Alec’s Show Time Sketchbook
by Alec Pearson
SUMMER IS THE PERFECT TIME TO GET OUT AND ABOUT TO CELEBRATE THE WEALTH OF AGRICULTURAL SHOWS WE HAVE UP NORTH. HERE’S A PIECE FROM THE NORTHERN LIFE ARCHIVES (2013) BY ARTIST ALEC PEARSON WHO SHARED HIS SHOW TIME SKETCHBOOK WITH US.
I always look forward to that great feature of our northern summer – the agricultural show – a richly rewarding hunting ground for anyone equipped with sketchbook and artistic intent. I find these shows irresistible and there are so many to choose from throughout the summer– the Lancashire and the Great Yorkshire shows being among the first on the calendar.
Then later, around Skipton, we have any number, Trawden, just over the border in Lancashire, with Gargrave and Nidderdale among others. Then there’s the big show at Kilnsey set against the massive, natural backdrop of Kilnsey Crag; and the wonderfully situated Malham show in the fields above the village, within sight of the famous limestone cove and other spectacular panoramic views in all directions. My wife Jean comes from a dairy-farming family and introduced me to the delights of these shows by insisting that we visited the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate and persuading me that even if I wasn’t interested in cows I could go with her and do some drawing.
My usual dilemma having arrived at a show is that I’m not sure, from a sketching point of view, which is the more interesting subject –animals or people! However I came away from each of the shows I attended with a selection of drawings of both species! Perhaps the animals are the easier subject as they don’t get self-conscious about being drawn. When drawing people however, I have to be more discreet.
For most of my Great Yorkshire Show sketches and in the interest of speed I tried drawing directly with brush and watercolour, only using my fibre tipped pens finally to give the sketches more definition. This worked fine for most of my drawings and I have used this technique more frequently at other shows since. These sketches I did of the sheep and its handler and the farmer with his keen eye on the judging are a couple of examples of what I mean.
Similarly, with this sketch of the bull and his “minder,” using a brush and broad areas of colour-washes speeds things up when I’m trying to capture something quickly. This quick drawing of two farmers ‘talking sheep’ at Trawden show was done almost entirely with a brush and watercolour.
Working in tones of one colour as in this drawing of men and Beagles at the Yorkshire show, simplifies the job even more. However, when I spot a group like the one below of people clearly settled, there’s no real need for speed and I can draw them more carefully – pencil first, then colourwashes and finally fibre pen. One other technique is to do the sketch entirely in pencil then add colour when I get home. My digital camera is useful in this respect as a means of recording the colours and additional detail.
Now, with the show season almost over as I write this, I find I’m now incurably hooked on them. Happy Sketching!
NorthernLife Summer 2022