Sheffield Sketchcrawl

Richard Bell's nature diary, South Yorkshire, Sunday 26 September 2010


pigeonpalm, Winter GardensI’VE JOINED the Sheffield Sketchcrawl for the day and our last location on a chilly afternoon is the Hubs, a well-known local landmark built in metal sheeting and resembling four curling stones. I always find designed objects unsympathetic to draw – things like electric kettles and toasters – and this has that same designed quality, so I feel that I’m drawing someone else’s artwork, rather than getting absorbed in my own.

It would be a like a poet copying from an existing poem but attempting to do it in his own words while still depicting the original poem. Sorry, for subject matter, especially on what is supposed to be a fun sketchcrawl, I don't like designed (having looked at other people's drawings, see link below, I now realise that I've been missing out! Other people can see the possibilities)

So, I turn round and draw the cityscape (above). This is much more my kind of thing. It's a kind of still life arrangement of buildings; it reminds me of a cluttered shelf in a kitchen. The large banner ‘STYLISH OFFICES TO LET’ draped across the rear-end of the block adds a touch of humour.


sketcherWe started off the day in the Peace Gardens, which are on the site of St Paul's Church, where my granddad – my dad’s dad - was church-warden. Just behind me, there was, until a few year ago, a branch of what started as my mum’s dad’s business, Swift & Goodison. This was never my home town but the City of Sheffield has a lot of resonance for me.

I was shy of drawing my fellow students at the natural form drawing course a couple of weeks ago, but here we’re in a public space, so I draw whoever comes along. The cartoon film The Illusionist (L’Illusioniste) recently made a big impression on me and I’d love to get something of that sense of atmosphere and storytelling into my drawings today. But of course I don’t! So I feel frustrated but looking back at these sketchbook pages now they seem perfectly acceptable as impressions of sketchers at work.

My fellow sketchcrawler sitting on the wall (top left) astonished me, he was sitting on a wall, apparently perfectly comfortable, in an open-necked shirt while I, wrapped in four layers, was feeling the chill penetrating deeper and deeper. ‘You must be from Sheffield?’ I guessed. He was, and apparently inured to the cold.

passers by

From the more or less static sketchers, I felt that I should move on to the passers-by, attempting to capture a character in the minute it took them to cross the Peace Gardens.

manuscriptAfter lunch we were indoors and able to choose from several galleries adjoining the Winter Gardens. Of course I headed straight for the Ruskin Gallery. The mutton-chop whiskered marble bust of of John Ruskin appeared tense and lost in his thoughts as we went in but when our little group of sketchcrawlers left his gallery, heading for the Hubs, I'm sure he must have been smiling, with a twinkle in his eye.

I'm sure that he would have approved of our sketchcrawl.

Left: medieval manuscript in the Ruskin Gallery

Links: Lynne Chapman, children's book illustrator, one of the organisers of the Sheffield Sketchcrawl, which she has mentioned in her blog where you can find (providing it's still online by the time you read this) a gallery of the drawings people did on the day. Many thanks to Lynne and to Tim Rose for organising the event.

The Sheffield Telegraph was just one of the local papers that ran an article on the Sketchcrawl . Reporter/photographer David Bocking quotes me: “If I was at home I’d be hunched over a computer or doing something else, so today is cordoned off,” says illustrator Richard Bell – adding, in James Bond fashion, “It gives you a licence to draw.”