Wednesday, 17 February 2021

We drew 'Naughty and Nice' 13 February 2021

Zooming into 2021 

 by Helen Hayhoe


Our first virtual sketch meeting: 'Naughty and Nice' on 13 February 2021        

In 2020, soon after I joined the USk London admin team, I was lucky to participate in a (4am!) global USk meeting via the video conferencing platform Zoom. I heard about the resourceful ways in which people across the planet have managed to keep on sketching in the face of the global pandemic. What struck me was the fact that, despite COVID-related lockdowns, sketchers have found ways to remain true to the USk manifesto of drawing on location, storytelling, keeping a record and being truthful to what we witness, in whatever media we choose. What we lacked though was the mutual support of being together in our sketching.

I could see that many USk chapters are using virtual media to sketch together and share their work. In our London chapter we already use social media: our blog, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Instagram --  different people favour different platforms. But until 2021 we hadn’t used a virtual platform for our live meetings.

All that changed in February. We had set sketch meeting themes for the first months of 2021, and in January for the theme 'Regeneration' we had encouraged participants to sketch changes in their homes and neighbourhoods. Participants produced lovely sketches, but we had hoped to see more drawings from that session on social media. So for our February sketch meeting we decided to try a new tack: Zoom.

Nicky Browne gamely agreed to host the February meeting, and as it was Valentine's Day weekend she chose the theme ‘Naughty and Nice’. Nineteen brave souls joined in. It was so good to see everyone's faces and find out where they were located. We began with introductions, and learnt that many of our sketchers had had difficult times during the pandemic. We heard tales of loss and demotivation, but also positive stories about new ways of working, and some incredible visual diaries of the past year. 

Nicky Browne's delectable still life

Nicky had prepared some delicious prompts – Cavan cakes and champagne – and started us off with a pep talk and examples. Many people then headed off to another room in their home, or ventured out despite the chill weather to sketch what they could see in their local streets. Others had set up sketching stations at their computers, and continued to sketch together via Zoom. It was lovely to hear the squeak of their pencils and the sigh of brushes across London. Nicky could be seen bravely live-streaming her sketch the entire session.

Sasala Wickramasinghe's 'Naughty and Nice' 


At 2.45 people got together again to show and talk about their sketches and where they had observed their subjects. Looking at their sketches in the moment, and later as they popped up on Facebook, I delighted in the humour, the storytelling and the range of styles and media on show.

Sarah Lee's Valentine's treats

Feedback has been positive. I think that if we use Zoom as one of the ways we get together, it will continue to add to our experience. I definitely don’t see it as a substitute for face-to-face meetings out of doors and on location together. Think of it instead as a supplement.

We will continue to come up with themes that can prompt us to sketch in ways that are true to our USk mission, however we manage to do that. If you would like to join us for our virtual sketch meeting on 27 March, please do. For the Zoom link and passcode, just send us an email and we will send you the details. Or if you prefer you can just sketch as you always have, and post your drawings on social media. We welcome you.

Oh, and if your sketches are drawn on location within the M25, please send them to us, and we will add them to the Our London interactive sketch map on our blog and Facebook. 
John Webb's cellar


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