When it comes to urban sketching, there is a world of tips and techniques to make your experience easier and better. From choosing handy tools to clever ways to paint: from sneaky ways to master perspective to knowing when to use the right ink for the right pen, there are myriad things an experienced instructor can share with their students. This workshop is all about practicality: producing results that look fantastic but are actually easy to do…with the right know-how.
Join me in Dublin City this Spring, March 20th – 23rd, 2020 and I will share some of the things I’ve learned with you. It’s pretty cold in Dublin in March, so the locations we’ll visit are indoors – but roomy enough for everyone.
Thursday 19th March: Meet and Greet – venue and time to be confirmed
We will meet to say hello and have a drink and possibly a bite somewhere in Dublin City Centre. I will let you know when I have arranged somewhere nice.
Friday 20th March, 9.15am-12.30pm: St Patrick’s Cathedral
After our morning debrief, we will head to the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Patrick’s Street, where Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels) was Dean in the 18th Century. There are plenty of challenges for a sketcher in terms of breaking down a very complex scene, and I will show you straightforward ways to tackle them in the huge, but warm and pleasant, surroundings of one of Ireland’s most famous cathedrals.
There are many places to eat or explore in the immediate vicinity. Christchurch is almost across the road, and the colourful and characterful Liberties area of Dublin is nearby, with Ireland’s main art college, NCAD – my alma mater – just a street away.
Friday 20th March, 2.00pm-5.00pm: Marsh’s Library, Patrick’s Street
Enter Marsh’s Library and you step back 300 years. It is as if time has stood still: the smell of the ancient books, the fact that nothing, but nothing, has changed throughout all these years. This is where Bram Stoker (Dracula) spent much of his time…perhaps you’ll come away with your head full of scenes of 19th-century Transylvania, as Mr. Stoker did! After a short guided tour, we’ll take up our spots and get sketching. We can use dry materials only here – those books are precious – so the emphasis will be on inks and drawing….and, when necessary, how to paint afterwards and still retain freshness.
Dinner – free to make your own plans
Saturday 21st March, 9.30am-12.30pm: Trinity College, College Green
Dublin City is busy and fast-paced but once you’re through the gates of Trinity, you’re safe – it’s not exactly calm, but it is traffic-free and certainly quieter than the streets beyond the walls, and there’s loads of room for us all.
The Library at Trinity is worth a visit: similar to Marsh’s Library but on a much bigger scale. Admission is €16 for an individual, but if everyone in the workshop would like to go we can get a group rate of €12 (available for groups of 10 or more). The original Book of Kells has not been on display for a few months, but should be back by the beginning of March, so we have a good chance of seeing the original. Please let me know if you would like to visit the library so that we can plan our visit. If the weather does not permit us to sketch outdoors, there will be an alternative venue arranged in or near Trinity.
The grounds of Trinity are magnificent. Everywhere you turn there is another elegant Georgian building. Rows of windows can be off-putting, but I have a practical way to draw them easily and accurately. I’ll show you how to capture the play of light and sunshine across the panes – and share my tips and materials for making those panes stand out. Very useful for the many windows you’ll encounter in your travels.
I will show you my technique for including people in a busy scene: how to get their scale right, even as they’re in motion.
Saturday 21st March, 2.00pm-5.00pm: National Museum, Kildare Street
The National Museum is where you’ll find golden torques, bog bodies, the Ardagh Chalice and other precious treasures from Ireland’s past. It’s another “dry” location, so we’ll concentrate on drawing. I’d like to let you in on ways I approach structures that look complicated but don’t have to be: how to involve different planes to make an exciting, dynamic scene where you make “perspective” look easy.
Dinner – free for everyone to make their own plans
Sunday 22nd March, 9.15am-10.45am: Bewley’s café, Grafton Street
On Sunday morning we’ll meet in Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street for a debriefing, but we’ll also have a hearty breakfast / brunch, because the lunch break will be shorter today. Bewley’s is iconic, old-world, beautiful, and you’ll want to try your hand at sketching your surroundings. I’ll give you some tips for drawing your coffee or tea so that you’ll always be able to capture a nice foreground, wherever you happen to be. You might also try your hand at sketching a few of the customers – or each other! – and I will share some of my tips for getting people at close quarters drawn quickly and expressively.
Please remember to purchase something in Bewley’s: we will be a large group, spending over an hour there, and it’s important that the proprietors and staff smile when they see sketchers coming! I must say that a scone I had there with butter, jam and cream (I’m afraid so!) was one of the best I’ve had – and there are loads of coffees and teas on offer to tempt you.
Sunday 22nd March, 11.00am-1.45pm: National Gallery of Ireland, Merrion Square
On Sunday morning we will head to the National Gallery of Ireland, where we’ll see the best of Irish art, and some beautiful art from around the world. It’s fun to draw in galleries – the weather isn’t always right for sketching outdoors, no matter where you live – and they can be great places to practice common surfaces such as marble, polished wood and stucco…not to mention the visitors (and their reflections in those shiny floors) who are guaranteed to give you a minute or two to capture them before they move onto the next painting.
Lunch 1.00pm-1.45pm (optional)
The National Gallery has a large café with lots of choice. You can have a quick lunch here before our next stop. This lunch break is shorter than the others because of the later start, but we will have recently come from the wonderful Bewley’s!
Sunday 22nd March, 2.00pm-5.00pm: Natural History Museum, Merrion Square
This Victorian building is a treasure trove of natural delights: skeletons, stuffed mammals and birds, bottled specimens…a real Dead Zoo. It’s a great place to have fun with non-narrative compositions, which is to say adding whatever you like, wherever you like, according to your whim. Matters of scale and sequence are cast to the wind for this session, and it’s truly a place to have some sketching fun and express who you are.
Dinner at Wagamama @6.00pm – join if you wish!
Monday 23rd March, 10.00am-1.00pm: Natural History Museum, Merrion Square
The people who run the National Museum have very kindly allowed us to come and sketch in the Natural History Museum on Monday morning, when it is closed to the public. We will have access to the balconies and generally have the place to ourselves. That is why I would like to invite you to sketch there with me on Monday morning. This is an unstructured, informal session, and you can come to me and ask me for help with any issues you have. Everyone will be free to sketch exactly as they please, which is a lovely way to end a workshop, as it can be intense, not to say tiring. I will start with a discussion of how I will approach my sketch for the day, followed by a demo. You may then follow that theme or do your own thing – it’s up to you!
The workshop starts at 9.15am on Friday 20th March and ends on Monday 23rd March at 1.00pm. The cost per person is €360. While a non-refundable deposit of €100 secures your place immediately, the balance is due by February 14th 2020.
You will need specific materials for this workshop. You may have many of them already. Here is a list:
- A small metal watercolour box that is light enough to attach to an A5 sketchbook (I can supply one tiny empty box + magnetic tape, one per participant, fits 12-13 half-pans)
- Magnetic bulldog clips to attach your small paint box to your sketchbook
- An A5 sketchbook smooth enough to take pen and heavy enough to take watercolour (180gsm+)
- Twelve – fourteen colours of artists’ quality watercolour in half pans
- Three fountain pens of your choice, with converter to load different inks
- Three colours of waterproof ink
- Two quality waterbrushes
- Small, sturdy water container that’s nice and stable
There is lots to do for any sketcher’s companion in Dublin. Guided tours of the city and the old distilleries and museums are everywhere. Take the train north or south of the city to beaches or hills. There really is something for everyone.
Accommodation in Dublin City can be expensive so if you’re interested in this workshop do book as soon as you can. Some accommodation can be booked through booking.com below. The city centre is easily accessible by light rail, so anywhere along the Dart (as it’s known) is very convenient.
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