5.1 Edges recycled: Aldeburgh sketchbooks

Edited from Illustration 2 Part 2.1 Reportage Illustration

  • Exercise 1: Drawing on the familiar – sketches from different locations walking around the town.
  • Exercise 2: Drawing on location – sketches of the Aldeburgh carnival.

For these two exercises I chose to work on a portrait of Aldeburgh – a seaside town in Suffolk where we go camping or for the day at weekends. There were two series of sketches drawn on a series of short holidays in summer 2016 around the Aldeburgh carnival, supported by photos and video.

Overall assessment

I really enjoyed sketching on location, and want to do much more of this type of sketching to become really confident and develop my own style. I like sketching with pencil, particularly quick drawing with a thick clutch pencil, and generally work over the image rather than rubbing out. I also like using a Rotring pen because I have to draw spontaneously – though I can alter emphasis and tone with a waterbrush wash. Using simple black and white media, I can draw quickly and there is a lot of potential for reworking images through printing out and overdrawing, or digitally on an iPad or in Photoshop. With reference images and/or video.

I am quite happy sketching alone and found people quite friendly – when I say that I am studying and learning I do not feel too embarrassed showing what I have done. In general, where people and particularly children are involved, it is actually less sensitive to sit drawing than taking photographs. The main challenge was the sun – that requires knowing the location and which spots are shady when. And some events are just very difficult – as in the procession where I could not find a good vantage point in the shade.

Ideas I plan to experiment with in future location projects in Aldeburgh and elsewhere:

  • pastel and graphite and/or acrylic and/or gouache and graphite, using pastel/acrylic to block out colour background, then different line styles of graphite on top. But I need to improve my drawing skills as it is difficult to rub out. With acrylic I can also use pen. The other two clog the nib.
  • watercolour – using just watercolour spontaneously like Zen
  • ink and wash – but I need to experiment with different line styles as well as colour combinations
  • crayon/watercolour crayon/Inktense
  • thin coloured pens with water-soluble ink
  • iPad

Apart from improving my sketching to produce better sketches on location, I also want to experiment with a wider range of styles drawing on East Anglia artists and illustrators – though much of this is more commercial eg

Some of the artists exhibitions at Snape Maltings Gallery are more inspiring – including linocuts and abstracted oil landscapes. Aldeburgh also reminds me of the work of artists like Katz and Diebenkorn and I would like to try some more experimental paintings and screenprints.

Exercise 1: Drawing on the Familiar

TASK: Use your sketchbooks to draw a space you are familiar with. Draw the location, the people and activities taking place and use notes to capture your thoughts and feelings, dialogue and other details that can help to bring the drawings to life.Try and capture the day to day life of the space with all its comings and goings, busy periods and quiet spots, activities and events. You can spend a chunk of time doing all the drawings in one go, or work on them over a period of time.

My first series of sketches in my sketchbook were mainly done on day trips and short weekends April – August 2016. The drawings covered different parts of the town.
See brochure with map and key landmarks. I mostly used pencil and an A4 landscape format sketchbook. This worked quite well in terms of portability, but also gave me plenty of space to try out ideas and put multiple sketches on the page. I did not normally rub out. But there was the option of printing on paper and then painting over, or working up digitally.

Top beach: The top beach near the carpark and campsite is very flat with shingle. With curly sea holly and a few isolated groups of people along the line of the beach against the sea horizon. In the mornings particularly, there are many people running along the beach. In addition to preliminary sketches I took some video from which to practise drawing moving people.

Fishing: Apart from tourism, the main industry of Aldeburgh is fishing. The fishing boats still go out. Early in the morning the beach is quiet as many of the boats are out, and most of the tourists still in bed. In the afternoons people are sunbathing by the boats. A key market for the fish are the many tourists who come and buy fish and chips at the wooden fish houses along the sea front – with their many seagulls.

Main beach: The main beach in the town has lots of possible places to sketch people.

Streets: There are many quiet back streets, fish shops and pubs.

Martello Tower and end harbour: At the end of the town is an old lookout tower that is now a hotel. Next to a yacht marina. I did sketch the marina in summer 2016 because there was too much else going on in the town that I was interested in. It was also very hot and sunny with no shade.

Exercise 2: Drawing on location

TASK: Use your sketchbooks to produce a series of drawings and notes that documents an event of your choice. Try and produce a body of work that depicts the event over a period of time. An event can be defined as something happening within a limited time slot, but you can also choose to interpret the term ‘event’ more loosely. It can be a private celebration or your local football match, a Saturday market or the arrival of workmen to dig the road.
Choose something that offers you the opportunity to explore your particular style of drawing, so think about the dynamic of the event and how this relates to how you draw.

For this second exercise I chose to sketch the Aldeburgh May music festival and August carnival. I continued to sketch in the A4 landscape sketchbook, mostly in pencil, but also tried ink with a Rotring pen that I could convert into a wash.

Aldeburgh Music festival: May 2016

Aldeburgh has many festivals during the year to attract the tourists out of London and nearby towns like Colchester. The first one we went to was an arts and music festival with events on the beach. This was only for a day and we were commuting from Cambridge, so I did not have time to sketch so much. Also I think there may be Copyright issues sketching or photographing other peoples’ art. But these glass icicle posts and the way they were wired to produce sound music was beautiful – also the piano playing on the beach. This image would make a very interesting surrealist painting – cross between Hopper and de Chirico.

Aldeburgh carnival: August 2016

Stalls: With these sketches I started to redraw them, and also print them out as light images and draw over with pen and wash or pencil and Inktense. These sketches are good for practising drawing figures from memory – a similar treatment to the British Museum exercise in Part 1.

I took some reference photos below. But I felt more embarrassed standing and taking photos of people setting their stalls up than I did sitting and sketching. So I only took a couple – though if this had been a photography exercise I could have asked people and done it properly. The photos are also very flat and lack any energy – unlike what I saw. But photos from later in the day could be used as the basis for interesting watercolours. Also collage – with their crowded colour clash feel. My partner doing a photography course actually got commissioned to take photos of the stalls – promise of payment if they were any good!

Fair rides: On the way to the fair rides is a children’s boating pool with the statue of a dog. The dog looked really mournful early in the morning dwarfed by the climbing mountain (folded up at the back) as if its territory had been invaded.

Punch and Judy: Punch and Judy always reminds me of Dave McKean’s illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch ( See Google Images).I could do something really effective with these images if I experiment with different styles. Possibly like a drawing I did a while ago in the same Pastel and line style of Mr Punch, using the sketches and photos below and other Punch and Judy images from the web.

The Climbing Cliff and Bouncy Castle were interesting to draw. The main problem was keeping out of the sun. So I could not stay too long. I tried to do a watercolour of the Sky Ride. It was difficult (but interesting) to get the perspective right. I need to experiment with this one in ProCreate. It would probably work well in pastels with smears for the hair. As well as coloured ink pen – if I was good enough at drawing.

The Merry-go-round was one of the easiest places to sit in the shade and sketch as it is just next to a shelter with quite comfortable benches. No one minded me sketching at all, and most of the time I was not really noticed. Some people came and started chatting – a few artists as well. There was lots of inspiration here with the many different people who came, peoples’ faces and different relationships. As well as the opportunity to practise speed sketching of the horses themselves from different angles. I used a Rotring pen to practise drawing at speed where I could not rub out. I actually really enjoyed drawing in this way – forcing me to be bold and not think too much – not to take things too seriously – just have fun in the moment.

I took a few reference photos and a short video on my small compact camera. But here also I felt much more uncomfortable taking photos – particularly because of the children I did not know. Sketching was much less sensitive.

Donkeys: The donkeys were down the road just by another sitting place. Here I made friends with the lady who ran it, and she really liked me drawing. Again it was much less sensitive to sketch than to photograph the children. Though I did have to be careful not to sit too long and let the parents sit down.

Carnival – the big escape: further development for self-publishing

I originally thought of developing these images further for Project 4.2 Self-publishing, together with some more sketches from Aldeburgh carnival in August 2017. When I got home I started by collating my different sketches and editing and combining these in Procreate, colouring them with pastel, ink and/or wash brushes. I also tried collaging and drawing on collaged photos.

My favourite sketches were of the girls on the merry-go-round seeming to fly and/or be chased by other horses dreaming of freedom, and the girl on the reluctant donkey that just wants to chew grass. The style I had in mind was somewhere between Olivia Lomenech Gill and Ronald Searle. Trying to further develop the Procreate techniques I had explored with my drawings in Cambridge for Assignment 2 A Sense of Place. – ideas of stuckedness and freedom – partly drawing on Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round at the Tate Modern. There are many ways in which I could develop my sketches by redrawing, or again printing and over painting in ink and wash.

I then coloured and combined these in Procreate into a set of 10 double page spreads that could be printed in a small square stapled booklet, incorporating also some images from the previous project.

Although it does not work yet, I thought this series was potentially interesting if redrawn either in gouache/pencil/ink or with better iPad skills, with a more coherent narrative with more images from a future visit at carnival time. I had in mind a humorous graphic novel ‘Carnival: The Great Escape’  with new drawing done specifically for that purpose around that idea of escape: escape to the seaside, escape from the merry-go-round, escape through drink or snoozing. With the Punch policeman in the way and the stone dog watching. I could also think about incorporating photos and collage, playing with ideas of dream and reality as in McKean’s work in the Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch. I would need to think more about the narrative to underlie this revision of the illustrations. Maybe instead of dreams of escape we just need to stay still and enjoy the moment?!?.

The weather at the carnival procession itself was too hot to draw and from the shade I could not see over peoples’ heads. So I took photos to draw from later with my DSLR camera. I used these photos later as the basis for silhouette cut-outs in Project 4.5b Paper Circus. As these photos were technically good, these form part of the image sequences I develop further in this module as an event-based narrative for Assignment 2.2.1 Carnival: the Great Aldeburgh Escape. 

We went back to Aldeburgh in June 2017 – the basis for Illustration 2 Assignment 4: ‘From the Edge: iPad Art from Aldeburgh, but unfortunately were not able to go to the August carnival again that year because our motor-home broke down. I am hoping I can work further on this in August 2019 and/or 2020 for part of Assignment 5.