robinsons Caroline Johnson

Exhibition : Caroline Johnson : Northern Routes.

Press Release
Opening Sunday 2nd November at 2pm.
Venue : Stockport Art Gallery and War Memorial.
Dates : Tuesday 4th November to Tuesday 16th December 2014.

Caroline is probably best known for her graphic journeys through the streets and
buildings of contemporary Manchester and Salford. This exhibition continues that
voyage home, re-exploring her North West roots, after two decades spent in Brittany,
It’s also an opportunity to view new and previously unseen work. A large panorama in
the Stockport exhibition is the result of two days sketching the BBC Philharmonic in
rehearsal at Media City, and shows off her reportage drawing. ( Caroline is part of a
growing worldwide movement of ‘Urban Sketchers’ who make drawings in towns and cities. )
She’s often seen, sketchbook in hand, drawing in the dark at rock concerts. Allowed to
draw the ‘Big Room’ used by Elbow, at Blueprint Studios in Salford, Caroline captured their
workplace as they prepared songs for their most recent album.
Other pictures in the show display a sensitive approach to atmospheric interiors. Caroline
takes a delight in finding beauty in the ordinary and everyday. She alternates between
pen and ink with collage, painting, watercolour, charcoal and other drawing mediums;
whatever she feels will suit the subject.
Caroline Johnson was born in Preston and studied at the Harris School of Art, Preston,
Falmouth, and London’s Central St. Martins.
Her work has been included in two internationally available books on Urban Sketching,
‘the Art of Urban Sketching’ and ‘Sketch Your World’. It’s also used for illustration,
including a book jacket for the Spanish translation of Iris Murdoch’s ‘Henry and Cato’.
Her varied commissions have included spending a week as a documentary artist in a Care
Caroline has had successful solo exhibitions at the See Gallery, Rossendale in 2011, and
Salford Museum and Art Gallery in 2013. Her work is also popular in postcard form, selling
through places like the Cornerhouse in Manchester.
In April 2014 she was chosen to receive the first ‘Guardian Witness’ Human Interest
Award for a drawing made of her mother in hospital.
Caroline wrote : ‘Mum is in her late eighties and has dementia and I help care for her. I’d
called round and found her sitting on the settee, hardly able to speak or move and looking
very pale. I rang for the ambulance – we found out later she’d had a heart attack. I didn’t have
my sketchbook with me and hesitated all day to draw her, then finally asked for a couple of
sheets of paper from the nurses.
After several weeks, Mum was able to return home.’
‘Caroline Johnson’s paintings and drawings show a fantastic eye for composition, colour,
light and the subtle details of her subjects. Whether it is of monumental architecture, or the
frailties of the human figure, she brings her characteristic empathy, perception and
draughtsmanship to the finished work.’
James Hobbs – Artist, author of ‘Sketch your World’, and freelance journalist.

Into The Valley, Rossendale.


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.











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.









Various objects, Whitaker Museum

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







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

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.





“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

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