UKEdMag: Teacher Goes Sketching by @aknill

Hobbies away from teaching

I am Andy and I teach Geography. I am a Head of Department and I work too hard. Are you the same? I often seek something to do that means that I can switch off from school work and do something sociable away from my job. I’m sure that like me, your family would appreciate that you are off duty more and that your attention is not limited by marking, planning etc.

This article was originally published in the December 2015 Edition of our UKEdMagazine

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I also suffer from depression when work consumes me and I sacrifice myself on its altar – this is not a positive attribute and has led to absences on and off since 1998 for a variety of reasons. As I write this I have had what I can honestly describe as a breakdown, rather than a rescue before breakdown. Yet, one of the activities that I have started this year is helping me to recover.

I have other friends who suffer from mental health issues and we often share ideas on how to distract ourselves. One that has been discussed a lot recently is creativity through craft and / or art. One of this group has been sketching for over 20 months. She has seen her sketches improve and has discovered a social outlet through urban sketching. I decided to try this and since June, when I bought my first sketchbook, it has become an escape, a chance to switch off the work brain and an act of mindfulness where I feel safe.

I sketch using fineline pigment pens – black fineliners of various widths all in black and with permanent ink. I have discovered where art materials are available, art retailers in London and how there are lots of techniques and equipment possibilities – a whole new sense of geek to discover.

My output varies from sketching objects on the shelves at home to going out and sketching while on visits to different places or grabbing time while on the train, bus or park bench. I have posted copies of sketches on my social media accounts and received feedback from friends and colleagues. An ex teacher training friend who is a part-time artist made the best point that I have hung onto – do this for fun, if it stops being that, rethink.

Sketching by its nature involves me, a drawing implement (pen) and a surface to record the art on. How then can this become a sociable activity and a chance to meet others who enjoy or earn their living from their art? Cue, Urban Sketching – drawing / creating art live on location. Near to me there are three groups: USK London, USK Cambridge and USK Essex and Suffolk. Over the last two weekends I have met members of the first two and drawn with, drunk tea and chatted about our artwork, techniques and materials used. I have learnt new terms like brush pen, Tombows and many more. The groups are very welcoming and the standard of art varies greatly – because there is a camaraderie as well as links and sharing opportunities through Facebook groups it becomes a thread through every day whether I have sketched or not.

There are just two of my sketches. Please look at them, think what you may, as they are working for me. How do you step away from work?


Share your ideas via #UKEdChat. More details of my work are available on my new blog – about sketching!


Combining photos from a walk by the River Chelmer and sketching it later in the warm.

Andy Knill @aknill is Head of Geography at The Albany School, Hornchurch, Havering.


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