Archives for category: Drawing

Fallen leaves

The days are so short now that the light is often fading by the time I get up to the park, so I’m watching where I put my feet (it’s often muddy) and with my eyes down what I mostly see is the ground. But this is often the best place to look for the most colour and beauty on a dark misty afternoon. I can’t help picking up leaves one after the other just to marvel at them – whole trees look spectacular when they turn gold, as some do – but individually every leaf is a world of beauty. There are so many of them lying around everywhere, making a nuisance of themselves on the paths and lawns and having to be raked and swept up – and yet each one taken separately is so incredibly lovely and every one unique.

Most of the trees have lost their leaves now, and this year some never turned the truly glorious colour we hope for in Autumn anyway, but near the Beechcliffe entrance there are three handkerchief trees that always turn a wonderful golden yellow, and these still glow in the fading light, so yesterday I did a fast sketch of one of them before the cold made me move on.

Handkerchief tree

I did a brisk walk, round to the pond, (enjoying the fountains) up to the Castle (a quick look at the animal houses that are still not finished, but it was too dark there to draw) and over to the playground where there were a few mothers, hands in pockets and coats zipped and buttoned, with children all open coated and un-gloved running about and climbing on things with never a thought for the cold.

Mothers in the playground

It may be damp and cold (and the forecast is for it to get colder) and the afternoons may be short and dark, but out there in the park there’s colour and life in the landscape. 

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For a long time now I’ve been thinking of ways I could share the experience of walking about in the park with a sketchbook – not just by showing other people what I do but by giving them the chance to do it themselves, and get to know how it feels. Some months ago I was excited to get together with Louise Garrett – a sketching friend and fellow member of Yorkshire Urban Sketchers – and we started to plan ways we could do this. Last Thursday we ran our first experimental Sketchwalk.

We wanted to make this a welcome-all-comers occasion, something that would be enjoyable for people who’d never sketched before as well as for more experienced sketchers, so we worked out a programme we hoped would be good for everyone and invited some volunteers to come and try it out.

One of the best ways I know to relax and warm up your eye-hand co-ordination and to have some fun is to do some blind contour portrait drawing. You make a hole in a piece of paper and stick this over the pen you’re using, covering your hand so you can’t see the paper you’re drawing on, and you then draw ‘blind’, simply by looking at your subject and feeling your way. The good thing about this is that not even an experienced sketcher is going to be able to make a slick clever looking drawing, but amazingly it seems that everyone always makes a hilariously half-way recognisable portrait – and it’s a great ice-breaker. 

Blind contour portraits

We used ordinary A4 office paper and smooth-flowing ballpoint pens, resting on clipboards, and after we’d done a few of these sketches and laughed at the results we trooped off into the park to do some outdoor sketching using the same materials.

Sketching standing up – one of the things we wanted to help people feel comfortable with!

The café terrace is a great place to sketch from

There are some wonderful new sketching locations now – the glasshouse terrace has some great vantage points. I was a bit worried that we were throwing beginners in at the deep end here, (figuratively speaking) but we suggested starting with several quick sketches before meeting up again to compare notes and it turns out that blind contour drawing really does the trick – it makes you realise that you can sketch something without being worried about what happens on the page, and you’re more inclined to look a lot more at the subject and less at what your pen or pencil is doing. Amazing! 

All kinds of things to draw – quick sketches on the Glasshouse Terrace

We weren’t short of interesting things to draw. I started by sketching part of the castellated top of the Tower House with the delicate white fleur-de-lis ridge decorations of the glasshouses silhouetted against the old dark stone (I added the colour later when I got home to emphasise the dark-against-light, light-against-dark) but I soon became distracted by watching the rest of the group and I started sketching the sketchers. It was a cold day and luckily everyone had dressed up properly – Louise had even come wearing two pairs of trousers, which says a lot about what sort of sketcher she is – absolutely determined to get out and stay out in all weather. 

My page of quick sketches on the café terrace

She’s a phenomenally fast sketcher, too – maybe this helps her to keep warm as she can move more quickly from place to place. I can’t draw for longer than 10 minutes or so at a time without taking a break, and I can’t get anything like as much down on the page as Louise can. It’s fascinating to watch her drawing at breakneck speed with intense concentration.

A few of Louise’s sketches… 

and one with a splash of added colour!

After a while I paused to move to a different viewpoint and couldn’t resist doing a bit of landscape sketching. This is the view across Airedale from the Glasshouse terrace – 

When I got home I splashed some paint onto it as an experiment – this is just ordinary typing or printing paper, not designed for watercolour – but apart from the fact that the paper crinkles like crazy it is possible to get some colour down in quite an interesting way. 

We deliberately used simple, basic, cheap paper because we wanted everyone to see how you can make perfectly satisfactory drawings on paper like this and not be intimidated. Sketchbooks can make you feel a bit self conscious – and loose paper sheets are better for sharing and looking at drawings at the end of a session. Smooth flowing ballpoint pens are good for this kind of sketching, too – you can make strong dark lines and faint ones equally easily, and there’s no question about whether or not to rub something out so that’s not a decision you have to make.

At the end of the morning we gathered back indoors for tea and cake, to warm up and talk through what we’d done and how it had gone.

In just a morning there’s a limit to what you can hope to do, and of course some people had ‘how do I do such-and-such’ questions. We kept it simple, and I hope there will be other opportunities to expand and grow on what we were doing, which was very basic. 

We learnt a lot from this trial run. Even though the group was small we had a good cross-section of people with very different levels of experience and got some very helpful feedback. Our aim was simply to help people feel comfortable about sketching in the park and to see how drawing helps you to focus, notice things, and put everything else on hold for a while – and everyone agreed that the sketchwalk did all that, so together with having a very enjoyable morning, I’d say that counts as a success. There may be some things we’ll do a bit differently when we do this again, but I think it’s a good start – and we’re looking forward to the next time! 

Not too long ago I was sketching up at the glasshouse terrace, the only part of the park that was still a building site. Walls were being built at the edge of the walkway that will curve along the front of the animal houses and aviary, and I was watching (and sketching) a skillful bit of bricklaying. After a while the bricklayer stopped to go off in search of something and as he passed me in the carpark he asked what I was doing, so I explained. (It seems he hadn’t been working on the site all that long and hadn’t seen me before). 

The conversation went like this:

Bricklayer: Are you an artist?
Me: Yes. I’ve been drawing this project since the beginning….
Short pause.
Bricklayer, thoughtfully: Only difference is, I draw with a trowel, and you draw with a pencil. 

I liked this, and wrote it down – though I didn’t really need to write it to remember it. It says a lot about what drawing is. Of course bricks (or Yorkshire stone) aren’t a sketchbook and a wall isn’t a drawing, but a trowel is a tool just as much as a pencil or a pen, and bricklaying and drawing both require eye/hand co-ordination and a lot of practice. When you do a lot of it and practise often, you get better at it and it more often goes well. Not always – and I imagine bricklayers have good days and bad days just as a sketcher does, though the consequences of a bad bricklaying day could be more serious and long lasting than the times that I do wonky unsatisfactory drawings. I can just turn the page and start another sketch, and try not to mind when things don’t go right – though it’s a fact that I never get over the feeling of uneasiness whenever this happens. After days of not drawing, when I need a lot of warming up before anything will flow there’s always a small sinking feeling, a nagging little voice that says you’ve lost it, it’s never going to go right. It does come right, eventually, after a fair bit of exercise, but it always feels the same. 

I was talking about this with a sketcher-friend of mine recently, Louise Garrett, and she had what I think is the brilliant idea of carrying a rough book around as well as a current sketchbook. Something to scribble in and do quick drawings with lots and lots of looking, lots of warming up. Drawing is like dancing, or singing. It’s a physical-neuralogical-emotional thing, and you have to respect that and be patient. And just do the work. 

My ‘Drawing The Work’ project and the exhibition now on in Cliffe Castle are going to be the focus of the October session of Bradford Museums’ ‘Responses to Art’ programme – this coming Thursday, 5th October, 10.30 – 3.00. Very unfortunately I’m not going to be able to be there myself, but Joe Bean from Yorkshire Urban Sketchers is going to come along and talk about Urban Sketching – and hopefully bring lots of examples of his own work. Joe loves building sites just as much as I do and draws them brilliantly – he’s just done a wonderful series of sketches of the demolition of the historic South Stand at Headingley Stadium. I’m thrilled that people will be able to see his work at Cliffe Castle and have a chance to hear him explain what Urban Sketching is all about – like me Joe is a passionate urban sketcher! 

Anyone interested in going along on Thursday should ring Cliffe Castle to book a place, on 01535 618231. It should be an interesting day! 

Today the ongoing work in the park was merely a backdrop to a very important annual event, and I made sure I was there to meet some of the visitors and to try to sketch a few very quick portraits. 

Teddy bear sunbathing

The sun shone. In fact it was hot, which perhaps explains why a lot of bears simply lay around on picnic blankets, in various bear-like positions. Though some adopted more thoughtful and even strenuous poses…. 

Short haired bear doing yoga

I’ve often wondered if bears are interested in yoga. This one seemed to be holding a pose with a placid and peaceful demeanour and I couldn’t help thinking this would be a good addition to a picnic. Teddy bear yoga – or perhaps teddy bear Tai Chi? I’d find a bit of practice of that sort in the company of teddy bears very calming – they’re even less stretchy than me, and very much better at acheiving peaceful stillness. Something for next year? 

Teddy in a pushchair

This is Jasper (I know that by his necktie) who was one of the few bears I saw to have acquired a really comfortable seat. No doubt he was going to have to ride home in less style when his owner reclaimed the buggy but in the meantime he was reclining contentedly and observing the crowds queueing for balloons. 

Fluffy grey Me to You bear

And by the time I left some bears like their young owners were looking a bit sleepy…. some were getting squashed into carrying bags or tucked under arms or into the luggage carriers of buggys. This is Baby Bear, a fluffy grey long haired Me To You bear, waiting to be picked up and taken home. 

I took my own bear along to see what was happening. He’s been with me for almost as long as I can remember (off and on – over the years he’s had sabbaticals and gone on expeditions and adventures of his own; at one time he was a remedial teaching assistant) so he’s getting to be a venerable age. People were duly impressed by this – he must have been the oldest bear there. 

Bear accompanying me sketching

The best parties are the ones that are not necessarily the most spectacular, but all you remember is having fun and enjoying the day! 

Sketchers preparing for a behind-the-scenes tour of the unfinished glasshouses

Unexpected fun – Sketchers preparing for a privileged behind-the-scenes tour of the unfinished glasshouses

Museum sketching in the Conservatory - Gina Glot's drawing of the carved marble urn

Museum sketching in the Conservatory – Gina Glot’s drawing of the carved marble urn shaped like a shell

I was so busy meeting people at the Garden Party last Sunday that I didn’t get a chance to do any sketching, but luckily there were others who did! At long last I had the chance to meet up with sketchers who until now I’d only known online, through Yorkshire Urban Sketchers and Sketch That Leeds. For them it was a chance to enjoy the action, to see some of the things I’ve been sketching in the park all year, to explore and draw in the museum – and to get a behind-the-scenes look at the still unfinished work when they were taken on a tour of the glasshouses (hence the hard hats). 

Sketchers from Sketch That Leeds, drawing dancers in the museum

Sketchers from Sketch That Leeds, drawing dancers in the museum. (Note the vital piece of equipment peeping out of the bag; I thought for a minute Helen had brought along a little friend but the weather was a bit variable – we all came prepared)

Sketching the action

Sketching the action (I never got the chance to see the drawing so I don’t know if the fellow in the foreground who looks about to dash in and join the dance got into the picture too….)

Meeting Sketchers at lunchtime in the Lodge

Meeting Sketchers at lunchtime in the Lodge

Joe Bean's sketch of the jazz trio playing outside the Conservatory

Music in the park; Joe Bean’s sketch of the jazz trio playing outside the Conservatory

The tour of the glasshouses was an unexpected extra and although no-one got a chance to sketch there, everyone realised what an exciting place it’s going to be from a sketching point of view. The views are going to be magnificent and the buildings themselves are going to be even more wonderful when they’re planted up with ferns and succulents and cacti and the Norfolk Island Pine. And of course, there will be the café! 

Mel Smith Parks Manager showing Sketchers the glasshouses

Mel Smith the Parks Manager showing Sketchers the glasshouses – standing on the terrace that will be in front of the café

In front of the café

The open end to the café glasshouse row

At the end of the café row of glasshouses the structure will be a covered roof, with no walls – so you can sit or stand there sheltered from the weather but still enjoying the fresh air and with uninterrupted views across the lawn to Cliffe Castle and Airedale

And the exhibition of Drawing The Work is now open in the museum, in the Breakfast Room next to the Conservatory – a long glass cabinet displaying my sketchbooks and drawings, accompanied by some of the objects in the sketches, watched over by Queen Victoria’s beady eye…. 

Display in the Breakfast Room

Sketched objects, and the objects themselves

Display cabinet with drawings

It’s humbling to see my work on show alongside the extraordinary objects and works of art in the museum. There are some wonderful things in this room and it felt quite startling to come into the museum and see my drawings and sketchbooks next to the things that I love to sketch! Over on a table in the corner are the four facsimile sketchbooks next to a welcoming sofa where people can recline in comfort and browse the books, under the gilded chandalier in the marvellous surroundings of what was the Butterfield’s everyday dining room. I love this mixing up of the past, the present and the future – and I’m so enjoying being able to share my sketchbooks like this. I look forward to meeting more of the people who like me are fascinated by the way history unfolds in front of us day by day – and to more urban sketching! 

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site back in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Back in April, the bank beneath the glasshouse terrace that stretches between the museum and the junction of paths at the top of the hill near the playground was planted with rhododendrons.* Just last week, a lot more planting started and the lawn in front of the bank is now laid out as planned (I’ll get to sketching all this sometime soon) – but the bank of rhododendrons got me really excited when I first saw it more than a month ago. As soon as the plants were in it looked lovely, but in only a few days some of the little bushes started to throw out buds which soon began to hint at opening, and at this moment they looked so extraordinarily exotic. It made me realise how the Victorians must have seen them, when these plants were new arrivals in England – there’s such drama and excitement about the way the buds prepare themselves as if they’re going to explode into something alien and unknown. As I sketched them I was wondering what they reminded me of and I found myself thinking not of plants at all, but more mythical things. They look like dragon’s eggs, about to hatch. 

Perhaps this isn’t quite as crazy an idea as it might seem. The rhododendrons that were originally planted all along this bank – and on the other side of the house as well, so the the building stood framed by an arc of glorious coloured blossoming bushes – all came from China, famously a land of dragons. And just overhead, clutching a weather-vane and gazing balefully across the lawn towards the Aire Valley is a more gothic, Northern type of dragon, hard to see clearly in detail because it’s perched so high up, but a landmark visible from all over this part of the park.  

A few days later the buds opened and spilled out in a riot of colour. I have to confess that I don’t often get this excited by horticulture, but all this was somehow so much more than I’d expected – I suppose I’d got caught up in the story as much as the drama and beauty of the flowers. 

For such a long time up until now the daily stories in the restoration project have been about chopping down, digging out, excavating and construction, and the landscape has been one of mud and frequently churned up grass – so the start of planting and the sight of these flowers seemed like a real celebration and the start of something new. There’s so much more to come! And already it’s possible to imagine what this part of the park will look like at the same time next year….. more beauty, and lots more stories. 

* For those interested in such things I asked about the varieties of different rhododendrons planted and they include Edith Bosley, Snow White, Mothers Day, Horizon Monarch, Mrs Lowinsky, Albert Schweizer and Delta. The ones I sketched are (probably} Horizon Monarch. 

POSTSCRIPT: it’s not long to go now until the Saltaire Arts Trail – the weekend of the 27th to 29th May – and I’ve sent in another entry to the Postcard Exhibition to be held in the United Reform Church in Saltaire Village – a drawing of a fantastically gnarled old root grubbed out during the relandscaping somewhere in the park. All the postcards will be on display and for sale (at extremely reasonable prices) with the proceeds going to The Cellar Trust – so if you fancy an original watercolour of a genuine Cliffe Castle root get along to the exhibition! 




More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

As part of the Grand Opening Event at the end of July, I’m excited to say that Cliffe Castle Museum are going to be putting on an exhibition of all my sketchbooks and drawings from the Drawing The Work sketching project! 

Kirsty Gaskin the curator has come up with a really clever plan for the exhibit – to have a static display with the drawings and sketchbooks behind glass with the pages turned over day by day, but also to make two facsimile sketchbooks for people to handle and look through. I think this is a real brainwave, and I’m so lucky to have the museum putting all this into action. 
I’m absolutely delighted about the exhibit because I hope it can demonstrate how sketching can be a really unique and exciting way to record a project of this sort – and I’d love to encourage more people to do it. It’s been interesting to realise over the course of the restoration project just how how my sketching has had unexpected benefits – not just for me, but also for the Conservation Group, the museum, for workers on the site and for visitors to the park (- I’ll write a bit more about this later on in another post as it’s something worth exploring). 

While I’m announcing things – I want to say a big thank you to Yorkshire Urban Sketchers and to the international Urban Sketchers movement for all their inspiration, support and encouragement, because without them I would never have started any of this, let alone been able to carry it through. 

The Grand Opening is on Sunday 30th July, and will be an extraordinary Victorian themed day with some amazing attractions – follow the link to the announcement on Facebook and more details will be posted nearer the time. Posters are already up in the park. Put the date in your diaries!  

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Looking towards the drive from Dark Lane at dusk, in January

The evenings are getting lighter now, the days longer. A couple of weeks after Christmas I stood about half way along the Dark Lane path and sketched this view across the field at about 3.30 in the afternoon; now I can walk up there at the same time and catch the sun while it’s still behind the treetops and casting long shadows over the field. There are snowdrops and crocuses, buds on the trees and birdsong everywhere. 

There’s also an awful lot of mud. It can’t be helped; we’ve had a lot of wet weather, the diggers and dumpers have churned up the lawns where work is continuing, and removing all the shrubs from the terrace borders has been messy. It’s getting better –  new plants will be going in soon, more land drains have been repaired which should improve the places that have always tended to get soggy, but there’s still a lot to do. 

High-vis jackets brightening up a landscape full of mud

As we’re coming to the end of winter and looking forward to spring, I  thought it would be a good time to look back at what’s been done as well as what’s still to do – so here’s a round-up of the stories I’ve recorded so far and a hint of what’s to come. 

Demolition of the car park wall

It all started last summer with the careful demolition of part of the car park wall, and then work began in the main site on the top terrace behind the car park; the old glasshouses were taken down, the animal enclosures removed, and the site was prepared for new building. A lot of earth moving went on at this time, with plenty of impressive heavy machinery and the viewing windows in the security hoarding were much appreciated – by me, as I could now see what was going on and sketch it – and by small children and dogs, who could look through the low level window (now unfortunately missing after the Christmas storms). Small boys loved the diggers; dogs were more interested in the rabbits

Digger and dumper seen through one of the viewing windows

Some interesting things were found during the demolition and the digging of trenches and foundations, some of which will eventually be on display in the museum, but in the meantime I was able to sketch them and wonder about their stories. 

Assorted metal objects found with the assistance of a metal-detector

After what seemed like a long time, building work started on the foundations for the glasshouses and a simply gigantic circular concrete container was set in place where the domed palm house will be (except instead of a palm, this will be be a Norfolk Island Pine); eventually the framework for the glasshouses started to go up and the dome and its cupola were carefully assembled and glazed, before being lifted by an enormous crane one chilly February morning, watched by assembled crowd of contractors, park and museum staff, conservation group members and Councillor Sarah Ferriby from Bradford Council. 

Glazing panels for the dome carefully wrapped in plastic and delivered on pallets

The elegant shape of the pond, following the exact contours of the original ornamental lake

The pond is a story in itself; being much more visible it’s been easier to draw – you can follow progress herehere and here – and the carved marble fountains which have been taken away for conservation work will soon be back. 

Dark Lane path behind the bandstand under construction 

With so much mud around one of the best paths for walking on at the moment is Dark Lane, along the top of the lower field – one of two completely new all-weather tracks. Other paths have been resurfaced and now new sitings for benches are being laid (- soon there’ll be completely new places to sit and sketch)… 

View across Airedale in January, with the afternoon sun fading fast

Right now there’s work going on at the pond, on the bandstand, on the flights of stone steps leading up from the lower terrace to the museum and on the glasshouses. Lots already acheived, but plenty still to do –  and many more discoveries to make and stories to tell.

  
More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site in June 2016 and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

This week the dome is going to be raised and put in place on top of the glasshouse frame, and to celebrate this landmark event I’m making a selection of my sketches available to buy as prints, from Photobox.com. (You can see these collages here on my website.) If you’d like to know more, send me a message through my Contact page and I’ll send you a link to the album and the password you’ll need to access it so you can have a look. The fee you’d pay to order is simply the cost of the prints from Photobox. 

Over the last week the dome that will be the crowning centrepiece of the top stretch of glasshouses has been gradually assembled on site. It sits there looking huge (will it seem smaller when it’s up in the air?) and now it’s being glazed. The curved glass panels arrived carefully packed in lots of plastic wrapping and strapped to wooden pallets – and it’s toughened glass, not plastic, so what with the structure of the dome itself the whole thing is going to weigh 9.5 tons, which is going to need a big crane to lift it. All being well this is going to take place this Thursday, and needless to say I plan to be there to watch…..

Glazing panels being unpacked

I’m finding the dome itself a real challenge to draw – first there’s the difficulty of getting the curves and elipses right, especially hard when drawing standing up and in a smallish sketchbook – and then there’s the question of how to deal with the glass. I haven’t managed to get it anywhere near right but at least every time I draw it I learn something more about its shape and construction.

Dome and cupola partially glazed and almost finished

Watching it being raised by crane and lowered into position is going to be so exciting…….!

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.

Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley is being restored with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work started on site back in June and I’m following progress and sketching whenever I can.

Another landmark in the work on the top terrace – the framework for the central section of glasshouses has started to go up. This will be the circular, domed structure that will contain a Norfolk Island Pine planted in the most enormous container that’s already in place. (I sketched this at the end of a dark afternoon when the light was fading fast and I could see just well enough to make out what was going on.) 

Many of the plants that were in the old glasshouses were removed before the demolition and stored for safety, so some of these cactii and succulents will find their way back into the new planting schemes. But in the meantime, behind the scenes, a lot of work is going on to plan and devise what to plant and how best to arrange it. 

The Victorians were obsessed with ferns. There’s even a word for it – Pteridomania – they couldn’t get enough of them, and wherever possible they planted them in exotic and dramatic settings imitating a kind of romantic woodland, incorporating old dead roots and stumps of trees. (The oldest and most famous Stumpery is at Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire and photographs of it show something weird and gothic, looking like something straight out of Middle Earth.) 

Rooteries are simpler, more natural, and less contrived. Last week Dan Palmer the Heritage Parks Officer put together a collection of roots and the odd bit of stump collected from uprooted bushes from the park hedges and planted a few ferns and other plants as an example of what might be done. I loved it – I think I even recognised the root from drawing it where it was lying outside during the previous week – and I just had to do a sketch of this sample Rootery. 

The planting schemes for the whole park still have to be finalised and it will exciting to follow; it has taken an enormous amount of research into the history of the original gardens and to source specimens of just the right kind. Only this week there was exciting news about rhododendrons…… but more about this another time!

More updates on the work of the conservation project, photos, plans, and background information here, and at the Cliffe Castle Park Conservation Group website and on the Parks Service page of Bradford Leisure Services.