Wednesday, 20 January 2021

2021 Review of 2020, Welcomes, Thanks and New Ideas

Isabel Carmona writes:

Happy New Year! 

I want to review last year as it was an odd one for us. A year of change and adaptation.

We started with a couple of well attended sketching events in January at the Tate Modern and then in February at the Wallace Collection. And then our brilliantly put together programme of meetings (masterminded by the fabulous Jo Dungey and Lis Watkins) had to stop as big gatherings were not allowed and we went into the first lockdown.

We put up a challenge of 30 days indoor urban sketching during the first lockdown and many of you contributed and that kept us going.  

Helen Hayhoe's 30 days sketchbook

We gathered ideas of creative activities by all sorts of institutions and attempted a virtual sketchcrawl and kept the summer evenings sketching ideas going as close to home or in small groups as slowly we were allowed to come out. We also listened to the USk Talks by the global Urban Sketchers group and some may have taken up their challenges. 

Helen Hayhoe's Summer sketching

Jo Dungey left the administration team in the first half of the year. We can't thank you enough Jo for all your great organisational skills, getting people together to contribute ideas for the next sketching venue or ideas for a challenge. Thank You!  

Helen Hayhoe joined the administration team in May and immediately engaged with the global community, taking part in a global collaboration creation. We look forward to all the new ideas she brings.

We continued with various sketching challenges including words and Victorian buildings, history, took inspiration from various London locations and looked at our own personal collections (during the second lockdown).

Jo Dungey's Historical sketching challenge

Throughout the year, we've learned to sketch by ourselves or in smaller groups (when we were allowed). However, I still miss our larger gatherings and seeing each other regularly. Our Facebook group and Twitter presence keeps growing and collect the day to day of our urban sketching adventures. 

For 2021 we are still in lockdown, now version 3! and our 2021 sketching programme can be done in your local areas (and even in your homes).  Keep an eye for announcements as we are introducing a few changes and hope to be able to do intros to the themes and virtual throwdowns in the next few events.

We thank Lis Watkins for all her hard work during the last four years as administrator of the group. Lis stepped down at the end of the year and we welcome Sasala Wickramasinghe to the administration team.

With a fresh team to take on 2021 a few new projects have started and we need your help for all (taking part and contributing in organising events).  Most importantly, we need you to keep sketching and sketch your local environments in London.  

Our London

In 2021, we are embarking on a new adventure and need your help. We've called the project Our London and it is an online interactive map collecting our London sketches. 

We want to put our urban sketching view of London on the map and have created a map page that we want to fill with your sketches of your London area. 

So far we've gathered all the locations we've sketched since 2017 and other places we've sketched as individuals and have posted in the blog.  

The Our London map shows that many of our areas within the M25 are in need of sketches. The map is live, and we'll be including more and more sketches as we get contributions.

Perhaps you have sketches of your local areas to contribute and would like to share them with us, so that we are able to populate it with our stories and places: local, interesting, quirky, famous, mundane, historical (whatever interests you!).  If so, please send a good image (and also the story behind the sketch in a few words) to us by e-mail with the subject line: Our London. Remember to tell us who you are (so that we can credit you) and what is the location of your sketch, so we can locate it easily on the map.

Thanks in advance for your contributions - get your London neighbourhood on the map!

Note: The map administrators reserve the right to exclude any sketches that don't clearly comply with the urban sketchers principles or have insufficient information about the sketch.


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

January 2021 - Regeneration (Battersea Power Station)

Happy New Year and welcome to 2021.

As we mentioned at the end of the year, until we are able to meet in person, we are going to propose a monthly theme to be explored. We are suggesting a date and time to share the sketches on Facebook and other platforms but if you wish to do it before or after the date please keep them coming. 

We are treating this virtual meeting as it would be for real, only that you can choose to: sketch on the suggested London location, sketch in a different location nearer to your home but exploring the same theme or even sketch within your home, still from reality, exploring the theme.  

January's theme is Regeneration and the location is close to my heart, Battersea Power Station.  

Alternatives: Changes that you notice in your local area, Changes in your home: redecoration, DIY

Sketching Theme Date: Saturday 16 January 2021  

Suggested Times: 11am to 3pm

Post your sketches in Facebook or Flickr with the # suggested below or in the event post itself.

Suggested # are: #urbansketcherslondon #UskLondonJan2021 #UskLondonRegeneration.

Remember: to tell us the story behind the sketch, why you chose to do it, how did you do it, anything you'd like to share that completes the sketch and makes it more personal.

Battersea Power Station (sketches by Isabel Carmona, 2018 and 2019)

As an architect I worked on one of the teams that worked on the early projects (in the 2000s) that were looking to convert the power station and surrounding area into a media and post production area, as well as including retail and theatre in the mix, a few hundred dwellings and loads of open space all towered by the 20th century power station. That was one of the early projects that due to its cost never got realised.

It is good to see the area coming together now and the sketches that follow were done in 2018 and 2019 in two separate trips to London.

The first (above) is a very quick  sketch indeed, probably 15 min maximum as we walked by and I got inspired to do it when we found out we could get this close to the front and see what was going on, the feeling was cranes everywhere, a flurry of activity.

The second (below) probably a year later (in March 2019) looking from the other side of the Thames with the cranes appearing behind the glass building (apartments) and the Power Station chimneys amongst the cranes, barely recognisable from this angle. 

After the watercolour sketch, I walked closer to Battersea, where you could sit in the warmth of the coffee shop (it was not too warm that March) and get a closer sketch of the front chimneys and the construction elevators.

This area will continue changing for some time, gentrifying perhaps but the site is open to walk through and one can get closer to the Power Station than ever before, one day we'll go in and get to appreciate its size - inside (when it was empty) one could have fitted St Paul's.  It is enormous.



Saturday, 26 December 2020

Sasala Wickramasinghe
My name is Sasala Wickramasinghe, I live in London.

I chanced upon the concept of urban sketching in 2017 whilst browsing the art shelves in Foyles Bookshop in London: a quick flick through the book, Urban Watercolour Sketching by Felix Scheinberger was enough: why didn't anyone tell me about urban sketching sooner?! I come from a scientific background - a clinical biochemist by day, working for the NHS. It is an immensely fulfilling and interesting role, although apart from the occasional flow chart, requires little or no artistic skill. 

My first official urban sketching experience was with USk London in December 2017 to the V&A in South Kensington. There was no turning back after that - I've become an urban sketcher! I promptly signed up for Liz Steel's online watercolour course which not only taught me how to mix watercolour properly, but inspired me even more to delve further into this amazing activity.

I attended my first USk symposium in Porto in 2018. Never before, have I met so many amazing and talented people in one place - such diversity yet with a single great passion - urban sketching! I learnt so much from amazing teachers like Matthew Brehm and Shari Blaukopf. I made so many friends and met sketchers I've been following on social media for a while before then; and Porto itself, a beautiful city full of character.

In the past 3 years, I have learnt and absorbed skills from workshops, symposia and fellow sketchers. They have only gone on to fuel the fire inside me for more urban sketching. For me, the greatest 'aha' moment has been when I realised that I'll never again be bored of waiting, for anyone or anything (train/bus/airport/cafe/street-corner), as long as I carry my urban sketching kit with me!

During these challenging times, knee-deep in a pandemic, sketching has been a life line for me. I feel humbled and grateful for the opportunity to share my experience and contribute more to USk London chapter as an admin.   

Instagram: @sasketcher_rw




Saturday, 19 December 2020

Urban Sketchers London 2021 Provisional Programme

Sketch by Helen Hayhoe

Looking ahead to 2021, the challenge for USK London is to expect the unexpected. We cannot be responsible for organising structured, real-life events due to government restrictions, but we have decided that we will choose a theme for each month as sketch inspiration that people can do according to national, local and personal situations.

We will stick to the format of one Saturday a month, with a timed ‘throwdown’ on Facebook where people can share their sketches and, for each of the specific events, we will allow flexibility for sketchers to share work not necessarily made within the M25. We want to be as inclusive as possible at this difficult time and include anyone isolating or in lockdown.

Each month, we will introduce the theme with ideas for a group meet up (if and when that is possible), an interpretation that can be done locally, and tasks that can be completed from your home. That way we can rise to the opportunities that come about but adapt to the levels of restriction that apply at any moment in time.

Where a specific location is mentioned, please do follow government guidelines. Feel free to visit the location as an individual at any time during the month of the theme, or to sketch in small groups as allowed. ‘Throwing down’ on Facebook on a specific day will bring us together.

We would also like to encourage the sense of our community of sketchers by encouraging you to write more about your sketches – about the media used, your inspiration and more about you. Do feedback to each other and comment on posts. There is a wealth of talent out there. We will also be collaborating with other USK groups, in the UK and beyond.

Also we are very happy to welcome Sasala Wickramasinghe to the admin team in 2021! More about Sasala in an upcoming post.

We are presenting plans for the first 6 months of 2021. We welcome you to offer to co-facilitate any of the months’ events, and/or to offer to run events for the other months. We do have ideas for the next set of themes but welcome new ideas too. Email us at

Further details about each theme will be posted nearer to the time.

Saturday 16th January/Regeneration/Isabel Carmona 

Battersea Power Station, Changes that you notice in your local area, Changes in your home: redecoration, DIY 

Sunday 14th February/Naughty but nice/Nicky Brown 

Eros in Piccadilly Circus, Spring, blossoms, snowflakes… Chocolates, Valentines… 

Saturday 27th March/People/John Webb 

Waterloo Station, Passers by, You and yours 

Saturday 17th April/Animals/Jo Dungey 

Details to be confirmed by Jo nearer the time.

Saturday 15th May/Squares/Lis Watkins 

Trafalgar Square, Your local square, Square things! 

Saturday 19th June/Water/Helen Hayhoe 

Twickenham Riverside, Local river or pond, Water in your home 

Ideas for July to December include Sculpture, Decoration, History, House and Garden, Transport, Food and Stairways. We welcome any other suggestions and offers of help for the second half of the year. Please get in touch!


Monday, 7 December 2020

Winter Festivals - a drawing challenge for Saturday 12th December 2020

As we still cannot meet as group, we though it might be nice to set a theme to replace this month’s cancelled sketchcrawl and the suggestion is ‘Winter Festivals.’ It could be activities indoors, outdoors, something grand, small details, at home or in a public space. The idea is to use the idea of ‘Winter Festivals’ as a starting point to inspire some sketching and how you choose to interpret it is entirely up to you!

We will have a ‘throwdown’ on the London USk Facebook page from 3.30pm where you can share your sketches with the group.

Please note: We want to be as inclusive as possible at this difficult time and include anyone isolating or in lockdown so we will allow sketchers to share work not necessarily made within the M25 on this particular occasion.

*Sketch from last year outside the Natural History Museum by Sassala Wickramasinghe.


Monday, 9 November 2020

'Collections' - a drawing challenge for Saturday 21st November


As we still cannot meet as group, we thought it might be nice to set a theme to replace this month’s cancelled sketchcrawl and the suggestion is ‘Collections.’

The idea is to use the idea of ‘collections’ as a starting point to inspire some sketching and how you choose to interpret it is entirely up to you! Maybe share with us the story of something you collect? Maybe you have items passed down from a different generation that you could draw and share their history? Where do you keep your collection? Maybe share your collection of sketchbooks or art materials?

We will have a ‘throwdown’ on the London USk Facebook page from 3.30pm where you can share your sketches with the group.

Please note: We want to be as inclusive as possible at this difficult time of lockdown so we will allow sketchers to share work not necessarily made within the M25 on this particular occasion.

Sketch at the top is by Isabel Carmona.


Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Virtual St. James's - A replacement for the planned Saturday 17th October sketchcrawl

[John Swanson writes] This week we had planned to visit the area around St James’s Square, known for its commercial galleries, smart shops, clubs and splendid architecture. This is the area bounded by Piccadilly, Haymarket, the Mall and Green Park.

Since we can’t go there as a group, the challenge this time is to go there virtually. Look up some landmarks in St James’s, and then go out to your local area – or anywhere of your choice – and draw buildings or urban scenes inspired by actual sites in St James’s. So, you might think of St James’s church in Piccadilly and draw your local church. If you are lucky enough to have a local art gallery, look up one of the commercial galleries in St James’s and post your drawing of your local gallery with a reference to the one in St James’s.

Post your sketch, saying what it is and where, and adding ‘inspired by …’ your chosen St James’s location.

Here are some ideas to get you started. Google maps will quickly help you find more.


St James’s on Piccadilly, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. See

Fancy shops 

Fortnum and Mason: Piccadilly Arcade: Bentley and Skinner, Jewellers, Piccadilly: Jermyn Street:


Any number of cafes on Piccadilly The Ritz! :


There are many commercial galleries and dealers: And don’t forget the Royal Academy of Art, on Piccadilly:


St James’s Square:


The Red Lion, Mayfair, in Duke of York Street: The Golden Lion:


Whites: The Carlton : The Athenaeum: Boodles : Brooks :

Plus, many others.

Remember, we aren’t drawing locations in St James’s (unless you are lucky enough to be there) but local scenes that can be linked to St James’s. It’s up to you how strong or tenuous those links actually are.

Enjoy your urban sketching!