
  • be expressive, show it in the way you sketch - different strokes, shapes, splashes, etc.
  • tell a story trying to apply the principles we’ve learned in previous exercises and using the “new” approach to watercolour

Learning goals

The workshop aims to give participants the skills to approach people-sketching and urban storytelling with confidence.
  • To gain an understanding of urban sketching as a way of life, an activity that can be a part of our daily routine
  • To improve observation ability
  • To learn how to find stories in everyday situations
  • To acquire new techniques and approaches to sketching people
  • To become more aware of how the sketchbook format can be used in composing an image
  • To gain insight in how watercolour and watercolour pencils may be used together in quick sketches
  • To enjoy an activity that gives us the possibility to experience urban life in a very deep and authentic way

Supply list

Participants will need a sketchbook and a selection of drawing tools in minimum 3 different colours/types - e.g. marker, colour pencil, graphite, brush-pen. For the exercises in non-traditional use of watercolour medium, participants will need a set of watercolour and watercolour pencils.

More sample sketches


Inma Serrano said...

Can´t wait to be with you two in this workshop. Love your works!

José Louro said...

Great workshop!!!
José Louro

Marina Grechanik said...

Thanks a lot, Inma and José! I admire your two both works and SO looking forward meeting you in BCL!

Unknown said...

I am looking forward to draw with you two! Your workshop sound really great!! :D

Marina Grechanik said...

Thanks, Aurora! See you in Barcelona!

Patrizia Torres said...

I am looking forward meeting you in BCN and see directly how you get such animated pages !

Lynne the Pencil said...

Rats - I can't do yours, as we clash!! Looks great though - have fun x

froy said...

Thanks, all - looking forward to sketching with you in Barcelona!

Brenda L Murray said...

Hi Marina and Ea,
I feel so lucky to have registered for your workshop before it sold out! I'm sure I will learn a lot! Really looking forward to it!
Brenda Murray
KW Urban Sketchers,
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Marina Grechanik said...

Hello Brenda! thanks and I'm looking forward sketching with you together as well!