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In my years of teaching art, there are two things that stand out as vital to being a successful artist – learning to see – and loosening up.  Everything else could be termed “technique”, but it is these two qualities that make your art stand out – a fresh, original vision, and a confident, relaxed approach.

Sketching is a vital part of my own artistic practise, keeping my senses alert and attentive to my surroundings.  My sketches are an immediate, direct response in that moment, recording the strongest shapes as well as the subtle details, feeling the rhythm and direction of my subject through my pen or brush.  When I step up to the canvas in my studio later, some of that energy still courses through me and finds it’s place in my painting. The colour, light and texture recorded in my sketch will emerge, and my painting is stronger and more authentic for the time spent there, sketchbook in hand, looking, drawing and absorbing the scene.

A sketchbook is no place for tight, hesitant work.  Time is of the essence as we watch the sky for the next downpour or hurry to catch the scene before it all changes. This is the joy of sketching – the ease and simplicity – nothing to lose – just do it – it’s only a piece of paper! And in the process we can loosen some of our constraints and find a lighter touch and a new enjoyment of the process. Our seeing, our observation, our understanding of proportion, perspective, light and shade, colour and form – all are strengthened. We grow as artists.

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“Enniskerry Sketch Walk” on 17 September is the first of a series of sketching workshops which will be held throughout the year in Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland.

imageWorkshop Description

In this full day workshop we will cover some essential skills for sketching on location, at home or on your travels:

  • Selecting the right materials for ease and convenience – what to choose and what to leave behind.
  • Choosing your subject and your best viewpoint – where to start, what to fit in, how to proceed
  • Composition – some basic considerations
  • A simple approach to perspective and achieving a sense of space and depth in your sketch
  • Pen and ink – making marks that dance on the page
  • Watercolour – keeping it fresh, loose and spontaneous
  • Colour mixing and tonal values
  • Developing your personal style – your sketch is like your signature, a unique expression of you!

The Day

10.00 – 12.30: Morning Session

Meet at the Schoolhouse for Art where we will have a brief overview of our sketchbooks and materials. This will be followed by a demonstration on location in the village, offering a clear step by step approach to starting and developing a sketch. You may then select your subject and begin sketching with individual guidance.

12.30 – 13.15: Lunch in the village at your own expense – many good options

13.15 – 15.45: Afternoon Session

15.45: Return to the Schoolhouse for review of our sketches

16.00: Finish

Details and Registration

The cost for the full day of instruction is €90. Space is limited and early booking is advised.

Registration may be made through the Schoolhouse for Art:

http://www.schoolhouseforart.com

Workshop Instructor

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Brenda Malley is a professional artist and art instructor living in Greystones Co Wicklow with over 25 years experience teaching classes and workshops. Her work is represented by the Trinity Gallery in Dublin as well as by the Whitethorn Gallery in Clifden, and she has exhibited in London, Boston and Cannes. Brenda’s workshops encompass palette knife oil painting as well as painting and sketching  on location in Ireland and the South of France.

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The Art of Sketching – full day of instruction and guided sketching in picturesque Enniskerry Village, Saturday 11 June 10.00 – 16.00. 

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Workshop Description

In this full day workshop we will cover some essential skills for sketching on location, at home or on your travels:

  • Selecting the right materials for ease and convenience – what to choose and what to leave behind.
  • Choosing your subject and your best viewpoint – where to start, what to fit in, how to proceed
  • Composition – some basic considerations
  • A simple approach to perspective and achieving a sense of space and depth in your sketch
  • Pen and ink – making marks that dance on the page
  • Watercolour – keeping it fresh, loose and spontaneous
  • Colour mixing and tonal values
  • Developing your personal style – your sketch is like your signature, a unique expression of you!

The Day

10.00 – 12.30: Morning Session

Meet at the Schoolhouse for Art where we will have a brief overview of our sketchbooks and materials. This will be followed by a demonstration on location in the village, offering a clear step by step approach to starting and developing a sketch. You may then select your subject and begin sketching with individual guidance.

12.30 – 13.15: Lunch in the village – many good options

13.15 – 15.45: Afternoon Session

This will include a second demonstration followed by independent sketching time with individual assistance

15.45:  Return to the Schoolhouse for review of our sketches

16.00:  Finish

Details and Registration

The cost for the full day of instruction is €90. Space is limited and early booking is advised.

Registration may be made through the Schoolhouse for Art:

http://www.schoolhouseforart.com

Workshop Instructor

Brenda Malley is a professional artist and art instructor living in Greystones Co Wicklow with over 25 years experience teaching classes and workshops. Her work is represented by the Trinity Gallery in Dublin as well as by the Whitethorn Gallery in Clifden, and she has exhibited in London, Boston and Cannes. Brenda’s workshops encompass palette knife oil painting as well as Urban Sketching on location in Ireland and the South of France.

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Enniskerry – a charming tiny village on the outskirts of Dublin and on the edge of the Wicklow mountains – was a hub of artistic activity this past weekend. Usually packed with Sunday hikers and bikers en route to the forests and trails of the Wicklow countryside, this time it was artists and sketchers that had the quiet village abuzz for the Spring ArtFest at the Schoolhouse for Art. As music played and the sun shone between torrential downpours, we gathered in groups in the Schoolhouse sculpture garden to sketch the clock tower and pretty facade of shopfronts that grace the village centre.

The Schoolhouse offers art classes and workshops in all media – oil, pastel, watercolour, sculpture, portrait, life drawing and childrens’ classes – but this weekend we wanted to introduce something new –  the art of Urban Sketching – to our area. While Urban Sketching has taken off around the world it has been slow to take hold in Ireland.  Our sole regional correspondent, Róisín Curé is doing a magnificent job of holding the fort and spreading the word in Galway, and now, starting here in tiny Enniskerry, Urban Sketching has arrived in Leinster!

imageBy sheer good fortune and a series of happy coincidences, Roisín herself was with us all weekend to inspire, encourage and get our fledgling sketching group off the ground. After two full days of talks, demos and guided sketching events, we have 25 “Leinster Urban Sketchers” ready to go.

The appeal of Urban Sketching is huge, and very natural – it’s the ease and simplicity – just you and your sketchbook, some simple materials, and this present moment before your eyes. No pressure to perform or produce, no time consuming set up, no stress. This truly is “art for everyone” – open, easy, natural and fun.

imageI teach oil painting at the Schoolhouse, with a group of talented and dedicated artists who take their art very seriously. What Urban Sketching offers us is art with no purpose other than the enjoyment of the process, and the strengthening of our “seeing”. Our sketches stand alone on their own merits as a testimony to the time we spend absorbing and recording our impressions. With no goal to reach or standard to attain, we are free to enjoy the exploration and new discovery that may result, and lose our inhibitions in the process. It allows us to get unstuck and see with fresh eyes.

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My own journey as an Urban Sketcher started long before anyone had thought of the term – in 1974 as a student of art history travelling around Europe.  I recently came across my Venice sketchbook from that trip – my only record, because I had no camera – and the memories it evokes are as fresh as ever. The act of sketching anchors you in time and place, that special quality of attention creating your most memorable moments.

Ireland is just waiting to be discovered by the global sketching community. With our glorious green countryside, vibrant cities, lively pubs and rich musical and cultural heritage, it is a perfect sketching destination.  As we grow our home base of Urban Sketchers, we look forward to welcoming many of you from all over the world to join us here

 

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It’s good to be back in Le Cannet, our little corner of the Côte d’Azur which had been our home for the past two years. It’s early Spring, bright sunshine and cool breeze, and I’ve returned with a group of Irish artists to spend a few days sketching in and around this historic village with it’s quiet, intimate character and charm.

Spring morning on Rue Saint Sauveur

Scents of orange blossom waft on the air, but it’s the aroma of coffee and freshly baked croissants which draws us to Francine and Pierre’s lovely Artisan Patissier Chocolatier on the historic Rue Saint Sauveur. A shady spot under a tree beside an ancient water fountain, I sketch the scene – dappled shade on the narrow street, bright flowers in a raised planter, wonderful old doorways and shutters, the quiet of a late Saturday morning.

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Our afternoon is spent in the Musée Bonnard, sketching the beautiful paintings and drawings of Pierre Bonnard, an artist who shone a transcendent light onto the intimate and ordinary passage of daily life. Almond trees in Spring, gardens, windows and breakfast tables, and tender studies of his beloved Marthe through the years.

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The simplicity and fluid ease of his drawings gives us a glimpse of how natural and effortless it could be. In his notebook he wrote about his morning sketch walks – “Mais çela fait vivre” – “it brings you alive”. “An art critic wrote of Bonnard’s paintings “the artist transposes Mediterranean light into a sensual poem suffused and rippling with a radiant joy”. It was a joy to be there.

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In the evening we wander up through the old town to Place Bellevue to watch the sun go down – sketchbook in one hand, glass of Provence Rosé in the other and the Mediterranean stretching blue to the horizon. Life is good!

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The next day we take a short boat ride from Cannes to Île Saint Honorat, the smaller and less visited of the Lérins islands, and a monastic retreat since the fifth century where a community of monks continues to cultivate vineyards and olive groves. A place of quiet contemplation, Saint Honorat is a world apart from the noise and rush of Cannes, yet just a short distance across the water.

The island is a haven of peace and a sketcher’s paradise – forest trails, vineyards and olive groves all surrounded by breathtaking blue sea. The sun has come out and we sit on warm rocks to sketch the view and enjoy our picnic from the market.

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On Friday we take the local bus through a verdant Spring countryside to Valbonne, a lovely authentic village with a lively and colourful Friday market.  A sunny café in the Place des Arcades is our perfect spot to sketch the scene over coffee and croissants before exploring the quiet alleys of the old town.

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We find a sunny bench in the park to sketch – an archway, shuttered windows, dappled light through a veil of Spring green foliage, and pass a pleasant hour drawing the scene as people come and go. There is nothing like sketching to draw you fully into the moment, absorbing the warm sun and dancing light on grass and stone.

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It’s been a full week of sunshine, relaxation, and beautiful and interesting places to discover, deeply enriched by the practise of sketching. With sketchbook in hand, we soak it all in and take home a rich visual record of our travels – markets and museums, vineyards and villages, olive groves, courtyards and cafés – an unforgettable glimpse of the essence of this special corner of the Côte d’Azur.

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Day 4 – Market day in Valbonne. Local bus 630 brings us on a pleasant 30 minute ride through a verdant Spring countryside with views towards Grasse and as far as the distant Alps. Valbonne is a lovely authentic village with a lively and colourful Friday market. A sunny café in the Place des Arcades is our perfect spot to sketch the scene over coffee and croissants. 

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Kieran explores some great sketching spots by the church and around the market

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Colette and Pauline escape from the market crowds to discover the quiet side streets of the old town

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Maria and I find a sunny spot in the park to sketch – an archway, shuttered windows, dappled light through a veil of Spring green foliage. We pass a pleasant half hour drawing the scene as people come and go. There is nothing like sketching to draw you fully into the moment, absorbing the warm sun and dancing light on grass and stone.

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Brenda - Quiet Corner of Valbonne

Brenda – Quiet Corner of Valbonne

Our friends Beverley and Robert have invited our group to their nearby villa for a beautiful lunch on the terrace, the view sweeping in all directions from the Alps to the Mediterranean. This is the best of Riviera living, gracious hospitality in an exquisite home, friends gathered over a lingering déjeuner in the sun, fine food, chilled wine and general joie de vivre – life doesn’t get much better than this!

 

But the time comes to leave for the bus back to Le Cannet – we fly home tonight. A last group picture by the Mairie, sketchbooks in hand!

Its been a full, fun, rewarding week. We’ve inspired and encouraged each other, and bring home great memories of our shared adventures, as well as a sketchbook full of a visual record of these few days together. We’ve tried new materials – pens, markers, watercolours and acrylics, we’ve figured out how to pack light to get around easily, and we’ve gained the confidence to just sit there on the street and do it.

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For me, sketching is more about the practise of entering fully into the present moment with quiet attention, than about the result on the page. The satisfaction it offers comes from the total absorption of our senses – sight, sound, touch – in that very moment, with relaxed concentration, a focus that allows our sketchbooks to become a “holding place” for our experiences. As you turn each page, the moment of creating it comes vividly alive.

I still have my very first sketchbook from 1974, visiting Venice as part of my Art History degree programme. I couldn’t afford a camera so I sketched the gondolas, bridges and canals and those simple pen drawings bring it all back to me, over forty years later – the Italian sun, my first cappuccino, the youth hostel across the water from Piazza San Marco, being 20 with the world at my feet and the magic of Venice before my eyes.

First sketchbook! Venice 1974, age 20

First sketchbook! Venice 1974, age 20

In my sketching workshops and classes, this is what I want to share – not just the “how to do it” and the development of our artistic skills and confidence, but for the peaceful space it can open in our lives, a pathway to fuller presence.

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Special thanks to my fellow artists – Ann, Colette, Pauline, Maria and Kieran, for sharing this week with us. Many thanks too:

  • to Boris at the Park and Suites Hotel in Le Cannet for your welcome and many courtesies
  • To Walid from the Office de Tourisme for a wonderful tour of the village
  • to deputy mayor Mr Pigrenet and everyone in Le Cannet who made us so welcome
  • to Pim and all the Hangar artists
  • to Beverley and Robert for your gracious hospitality
  • and especially to Michael – couldn’t have done it without you!
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Île Saint Honorat

Île Saint Honorat

Day 3 – to the Lérins islands. We take the local bus number 1 into Cannes, a 10 minute ride, to stroll and sketch at the colourful Forville Market. Enjoying the scene over coffee, and drawing the fruit and the archways and the shoppers.

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We pack a picnic lunch and head along the quay to the boat to Île Saint Honorat, the smaller and less visited of the Lérins islands. It has been a monastic retreat since the fifth century, where a community of monks continues to cultivate vineyards and olive groves. A place of quiet contemplation, far from the noise and rush of Cannes yet just across the water.

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The island is a haven of peace – forest trails, vineyards and olive groves all surrounded by breathtaking blue sea. the sun has come out and we sit on warm rocks to sketch the view and enjoy our picnic from the market

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Maria sketching at Abbaye de Lérins

Brenda - initial pen sketch at Abbaye de Lérins

Brenda – initial pen sketch at Abbaye de Lérins

Simple tools - sketchbook, pen, watercolours

Simple tools – sketchbook, pen, watercolours

Pauline finds a quiet spot with an incredible vista of sea and sky

Colette explores and finds hidden corners full of interest, while Kieran completes a lovely study of the Lérins abbey

I have a few minutes for a quick pen sketch of the Abbey before we have to head for the last boat back to Cannes.

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Back in Cannes, the boats in the harbour and reflections in the water offer still more subject matter for our sketches.

Cannes Harbour

Cannes Harbour – reflections in the water

Cannes

Cannes

We have a little time to stroll Cannes and sip an apéritif on the Croisette before taking the 1 bus back to Le Cannet. I direct shoppers to either “cheap n cheerful” Rue Meynadier, or to gawk in the windows on posh Rue d’Antibes! We are here a month before the Cannes Film Festival, but the air of exclusivity, extravagance and wealth is always in the air – in the Bentleys and Porsches on the street, and the €800 jeans in the shop window!

Tonight we treat ourselves to dinner in the Michelin guide recommended Bistrot Saint Sauveur in Le Cannet.  A fabulous meal at a reasonable price, and a grand finale for our last night here.

It has been a day of so many impressions – the market, city, island, monastery, boats, beaches and vineyards. A tantalising glimpse of the beauty and interest that this region offers in such abundance.  An artist’s paradise, and a feast for the senses!

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