I joined the Birmingham Urban Sketching group for the 50th worldwide sketchcrawl. They had organised to draw in the Chinese Superstore and then in the neighbouring catholic church. I arrived on location late and only joined up with the group at the very end of the day. I was reluctant to draw indoors and was put off drawing in the churchyard by the incongruity of my taking my leisure while the grounds were being tidied by people working under constraint in high visibility jackets bearing the logo “Community Payback”.
I found a secluded car park behind a bank with a view over industrial tanks – what I now know to be the Aston Manor Brewery. I had had an idea I wanted to work on, laying down a base in conte crayon to define shapes, layering over this in white gouache and then drawing back into the drying pigment with ink brush and sharp pen. The intention is to build texture. It is probably overworked.
On my way up I had passed a ruined building standing proud above the low industrial units. This turns out to be called Lallian’s Mill. Local historians do not seem to know much more about this mill, but it seems to have started life as part of the brewing industry, perhaps preparing the malt. A few derelict buildings enthusiasts have explored it, revealing aging and rusting machinery, hoppers, trucks and large cogs. Empty sacks show its last use to have been as a mill making chappati flour. I had positioned myself across the road in the empty forecourt of an industrial unit, which then became busy. A worker stopped to talk. He had grown up locally and remembered when this factory caught fire. One end of the roof is scarred and broken, with sky revealed through the rafters, seen through the windows in my sketch.
This sketch was drawn first in fountain pen and water and then overlaid with crayon. As always, I should have stopped sooner. I was puzzled by the shadows and direction of the light. It was only later that I could see that the light was diffuse and the lightest surfaces were the flattest, whereas it was the corners which were shaded, in whichever direction they faced. This is not properly shown in my sketch.
At the end, I arrived back at the churchyard, which overlooks the brewery. I had no more than twenty minutes to draw, so put a very rough sketch on paper with crayon first then ink brush. Overhead, I caught the silhouette of a falcon flashing past the church and heard the call of a peregrine. They apparently are known to nest (presumably later in the year) in the nearby National Grid building.