The Shoreditch Sketcher: Phil Dean

I thought that I would continue my exploration of Urban Sketchers today with Phil Dean, known as The Shoreditch Sketcher on Instagram . By the very nature – Urban – it’s a little outside of what I would consider to be my subject area but I enjoy the images and the process of making them.

I wanted to learn more about how Phil approaches his drawing and hopefully learn something that could help my drawing or photography so I purchased his book ‘Urban Drawing: Sketch Club’. The book provides an excellent tour of materials, how to get started and etiquette for working on the street. Then moves on to a series of lessons and associated exercises covering topics such as composition, perspective, contrast, tone, people and adding color.

I enjoyed Phil’s prompts for subjects with sketching potential: Your environment while you’re traveling; mundanity, locals sitting drinking coffee, students doing their laundry, a dog sitting under a table; architectural mayhem, architecture that tells the story of the city, contrasts of old and new and of course vistas.

The appeal to me of drawing over photography is being able to be selective about what you include in the scene or indeed move things around to suit your composition and intent. Interesting to hear Phil talk about this and that he doesn’t really do that and was shocked when one of his students moved subjects around in her composition. Where do you stand on this?

The discussion of perspective, which of course comes up in almost every book on drawing, has me thinking about how I use perspective or view point to tell the story or add depth and interest to a scene. More on this topic in the future once it has had time to percolate.

Check out more of Phil’s work on Instagram or on his website.

What Would You Do If No One Was Looking? And Oh By The Way They Aren’t!

I woke up thinking about:

‘What would you do if no one was looking?’

And

‘What would you say if no one was listening?’

The answer for me is the same as if someone was looking and was listening. It’s about staying true to your values and having integrity.

About making the things that you want to make because those are the things that you need to make.

There’s freedom and opportunity in such a space. No constraints resulting from the expectations of others. No ties or obligations to what’s gone before preventing you from striking out in a new direction.

Certainly something to think about as we get going this week.

How about you? What you you do if no one was watching or so say if no one was listening?

Friday Inspiration: Rachael Talibart

I must have been living under a rock to only recently have found Rachael Talibart’s seascape work. She is perhaps best know for her Sirens photos, a series of storm waves named after mythological beings. A book of the same name was published by Triplekite Books in 2018. As an aside I can’t believe I missed this book since I thought I had all of the books that Triplekite had published. I found her work through the recently published book, Tides and Tempests, that further explores her interest in storm waves but also the coast in general.

It sounds like Rachael has had a lifelong relationship with the sea having grown up on the South Coast of England, spending time as a child on the family sailboat. She describes herself as a poor swimmer and a poor sailor who is happier and safer viewing the ocean from the shore. Reading between the lines in the introductory essay to Tides and Tempests it sounds like she had lots of ‘fun’ on the sailboat as a child. These episodes really do shape your life both as an adult and as a child, either pushing you away or drawing you in. Personally I’m glad that she is drawn towards the ocean and chooses to capture the majesty, power and potential that the ocean offers. Check out more of Rachael’s work on her website here.

Also check out the videos that Rachel put together below. Scroll all the way to the bottom to hear Rachel talk about her work and her process.

Check out the mini-documentary/interview with Rachel that Sean Tucker put together below. Sean is worth a ‘Friday Inspiration’ slot of his own. Until then check out his YouTube channel here.

Layers of Looking – Ian Fennelly

Ian Fennelly Layers of Looking

During the break between Christmas and New Year I took a deep dive into the world of urban sketching. It’s always fun to look at the world through other view points and how other visual artists approach their work can inform how I make photographs.

Drawing, and particularly the ink and watercolor approach is something that I’ve been interested in for years. Not being able to draw always held me back from pursuing this kind of work but it is often on my radar. I particularly appreciate the looseness that is found in the work of many ‘urban sketchers’. As I have thought about this I recognize that for me the starting photograph is just that, a start, a point of departure, and how I interpret the scene could then go in many ways.

One of the artists I’ve been learning from has been Ian Fennelly. Ian is an exceptionally talented and patient teacher. You can get a sense of his approach in the video below.

His new book ‘Layers of Looking’ provides the thinking behind the work rather that being a step by step how to. I enjoyed each of the chapters, taking away something that is relevant to my work from most of them. I liked the section below from the section on the factors important to choosing a subject:

…finding something visually interesting, something that grabs me and makes me feel I can tell the story of that place.

… it needs to have a rich variety of content; interesting perspective and shapes, patterns and storytelling potential.

Have a quick look at more of the book in the video below.

Our Daily Bread

In the spirit of picking up old interests I’ve been making a lot of bread over the last few weeks. Starting with the tried and true recipes in Ken Forkish’s excellent book – Flour, Water, Salt Yeast. The picture from last week was his Overnight Loaf. When I was making this bread regularly it would stick to the cloths in the proofing baskets and generally would be a nightmare for me to deal with. However picking things up again the recipe was easy to follow – no ambiguity – and I had no problem with getting the bread out of the baskets.

With that success under my belt I decided to try the signature loaf in the Poilane book I recently came across. Poilane is of course a marquee name in the bread world. The recipe was a little more involved than others I’d made – requiring a natural yeast starter and also makes a substantially larger single loaf. Going through the planning I realized that I didn’t have a proofing basked large enough nor did I have a Dutch Oven large enough. In all honesty who would? The loaf is ~ 3 times larger than the ‘normal’ home loaf size. I had things that were close enough though so off we went. It was frustrating to not have a good sense of what I was aiming at and I ended up disappointing the in house food critics. Scaling the recipe back gave better results but was still not the wow expected by the local critics.

With a natural starter bubbling in the corner I thought I would try out a final recipe, this time from ‘The Baker’s Year’ by Tara Jensen. When I mixed up the dough it was very wet, a bit tricky to handle and the timings proposed in the margin completely misleading. I should have realized that I would be in for a bumpy ride when the instructions for mixing up the leaven – a foundational recipe for any bread book – were corrected in the form of errata stuck in the front of the book. Oops! Nevertheless I persevered, leveraging the understanding from working through the Forkish recipes many times and also the Tartine bread recipe which is similar. If a dough was going to stick to the cloth in the proofing basket it would be a wet dough like this one – nope, not at all. Came out of the proofing basket nicely, into the cast iron Dutch oven and baked beautifully as you can see at the top of the page.

What if anything you may well ask does this have to do with photography. Well not much if I’m being honest but it did make me think about how I had retained the bread making skills from 3 or 4 years ago. Not only that but some of the things that had been a struggle now seem relatively straight forward. As I re-engage with photography I’m hoping that I will at least have retained a foundational set of skills. It will be interesting to see how the passage of time has changed my thinking and perspective as I get behind the camera more frequently.

Stuck at Home

While I’m thinking about the subject of photographing close to home I thought I would share a couple of book recommendations.

I’ve talked about photography close to home before – remarkably in 2011, where does the time go. Then I was talking about a recently published eBook by Stuart Sipahgil ‘Close to Home’. Sadly it’s no longer produced by Craft & Vision but you can find it here at least for a little while. Well worth a look.

The other book that I was looking at, and the one that I think of when I think of photography at home, is ‘Home Photography’ by Andrew Sanderson. Andrew is a UK based photographer who found himself tethered to home as he and his wife navigated raising their young family. Picking up on the Home Photography theme again during lockdown in the UK Andrew Stuck at Home Photography. There are lots of ideas in the book (and blog) for how to shoot in and around your home that I will be digging into more deeply in the coming months. I’ll share the results here and also on Instagram. Send me a link to what you’ve been doing while Stuck at Home.

Working at Home

Happy New Year!

What a strange year 2020 turned out to be. Turning the page it looks like 2021 will also be fraught with challenges – the hope for an orderly transition of leadership in the US was thrown into chaos with the events of yesterday. We can only hope that this is a low point from which the country will move forward from.

More virulent strains of the SARS-CoV2 virus appear to spreading throughout the world after first making an appearance in the UK. I have had a ring side seat to how we are responding to this threat and have been fortunate enough to work on therapeutic interventions one of which is now in clinical trials. From my vantage point it looks like we are a long way from being out of the woods, with more lockdowns to navigate.

All that leads me to think that I’m going to be working at home for the foreseeable future. I put my fancy cameras down a couple of years ago now and have used my iPhone exclusively since. The camera in the current iPhone is a sophisticated tool much more so than the camera that was in the phone when the ‘The Best Camera is the one that’s with you’ movement got going. At the time I was always impressed with what people were able to achieve with just their phones, now that’s much less of a novelty. With an expectation that the iPhone is as good a camera as many DSLRs. Perhaps I’m stretching that a bit but I’m sure if you’ve seen the evolution of the iPhone camera you know what I mean.

Perhaps because of the lockdowns and social distancing expectations or maybe it was just the right time, my desire to re-engage with photography in a deeper way has been growing over the last couple of months. I will probably post more here although it looks very much like the world has moved away from Blogs to Vlogs with everyone and the dog now running a YouTube channel. Not for me. Not yet at least.

More to come…

The End of Summer

For me just as the beginning of summer is when we get the boat in the water, the end of summer is when we pull the boat out of the water. This weekend marked the beginning of that process as we made the trek from our mooring to the marina in Norwalk where will be hauled.

This year we were accompanied by Jay our buddy from TowBoatUS who gave us a tow to the dock. If you have a boat a BoatUS membership with on water towing is an amazing insurance policy. I highly recommend it!

A Walk in The Woods

I spent an afternoon over the weekend wandering around the local woods. Not hard to do in this part of Connecticut – everything seems to be in the Woods! It’s nice but I find it a little claustrophobic. Fortunately there are lots of ponds and lakes too which breaks up the walk nicely.

The ponds are now starting to catch the falling leaves. It will be snowing soon enough.