Wednesday, August 17, 2016

UK, Part 4: Bath

8/9/16 River Avon from the Bridge Coffee Shop on the Pulteney Bridge

8/10/16 River Avon and Pulteney Bridge
Certainly the Manchester symposium and the substantial demands of being a correspondent gave me the greatest opportunity to grow as an urban sketcher. And the castles of Wales were impossible to beat in terms of sheer visual spectacle – and therefore challenging sketching! But if I had to choose, I’d say that the most sketching fun I had during our whole trip to the UK was in Bath.

With none of the rain frustrations of Manchester and Wales, and without London’s oppressive noise and crowds, Bath was a wonderland of sketchable ancient structures and beautiful architecture. Although it turned out that I hadn’t brought the right tones of warm tan colored pencils for the amazingly consistent buildings (the photos I studied online made them look cooler and darker), I was challenged to come up with the right mix myself. A bonus was being able to fill a waterbrush with ancient Roman spring water (after taking a sample sip, of course – yuck!) and then sketch with it afterwards! I love imbedding the “DNA” of a place in a sketch that way.

It was a pleasure to meet Ian Hedley and his family!
Two highlights of our visit to Bath were meeting up with other sketchers. The first was Ian Hedley, whose blog, Pens! Paper! Pencils!, has been one of my favorites for a long time. (I was thrilled when he invited me to write a guest post about urban sketching a few months ago.) When he heard we were going to be in Bath, he and his family, who live in a nearby town, came over on the train to meet us. It’s always a joy to finally meet people in person after conversing with them online.

The next day we met up with Ed Harker, another sketcher I’ve gotten to know through his blog the past few years. Keeping up with Mostly Drawing, I learned that Ed has been sketching about as long as I have, and what’s more, he has made it his practice to sketch every day. I admire his commitment to drawing, and I appreciate his sense of humor. It was a pleasure to finally meet him at the symposium, where he gave a lively presentation and a demo.

Long-time Bath resident Ed Harker shows us the best
(and backside) of Bath!
A long-time resident of Bath, he showed us around his charming town in a way that only a local could. I specifically asked him to show us the Bath that we wouldn’t see from one of the tour buses lumbering through the narrow streets, and he certainly came through – by taking us to the Carter’s Steam Fair! A delightful collection of vintage steam-operated rides and old-time attractions, Carter’s comes to town only for a week or so each year, and we happened to be there at just the right time. Greg and I loved it so much that we went back again the next day (and rode the “gallopers”)! Ed took us around to see the quirky backsides of old buildings (as well as the beautiful fronts). We also thoroughly enjoyed having local bitters with Ed at his favorite pub and strolling through the streets I’ve seen him sketch.

Bath must be a pleasant place to live because that’s where we encountered some of the friendliest and most helpful people. If we stood on a street corner, map in hand, looking perplexed, within moments someone would come to our aid and offer directions or answer our questions.

Every way I turned in Bath was a visual delight – stunning architecture, narrow, curved streets, strange faces carved into stone walls – that was challenging to sketch but not daunting. Our days in Bath were the only time on this trip that I felt I could sketch in the way that I enjoy most: Meandering through a place without an itinerary and being able to stop and sketch whatever I discover.

8/11/16 Bath Abbey
Now that Greg and I have done some traveling, I’ve come to learn that I’m happiest when we can build in time – especially toward the end of a trip – for that kind of agenda-free meandering. When travel planning, we always start out with a (probably common) compulsion to consult with the Rick Steves checklist, talk to friends who have visited the same places and try to see and do as much as possible. But when I read through my journals afterwards and thumb through my sketchbooks, I know that we’re both happiest when we ignore the checklist and simply explore. We couldn’t have picked a better location for that kind of exploration than Bath. Filled with charm around every corner, very walkable Bath made me feel safe and comfortable on my own (Greg likes to go off by himself with his camera just as I like to go off for a sketch).

After traveling 19 days and looking forward to sleeping in our own bed, we said fond farewells to both Bath and all of the UK, certain that we would return someday. The United Kingdom is full of sketchable pleasures, and I’ve only barely skimmed the surface.

8/10/16 Lions at Victoria Park entrance

8/9/16 Two "gallopers" at the Carter's Steam Fair

8/10/16 Ice cream vending truck at Carter's Steam Fair. . . 

. . . and of course the ice cream that came from it!
Riding the gallopers (note the images of kings
and queens above)!

8/10/16 A composite of some of the many faces
carved in stone walls.

8/9/16 I've sketched a lot of buskers, but this was the
first opera singer!
8/10/16 St. Michael's Without Church

8/9/16 Victoria Art Gallery
8/8/16 busker

8/10/16 One of Bath's many curved streets.

8/8/16 Inside the Roman Baths, where tourists listen to an audio guide.

8/8/16 detail inside the baths

The Roman Baths
8/8/16 busker
8/10/16 Bell tower at St. Swithins Yard

The front of the elegant and stately Royal Crescent. . .

. . . and the slightly less elegant backside.

Doing what I do best!
My waterbrush filled with ancient Roman
spring water!

Ed's favorite pub. . .
and the Bass bitters we drank there.

Farewell Bath and all of the United Kingdom! We'll be back for sure!


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