Saturday, 22 October 2011

Sociable Sketching

I had a break from the studio yesterday - went sketching with a few friends (Rona, Heather and Mhairi). Surprisingly the weather stayed fair, but it was a bit windy so we had to deal with the hazard of flapping paper.  But no other excuses, really.  We met on the Mound - an excuse to go for a nice coffee in Porto & Fi - and then it was down to business.  I wanted to sketch Victoria Street, but it was really windy up on the Terrace, so I drifted round to one of the closes off Johnstone Terrace.  I had spotted these interesting gables earlier in the week, and as a fairly simple image I thought it would be a good start.
Old Town Gables (Charcoal Sketch) copyright Aileen Grant

What I liked about these gables is the way the wee small windows are scattered apparently at random. The forms look so solid, too, harled and ancient, arising out of a jumble of buildings.  I then went down to the Grassmarket and found a bench to sit on - always makes sketching a bit easier.  The townscape looked a bit complex and daunting to sketch, but I found a good view looking out of the Grassmarket towards the Cowgate.

Sketch of Cowgate from Grassmarket copyright Aileen Grant
I used a graphite stick which rather suited the grey austerity of the buildings at this time of year.  The only two bits of colour were a little turquoise on the window frames in the Cowgate, and the red frontage of Armstrong's shop so I added just a little colour in oil crayon to remind me. That church steeple (must find out what the building is!) rises out of the darkness of the Cowgate and its shiny grey roof and golden cockerel weather-vane really catch the light. They form such a contrast with the darkness around.

I then attempted a skech looking up Victoria Street, but I really needed a taller sheet of paper and I was a bit cold. So stopped for lunch shortly after this.  After we got warmed up, Heather and I carried on sketching in the afternoon.  We both sat in Lady Stairs Close which had a bit more shelter. My effort in the afternon was a bit more interesting.
Sketch of Lady Stairs Close copyright Aileen Grant
Spent a lot of time trying to get the texture of the stonework - again using graphite stick (this photo doesn't quite catch it) and I was remembering how in first year at College we had these awful "Building Sheets" to do.  One of them was on stonework - ashlar, random rubble, coursed and snecked rubble, etc.  How we slaved over those A2 building sheets to try and draw the details perfectly in pencil. And now I try not to draw the stones too exactly, not to show the coursing and the mortar joints, but (through a lot of rubbing out and re-drawing) try to achieve a lightness of touch and a mystery about the stonework and the windows.  Trying to get the essence of these austere and forbidding but beautiful facades and those narrow escape routes out of the Old Town.
So it was a good day's sketching, and lucky with the weather.  Our next session will be November in Portobello...looking forward to it.....brrrr.

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