Green Stories – PYSB Oxford 2018

PYSB_workshops_OXFORD_2018_IG_1080Oxford is a famous tourist city with loads of history.  In this workshop we want to focus on the day to day life of their people and buildings. The city has a distinctive identity as sustainable city – and runs an annual Green Week in June which we are joining in :

Whilst preparing this workshop we approached various groups in Oxford to engage with their work and their approach to creating a greener, more sustainable future for our planet.  We have found a few locations where the green stories get close together and we can tell their approaches to their environment and people . Specifically, we will spend the morning around Rosehill Community Centre in South East Oxford and the afternoons around Lady Margaret Hall to the North of the City Centre.  Both have done recent architectural and environmental projects to reduce their impact and engage their communities.  in each area other projects also call our attention including a low carbon group, a deep retrofit private housing project, a cooperative housing project and a passive house standard non domestic building  and everywhere multiple inclusion of renewable energy and other green strategies to reduce our footprint in this planet. We are going to tell loads of Green Stories as well as discovering a variety of approaches to sustainability.

As part of the workshop we will put together an exhibition of our work and show it at one or more of the venues, opening it to the public on the Sunday 24th June for all to see the green stories we have collected during the week.

Rose Hill Community Centre

Discover the environment and  talk while you paint and draw (Isabel)

Drawing people in action is a journey of discovery, a conversation, finding out while you draw them, listening what they have to tell as much as the difficulties of the drawing itself.  We will talk about questions and information we need to understand for each project, thinking whether the story is about a place, a detail, a community or a person. We will think what information we need to gather quickly about the place, the people and the story behind them.

Starting with colour (in watercolour or your prefered media) we abstract what we see. Careful drawing can take place later either with more colour more linear marks or with pen if preferred. Because we are discovering and finding out loads of information, we will learn to synthesise, pick up those points that interest us, record them and remember them while drawing them.

The process will help participants to think about a sketch from the general (capturing the general picture in colour in blocks or in outline) to the particular (adding detail and focus gradually).

As well as capturing the setting and the people, we will spend time understanding the building projects and interventions, bringing it all together with text and note taking.

Timber workshop at Elm Farm (Bristol)
The nurseries at Elm Farm (Bristol)

The spirit of a place (Luis)

Paul Klee referred to the building as “a fellow sufferer of the human being”. And it is never truer as for housing projects. A building is made of brick, wood, steel and concrete, but is also made of the longings of those who live within its walls. When construction workers leave the site, what is a bald geometry will soon be filled with life and the place will hold the unique imprint of its new dwellers.

Capturing the spirit of a built place necessary implies combining the two features: the obvious space defined by the walls and a ceiling but also subtler elements that were not in the mind of the designer or architect, that continuously add new layers on the original substance. Even when people are away, these layers tell a lot of stories about them.

This workshop will propose a look into this spirit: sharp lines would help us to define the architectural space, then other tools will be needed to capture light and textures and focus on certain aspects. It might be a familiar object; it might be the view of a tree outside the window. It might just be two people talking quietly at a corner. The handling of different scales and its role in composing the page will be an important goal, in which texts will play a primary role, not only balancing the blank space but also helping in the narrative aspects where the images may fall short.

Vernacular architecture in Andalusia: La Alpujarra. Not only geometry, but also light and texture
Seafood restaurant: the inhabited space suggests stories
Objects at a flea market soften the stiff lines of the building



Architecture is a frame in which life happens. Places tell us about the motivations of the people that designed them and live in them: solemn and humble spaces. It is just a matter of ‘listening’.

What a building unveils (Swasky)

Buildings are made by people, designed and built, but what is more important is that they are lived by people. After drawing some of the greatest buildings that you can find in Barcelona most of them those designed by Gaudí, I had the chance of drawing the Miro’s foundation by the architect Josep Lluís Sert. My approach to all them has been, as a non-professional architect, has been always the same: keeping my eyes and ears wide open and curiosity is as my main attitude.

Second main thing I pay attention to is which is the story I find behind each building. I love the way a thread leads me to a place maybe I wouldn’t thought before being. This is the way we are going to start working: following information known before and also the unexpected.


Victor3The good storytelling is something difficult to master, because we need to know some tricks and we have to know how stories work better.


We are going to also focus in writing, a really important thing when we face telling a story. Usually most of the people is scared of writing, of putting into words an account of their own experience.

Victor5This learning approach will help attendees to get used with different strategies and work habits in order to improve their abilities to create a visual and written report of their practical contact with an observation of the buildings and projects that we will visit.

Victor6Learning goals

  • Pushing participants out of their comfort zone, at their own level. From beginners starting to sketch to more confident participants, we aim to teach you something new and push you outside your boundaries, helping you experiment.
  • Losing the fear to draw people
  • Gain confidence drawing buildings
  • Focusing on people, their context, the buildings and the story underneath.
  • Learning to interview people and tell their story
  • Reportage and collecting in drawn form what you want to express
  • Experiment with different techniques and ways of approaching a live sketch situation, helping you find your own self expression.
  • Using and trying different approaches – line drawing with pens and pencils,watercolours and colour in different media.
  • Using more colour and texture and making you think about how do you represent what you see and to develop your own way of representing what you see in colour with confidence

Workshop Schedule

Wednesday 20 June
5pm – 7pm Welcome at Lady Margaret hall
Thursday 21 June
9:30 am -10am Morning meeting at Rose Hill Community Centre
10am-1pm Isa, Luis and Swasky workshops in Rosehill area
1pm – 3pm Lunch and take local bus to centre of Oxford (buses run every 10 minutes)
3 – 6pm Isa, Luis and Swasky workshops around Lady Margaret Hall area
6:30 – 7.00pm Evening all groups meet up
Friday 22 June
9:30 to 10 am Morning meeting at Rose Hill Community Centre
10am-1pm Isa, Luis and Swasky workshops in Rosehill area
1pm – 3pm Lunch and take local bus to centre of Oxford (buses run every 10 minutes)
3pm – 6pm Isa, Luis and Swasky workshops around Lady Margaret Hall area
6:30 – 7.00pm  Evening all groups meet up
Saturday 23 June
9:30am -10am Morning meeting at Rose Hill Community Centre
10am-1pm Isa, Luis and Swasky workshops in Rosehill area
1pm – 3pm Lunch and take local bus to centre of Oxford (buses run every 10 minutes)
3:30 – 6:30pm Isa, Luis and Swasky workshops around Lady Margaret Hall area
6:30 – 7.00pm  Evening all groups meet up
Sunday 24 June
10.00am to 2pm Exhibition opening (venue tbc) and sketch meet up with Oxford Urban Sketchers


30 attendees maximum, 18 minimum. Any level of drawing experience is welcome.

Travel and Accommodation 

You need to arrange your own travel and accommodation.
Check the map of the workshop here

Supply list
A list will be provided for participants – generally bring what you normally draw with.

Registration fee

£ 250 – (£200 concessions – 20% discount for students or unwaged (with proof of concession status))

To book, email Isabel – for registration form.
Cancellation policy: All fees are refundable if cancelled more than 6 weeks prior to commencement of course (up to 9th May 2018). Bank charges will be deducted for the refund in the case of an attendee cancellation. If cancelled after the 9th May up to to one week before the start of the course, a cancellation fee of £50 (60 Euros) will be retained.
No refund will be possible one week before the course.
In the event of too few registrants, all monies will be refunded.

Workshop location

Green Stories workshop map is here

About the instructors

This workshop combines the abilities of

Isabel CarmonaLuis Ruiz and Victor Swasky