Symposium Day 3: More Rain; Prison Inspiration

[by Tina Koyama, Symposium Correspondent in Manchester, UK] “It’s raining again. . .?” I muttered to the man in the elevator this morning when he got in with wet shoulders. “That’s Manchester,” he replied with a chuckle. Smiling ruefully, I pulled my hood up as I walked to the School of Art for Day 3.

First up was Veronica Lawlor’s Puzzling Out the Picture. Sitting next to Veronica on the shuttle bus to Castlefield, I learned that the focus of her workshop would be learning to show depth and dimension in sketches. I could see why she chose Castlefield as a location — all the layers of bridges, supports, canals and walls break up the wide spaces into interesting compositions. Watching her talk to her class, I stood at a distance and tried to evoke that multi-layered space.

Meanwhile, a short distance away, Shari Blaukopf’s class learned to use a limited palette in Bare Bones.

By the time of the lunch break, the rain was coming down harder than ever, so I dried off at the School of Art. To accompany my soup, I sketched a couple of young men who entertained us with lovely classical music. (Behind them is the wall of car sketches in tribute of Florian Afflerbach’s memory.)

Here’s a view of the musicians from above — and some of the many sketchers sketching them.

Refreshed and ready for more, I walked upstairs, where Mark Leibowitz was leading a discussion among USk regional chapter coordinators. With varying levels of experience, the coordinators shared ideas for growing their groups and managing sticky issues.

By the time I got down to the main floor again, the Big Crit was well under way. Using a method that reminds me of speed dating, sketchers worked their way around various instructors, who offered constructive feedback about specific sketches in a short period of time. I knew that Liz was planning to cover the Crit among her correspondent’s assignments today, so I decided to sketch her doing just that. (After all, I figured, the work of the correspondents should be documented, too!)

My last sketch of the day is the one you see at the very top of this post. Usually I like to put my favorite sketch at the beginning of the post. Although this one of Nelson Paciencia giving a presentation is not what I would call my best or favorite sketch, I put it at the top because the hour I spent there made the biggest impact on me so far at this symposium. Through his own initiative and funding, Nelson made regular visits over the course of many months to a high-security prison in Portugal, teaching inmates to sketch. Initially he had hoped to introduce them to urban sketching concepts by drawing from life, but this proved too difficult when the inmates were forbidden from having any objects to sketch. Despite many obstacles related to prison restrictions and bureaucracy, Nelson endured. Over time, he was rewarded with seeing inmates who had never drawn before start to draw from pictures and eventually from their imaginations. 

Although he has had to temporarily stop his visits for lack of resources, Nelson has found that working with inmates has been a life-changing experience. “I am a better father, a better husband, a better man” as a result, he said, and intends to continue working with them again as soon as possible. 

I left the presentation feeling inspired and hopeful about how the act of drawing changes lives — both for the people who do it and for the people who make it happen.




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