Castlefield, Manchester

castlefield_lg_watercolor_2Just returned from a wonderful time at the 7th annual Urban Sketchers symposium in Manchester, England. Thank you to Simone Ridyard and the rest of the symposium committee for making this event come together. I taught a workshop called “Puzzling Out The Picture,” about picture making and dimension on location. I could not have asked for a more amazing place to teach this than the Castlefield section of the city, the first Urban Heritage Park in Britain.


Castlefield fueled the Industrial Revolution through a system of canals, tunnels, and railway viaducts. A maze of industrial architecture, it’s like an 18th century cathedral village, constructed of brick, stone and steel. Many technological advances were pioneered here, in the pursuit of industrial power through coal. And it is unbelievable to draw. I found myself reaching for new ways to depict the sheer enormity and infinity of space in front of me. Some of my drawings and collages are below.

I can’t wait to return to this most unbelievable area.


The splitting of the canal into two sections at the warehouse area, like a tuning fork, allowed more boats in and out, doubling productivity. Necessity is the mother of invention.


I thought of all the goods coming in and out, and of how the canals were like the arteries of the city, and, by extension, the Industrial Revolution. And then I simply went for the big shapes, below, that felt more like steel. The whole place feels like a fortress.


The interesting thing about the way it’s designed is how it grew by attrition. Train tracks criss-cross over bridges, which criss-cross over canals. Under the bridges there are large supports and columns made of steel that seem to go on forever into infinity. It was like looking at a cubist painting right in front of my eyes. Amazing.




I couldn’t get over the richness of the colors and textures, or the majestic feeling of the train trestle.



The symbols cut out of the various bridges and overpasses made the place feel almost religious. I guess to the many laborers who gave their sweat here, contributing to the growth of the modern world, it was a sacred space. I’m glad it was designated a national urban heritage park in the eighties.


 I could keep going posting my pictures, but I’ll stop (almost) here. I simply could not stop drawing this place.

On the last afternoon of the symposium, I stole another few hours back in Castlefield to make some drawings in ink. While there I was joined by Urban Sketchers Lapin and Gerard Michel, along with a group of their friends.  I left them drawing along the canal to head back to the closing symposium party, and Lapin teased me for stopping to make just a few more thumbnails as I walked. I couldn’t help it, Castlefield is so incredible.


So another year’s USK symposium is complete. Always wonderful to share these places and experiences with my workshop participants and fellow artists.

Next year’s symposium is in Chicago – can’t wait!

Comments (19)

  1. Suta Lee

    Wow! Veronica, these looks great! I better get to work!

  2. Veronica

    Thanks Suta! I’d better get to work too – this place put me on a whole new direction!

  3. Vicky Porter

    What a wonderful collection of powerful drawings! It was fascinating to read the accompanying text, too. Looks like potential book material.

    On an aside–it was such a pleasure to see you both at the symposium and to run into you again in Kensington!

  4. Audrey Hawkins

    Wow!! Gorgeous work, Ronnie!

  5. Ceiny Carney

    Stunning! Good to meet you at the symposium.

  6. Nina Johansson

    I LOVE these! So dynamic and lively! Great work, as always. I loved this place too, could have drawn there for many days, if I had the chance. :)

  7. Veronica

    Thank you Ceiny! It was a whirlwind few days, lots of fun.

  8. Veronica

    Thanks Vicky – nice to see you in London too. The symposium kept going… :)

  9. Veronica

    Thank you Audrey! You’d have loved this place.

  10. Veronica

    Thank you Nina. We’ve got to get back there soon. ;)

  11. Susan Cornelis

    Amazing drawings Veronica! Oh how I wish I’d known all these interesting facts and been able to appreciate the majesty of Castlefield before I arrived there with you in the rain and tried to take it all in and sketch it in an afternoon workshop. Nevertheless, better late than never, and your instruction and your brilliant renderings will stay with me as I grow into this world of the urban sketcher. THanks a million and I’ll see you in Chicago.

  12. Veronica

    I know, 2 1/2 hours was a short time to appreciate the place – even a week is not enough! :) See you in Chicago…

  13. Barbara

    Yes Veronika it was a great and inspiring workshop! Hope to have another one of these in Chicago! Thanks! Barbara

  14. Debbie Thornhill

    Astonishing the powe and beauty of these sketches, Veronica! So happy I was able to be a part of the workshop and the entir USK Symposium. Thank you again for your inspired teaching – I learned a lot that day and your workshop was one of the highlights of my Manchester experience. These sketches and your post are truly inspiring!

  15. Veronica

    Thank you Barbara!

  16. Veronica

    Thank you Debbie!

  17. Myania Moes

    Love the big shoes color and line, you have captured the gestalt of the place!

  18. Parisbreakfast

    Your work is dynamic! And engaging. Will you teach in Chicago?
    I hope so.

  19. Veronica

    Thank you for your comment! I hope to be teaching in Chicago next summer; also am planning to offer this workshop in NYC this spring. Haven’t picked dates yet but Central Park in spring is a lovely place to draw! Best, Veronica

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