I’m Erin Hill from Sydney, Australia. Founder of EHS Sketching, Travel Sketch tutor, Watercolour lover (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and visit my website!). I didn’t have any plans to run Art classes when I opened the Studio on Sydney Rd Manly Australia back in 2010.
The Studio was a little haven actually. I’d found a space just for me, near my home by the beach, to paint my watercolour and acrylic views and vistas. You’ve heard of men’s sheds. Well this was my shed. I’d been in advertising all my professional life, been to a Fine Arts College, had my own Art Gallery for years, taken numerous art holidays. Now I wanted time for me. A quiet life. I had no idea what was about to happen.
While painting daily in the Studio, people would pop in to see what I was doing. I had many asking whether I took art classes as they liked what they could see. The answer was that there were plenty of art classes around and I didn’t think I would do something similar.
It turned out that a weekend away with Yoga friends changed all that. They wanted to be shown the quick impression sketches I did rather than learn to paint. An aha moment. This I realised, was what people wanted.
A short cut to being creative. This I could do. All those years of experience were leading to this. To observe the everyday objects around you, as shapes and put down in simple lines exactly what you see. Everyone that day turned out a great little sketch of the leaf and flower still life. A few layers of coloured pencil and an idea was born. Several who’d made it clear they had no talent discovered they could actually do this and liked the results.
Soon after, the Manly Arts Festival was keen to have sketch classes offered to folk who’d like to give it a try. More success. People liked it. They felt they could achieve something in a relaxed way. In a short time. As I often say – It’s not about talent. It’s about learning to see. Once you show people that, they’re on their way.
ErinHill Sketching (EHS) began with a small group in late 2011 with a 10 week term and a plan for each week. Developing students’ ability and confidence to observe and sketch was the key. Anything at all from pot plants on a balcony, a piece of architecture to gardens and beaches is a sketch subject. Even people sketching. EHS has ways to teach students how to approach everything they’ve ever wanted to sketch, without fear of ‘getting it wrong’. The Studio philosophy is that you can’t go wrong, because you’re not trying to ‘get it right’. It’s an impression. What you saw in the moment.
Travel Sketching is my term to describe what EHS teaches. Rather than traditional drawing, painting or illustration – this is a few lines tossed down in a moment. It’s what you saw from where you were at the time. A moment. A memory. Part of your sketch journal. Part of your journey through life. So Travel Sketching became what EHS was all about.
Teaching you to see and get your sketch down in a moment. To apply colour in a simple way while standing on the Champ-Elysées or in your garden. Just a moment whether traveling or in a cafe. A subject spotted which appealed. Using just your eyes, your pen and your book. As you see it. Not from a photo – which is not what you see – but your wibbly wobbly anything but accurate few lines on a bit of paper. You love it. It’s not for anyone’s approval either. Only yours.
For some it’s the first time they’ve done anything entirely for their own pleasure. We’ve always been told by others what’s approved and what’s not! It’s how society is. But here is that sense of freedom and letting go which is what sketching does. Neither is our work for sale. We’ve taken away that pressure. The need to feel that unless someone wants to buy it, you can’t be any good. Doesn’t matter here. We don’t even give our sketches away. A very nice copy from a print and copy shop will mean just as much to someone else. And you don’t have a gap in your journal.
As the classes grow each year, I train new and passionate tutors in the EHS system. Then more people have a chance to learn and find their new ability. Each tutor learns the way by working with the current tutors and until they understand the philosophy of EHS and the completely positive approach we have. We are quite different from traditional art classes in that we teach foundation skills and work to a program over the term. Students get the same quality experience in any of our studios.
We use just two mediums to start. Watercolour pencil with a dash of water brush, and watercolour paint. We have particular ways of using both which is unique to us and very quick and effective. Later our students can use any medium they like provided it fits into their shoulder bag.
Classes become a community in themselves. Students return each term often because of the group they’ve started with and the bond created. All terms are different and there’s no subject twice. We make sure in every class, you are always learning something new, no matter how long you’ve been coming.
There are fun monthly ‘Girls Night In’ evenings which are popular. Some good wine and cheese, and a tutor to guide you trying out paint and other mediums, creative typefaces, sketching on newsprint. Lots more. Monthly Workshops are a day where those new to sketching can try ‘A Taste of Sketching’. People fly from round the world for these. It seems there is nothing like it anywhere.
Alternate months mean General Workshops cover specifics such as ‘Exploring Watercolour’ ‘Action people’ ‘Local architecture’ ‘Water and sea’ etc. Great for those who want to learn particular techniques. Our community is bonded further with our Facebook pages, a weekly newsletter and our website which is updated to show all the work of students in all our classes, wherever they are.
Some students stay with EHS for the long term and it becomes part of their lives. Many join our Travel Sketch Holidays to the different countries we go. They know that these tours are seamless and guided everywhere you go. Most costs are included. No decisions to make. Just sketch your heart out every day.
EHS has our own travel director (who is also a trained tutor and speaks several languages) who organises Travel Sketch Holidays, arranges flights and accommodation for our tours. Or any other travel needs. ErinHill Travel Sketching has now expanded beyond our Manly Studio shores.
When people began approaching me with a view to starting their own EHS studios elsewhere, I had to look at how best to make that happen. So the licensed arrangement began. Training is essential, setting up a studio and classes timetables, plus promoting and marketing are all part and parcel of the new ventures. All fine tuned to the location they are in. We have EHS Schools in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Tokyo and South of France. I am constantly looking at new countries with cities where EHS sketch classes could work. In fact there isn’t anywhere it wouldn’t work.
Myself and my tutors look forward to sharing their knowledge with you. Who knows where we’ll be next!