Sunday 6 October 2013

"Glastonbury With Dinner Ladies"

Way back in my last blog, I was sketching in the dark at The Soup Kitchen in Manchester.
What I didn't mention was that Mr. Price and I met two lovely ladies there who invited us to run a 'Little Urban Sketchers' workshop and to be official 'war artists' for Cavfest.
This is a family-friendly one-day rock festival run by the forward thinking Cavendish Primary school in Didsbury, Manchester.

As the day dawns, they've sold out of their 2,000 tickets, but when we arrive in the quiet of late morning, organisers and volunteers are peacefully setting up on the playing field.

However.. by three, the craft tent is a madness of parents and kids. Our little stall is set up to encourage youngsters to pick up pen and paper (supplied) and go out and draw a list of subjects.

It's a quiet start for us, other activities such as face-painting and drum workshops have more immediate appeal. And we're next to to the immensely popular Make Me A Monster workshop which threatens to push us out of our corner, with its ever-advancing army of still-wet, painted-box monster heads.
Look at my bloody jeans!” says Mr Price a couple of days later, showing me where he's caught his legs on some particularly lurid shades..

We take it in turns to oversee our budding artists or to go out sketching.
The sun's shining when I selfishly overstay my sketching time to draw Emma from Throwing Pandas and The Cornelius Crane, leaving Mr Price to the increasing volume in the tent.

I'm delighted to see children sat in front of the stage who are actually sketching! So it HAS worked!

Later on we're able to go out together and sketch the crowds and lean on the barrier in front of the bands. What a lot of babies and children there are- I feel quite unfashionable in my sproglessness, but liberated at the same time.

Evening falls with a light drizzle. Badly Drawn Boy is headlining, and we DO draw him, and his hat. “ I reckon he got a job lot thirteen years ago and feels he has to wear 'em all out” observes Mr Price.

At half past ten the evening isn't over yet as we've been given tickets for free after-festival drinks at a local tennis and bowling club. It's difficult to find and 'someone' has to refuel at a chippy on the way. Kindly locals try to give us directions and a nice young couple even lead us through the dark suburban streets lined with trees and Victorian villas.
There's the club, down a drive and, outside and in, it's a lovely old building dating from 1874. The organisers and volunteers are there, they're really pleased at what we achieved with the children and with our day's sketches, too.
And in an ever so humble and self-effacing way, so are we.
 A big thank you to everyone for an excellent day! 

Monday 8 July 2013

Rock On

    The Minx, The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
 I've been out sketching regularly with two different groups and I've noticed that not a lot of figure drawing goes on. Probably because the human form is the most difficult of subject matter and can ruin a precious sketchbook if we fail (I just stick some paper on top).
But- and this is especially for the urban sketchers among us- our towns and cities wouldn't exist without 'people to people them'.
To redress any imbalance in my own work, I've worn sackcloth and ashes and beat myself with a bunch of nettles, by choosing to sketch at music gigs.
The first's at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on a Thursday After a wait in the bar, noting down the colourful local language in my book....

I'm well served in the venue itself by having a view from a raised area, with chair and a shelf in front of me for materials. I've forgotten my small water jar, but the dregs of my beer make a good substitute.

       Leeds 6 All-Stars
When the lights go down I can see very little of my sketchbook, but realise it's a ready-made excuse for any failure. And this freedom produces a lively set of drawings which I mightn't have otherwise achieved.

    The Three Johns
..Saturday and we're on to the next gig- at The Soup Kitchen in Manchester. The venue's in a dank, dark basement hung with wires and pipes. There's just one table and two chairs in the place and when the bands come on, I'm too small to see anything, even stood up so I stand on a chair with my back to the wall to draw in fountain pen, adding wash and colour at the table after.
Next time I'll ask for a seat at the side of the stage.
     The Gull Wings
Thursday again, and we're at the Miners Community Arts and Music Centre, Moston, Manchester, where there's a benefit gig to help pay for heating to be installed. I meet the affable Stuart Maconie who's there with other folk from Salford's Media City. 

By the dance floor. Moston
It's a bit dark for it, but with a seat in the second row and an easy view I draw singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop. What a nice lady, she wants to pose with my picture afterwards!
And what have I learned? To be less precious, to go with the flow of circumstances, to respond individually different subject matter, to stand (and sketch) in the gloom , on a chair, after a couple of beers.       

Wednesday 1 May 2013

From Urban Sketch to Urban Paintings

    Salford Quays, Panorama

 The sketchbook has been traditionally regarded as a mere artist's tool, a starting  point for larger, longer real pieces, the finished paintings.
 I've long thought that it's unfair to judge the merit of a work on how long it took ... a laborious, dogged two years with a .01 brush and umpteen glazes, or  five minutes with pencil, joy and exuberance? What's worth more?

                         Here's Rubens' sketch of cows..

                       ..and here's one of his more 'worked' pieces. What happened to that left arm?

 A drawing reveals, too, a lot more about an artist than the 'greater' works- there's a lot more freshness, honesty and a disregard for painting's vagaries of fashion.
In fact, it's sometimes hard to tell exactly to which century a drawing might belong! Who's this long-haired hippy/hippie then? Answers on a postcard please, no prizes.

 I see the sketchbook as a delightful record and an unique insight into an artist's interests and character.
So..I've included my own books in my exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery and, in their little display cabinets, they give life and warmth to a roomful of formal, framed, wall-hung work. The earliest dates from 1952!

There are over fifty works in the exhibition-  I was surprised and pleased that what I'd achieved fitted nicely in the gallery space. It was as though I'd planned it, and I'd never lain awake in the nights, listening to my heartbeats,  fretting about having enough to fill the huge room!

Despite blizzards on the opening night over a hundred souls braved the elements. I don't know how many got home.
 Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking' at such events... I didn't, and left the job up to the excellent Ann Bukantas, who is not only Head of Art at National Museums, Liverpool, but also a kindly friend.

                                         Ann Bukantas with Alastair Price

Many thanks to my sponsors, to all those who helped with the show and encouraged me along, and to those who supplied food for the opening- on the way out I was told it was delicious.
  Mmm! That sustaining glass of wine and two crisps certainly helped  on the 26 mile, snowbound, home-bound journey!

 Caroline Johnson, Manchester and Rennes.


Friday 8 March 2013

Out and About and Inside In

Life's been so hectic with work to finish for my solo show at Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

 It opens on 23rd March and we're in the throes of invites, press, publicity, framing, pricing, and catering for the private view on the Friday evening. Help!!

I've made time, however, for some urban sketching (often with Manchester School of Art Urban sketchers) which will form part of the show... it's on until early July and during this time I'll be out and about drawing Salford and Manchester.

I'd like to Tweet where I am on these days, too, so people can come and see what I'm doing. Not that they usually need any encouragement!

 It's my way of bringing art to the people, the ones who mightn't usually set foot in a gallery, and it's an important side of urban sketching which shouldn't be overlooked.

At the same time I'll encourage them to have a look at the exhibition- and dispel any preconceptions that the artist is a recluse producing unfathomable works which are removed from any reality.

Well, that's the idea anyway- they might just see me as some mad old bag whittering on about unconsequentialities!