I have always loved art: sketching, painting, pen and ink, pastels, photography – you name it, over the years I’ve tried it. Back in the day I studied Standard Grade (!) Art and Design but when choosing my Highers I wasn’t able to take my studies further; while in hindsight it probably wasn’t the right time for me, there’s always been a wee bit of me that regretted it, as my skills waned and confidence in my artistic abilities dwindled. That said, I developed other creative outlets – from my crafting and baking (which is definitely artistic in its own way!) – to my self-taught photography, this blog and my Instagram became a way I expressed that significant part of my identity. I still do a wee bit of drawing now and again but I suppose I lost the bug along the way. So when I received an invite to a drawing tour of the Assembly Rooms with Mark Kirkham, otherwise known as the Edinburgh Sketcher, I jumped at the chance to pick up a sketch pad again and reconnect some dusty synapses in my brain.
The beautiful Assembly Rooms was built in 1787, celebrating its 230th anniversary this year, and is packed to the rafters with beautiful Georgian details. Our drawing tour began with such details: sketching the corner of a beautiful grand fireplace – a strategy that worked well in getting us warmed up and really seeing the building. We worked with fine liners and Mark encouraged us to be bold and not worry about perfection (something I definitely need to remember!). Next, we moved on to look at statues – figures are tricky, but I got the hang of the shadows by doing this: Mark advised filling in the background with loose shading to help our sketches stand out. We then went upstairs to view the enormous crystal chandelier in the opulent ballroom from a balcony vantage point, before moving to the elegant Music Hall with its giant mirrors, elegant panelling and gilded cornicing. This enabled us to work on our perspective and Mark offered so many tips and positive reinforcement along the way. The journey through the building and movement from details to the bigger picture was a great way for us to get the hang of the techniques quickly as well as appreciate the hidden details and scale of the iconic venue in all its splendour.
After refuelling with tea and caramel shortbread, we moved on to add subtle colour to our sketches using watercolours. Mark advised watering down our shades and not being too precious about our brushstrokes; the result is a light wash of colour that allows the fine detail of the pen to stand out, while adding warmth and life to the sketches. This was a lovely way of working and one that I would definitely try again. You can see the differing interpretations of the chandelier below. I left feeling my confidence boosted by our kind teacher – whose seriously stunning work you should check out, local or otherwise – and reinvigorated in my art, determined to let go of perfection and start properly sketching again. Mark runs his sketching courses in a variety of beautiful locations – no prior knowledge or equipment needed. Thank you for having us, Mark and the Assembly Rooms!
I received a complimentary place on the course for myself and my plus one for the purposes of review, but all love of sketching and beautiful old interiors entirely my own!