Into The Valley, Rossendale.

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Mill Chimney with Distant Fells, Rossendale.

For some time now I’ve been involved with The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery in Rawtenstall, to the North of Manchester.
And in case you didn’t already know, this post-industrial area is known as The Rossendale Valley, characterised by the steep sided valley of the River Irwell and its tributaries which cut through the high moorland of the Rossendale Hills. In the valley bottom, urban settlements grew up at river crossing points between Rawtenstall and Bacup.

 

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Millworkers clogs, Whitaker Museum

Textile mills and chimneys and gritstone terraced houses are the dominant buildings and roads are concentrated in the narrow valley. There’s a striking contrast between the forbidding mill towns and the sunlit heights which form their backdrop.

We have such a wealth of subject matter for the sketching workshops I’m giving at the museum (Thursday evenings, with wine, other beverages available!) ( nb we’re currently discussing another batch of sketching workshops, this post was originally published in June- if you’d like to be involved get in touch with the Whitaker ) and for The Big Draw, which took place late last year..

The museum’s in a Victorian mansion with lovely views over the surrounding park and town, towards the fells. Inside, there’s an eclectic collection of objects, including stuffed animals- some quite frightening- and birds, and an excellent café.

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Various objects, Whitaker Museum

Everything you could ever need for a few hours spent happily sketching or not, and with refreshments to hand!

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Cakes at the Whitaker

The BBC Philharmonic

Monday, 17 March 2014

I was pleased to have the opportunity to sketch this orchestra over a couple of days. Their publicity department had used my picture of Ordsall Hall, where they’re playing this very week, so I made a deal to sit in on rehearsals.
They’re based in Media City UK on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford.
The BBC’s  move marked a large-scale decentralisation from London, and the North of England has profited from this. From the top floor of the building we could just about see Coronation Street’s factory wall- what a thrill!
It took at least the first morning’s drawing to feel comfortable, and to have some sense of the direction or focus my work might take. Because this was a rehearsal, the music would start and then suddenly stop and the conductor would gently encourage the musicians in a mixture of English and Italian. This was a bit distracting at first, and the longer pieces of music encouraged inspiration and a better flow to the pencil.
 
The musicians were a nice bunch, interested in what we were doing, as we were in them- we’re all artists, aren’t we?!
I used my sketches in the studio later, along with photographs, to produce a larger work, below.
 
 BBC Philharmonic, Studio Drawing 44cm x 122cm
This is one of the traditional uses of the sketchbook.. as Fine Art students we were we were encouraged to use them for various purposes: as preliminary drawings prior to painting; to explore new ideas, thus developing creativity; as visual diaries of the external world and as drawing practise, and to re-visit as source material for inspiration.
Our books were untidy, experimental, fearless and anarchic.
I’d like to get back  to that level of  ‘insouciance’ -it’s so easy to blinker oneself  by worrying about a good result on the page to be shown to others, rather than opening up to new approaches and unfamiliar materials.
Let’s not be hampered by the fear of failure!
You can read more of Caroline’s blog posts here
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Elbow- The Blueprint Sessions

With the announcement of new material from Elbow, I thought it’d be a good time to revisit the drawings I made during a week long residency at Blueprint Studios, Salford. This is where the band rehearse and indeed were starting to record material destined for the new album. I was made very welcome (the band apologised for disturbing me!) and their management have kindly allowed me to make available a limited number of prints of four of the drawings I did in ‘The Big Room’, for sale.

If you’d like to buy signed prints, or the original drawings, contact me via the contact form.

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Sketch Your World

Sketch Your World by James Hobbs is published this month January  2014 in the UK (Apple Press), the US (North Light) and Asia (Page One). It features a number of Caroline’s sketches and drawings.

What is it about? It’s about putting a sketchbook in your pocket, going places, whether it is the journey of a lifetime or to the dentist, and then getting the sketchbook out and drawing in it. (Or maybe not a sketchbook, but a smartphone or tablet, because the book includes a section on this, too.) Drawings by around 60 of my favourite international artists shed light on how they go about things, whether the drawings are small, large, in colour, of architecture, parks, people, in cafes, trains or waiting rooms, in war zones and political demonstrations, or in the middle of the night. It has around 300 images in it. That’s what it’s about.

https://www.facebook.com/sketchyourworld

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“Glastonbury With Dinner Ladies”

Way back in my last blog, I was sketching in the dark at The Soup Kitchen in Manchester.
What I didn’t mention was that Mr. Price and I met two lovely ladies there who invited us to run a ‘Little Urban Sketchers’ workshop and to be official  ‘war artists’ for Cavfest.
This is a family-friendly one-day rock festival run by the forward thinking Cavendish Primary school in Didsbury, Manchester. Read More
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Rock On!

    The Minx, The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
 I’ve been out sketching regularly with two different groups and I’ve noticed that not a lot of figure drawing goes on. Probably because the human form is the most difficult of subject matter and can ruin a precious sketchbook if we fail (I just stick some paper on top).
But- and this is especially for the urban sketchers among us- our towns and cities wouldn’t exist without ‘people to people them’.
To redress any imbalance in my own work, I’ve worn sackcloth and ashes and beat myself with a bunch of nettles, by choosing to sketch at music gigs. Read More
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Alice Bella Reflects: #1 Salford Art Gallery & Museum

A great new review of the exhibition from Alice Bella Reflects blogspot :

I have seen Johnson’s work featured in various publications around Manchester and now I understand why her illustrations are so popular. She has a very down-to-earth passion for the area she hails, originally from Preston, and it is her natural instinct to record it through drawing. Read More