Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Sketch the history which surrounds us - Saturday 12 September 2020

[By Jo Dungey] For this challenge, we propose you use location sketching to investigate the history of your neighbourhood in London.  Landscape, buildings, infrastructure, street names, monuments, all provide evidence of the past.

Ira Aldridge, 1807-1867, was an African American actor, who later lived in England and was famed for his Shakespearean roles.  Above is Lis Watkins’ sketch of the house where he lived in Upper Norwood from 1861.

As we are unable to meet, the timetable is flexible, sketch and post at a time practical for you.  You could do some initial investigation, then choose one location to sketch on Saturday 12 September 2020.  Post on the Urban Sketchers London Facebook page and/or other social media you use.  We will have a virtual sketchbook throw-down on our Facebook page at 3pm Saturday 12 September 2020. 

Use the hashtags: #usklondon  #sketchhistory

Layers and fragments: the history which surrounds us

Recent campaigns, for example by Black Lives Matter, have drawn attention to the values represented in the historic environment, for example expressed by statues and monuments.  Who is remembered, and what is preserved by the history which surrounds us?

Investigate the history of your neighbourhood.  This could include:

  • Buildings and architecture, interiors and exteriors, including museums, public buildings, commercial buildings, religious buildings of any faith.  Buildings which have been converted from one use in the past, to another in the present, such as warehouses into housing.
  • Evidence of the economy and industry of the past, transport, infrastructure, parks and open space
  • Evidence of people associated with the area, in the past and more recently.  For example, historic figures, architects, scientists, writers and artists, philanthropists.  Look for statues, monuments, murals, blue plaques, information about founders and funders, investigate street names.

Approaches to sketching you could try:

  • Choose a theme and make one or more sketchbook pages, with small sketches and fragments of the past and present.  Include text if you wish.
  • Sketch a local building which includes more than one style, for example a shop with a contemporary ground floor, but older architectural styles higher up the building façade.
  • Incorporate collage into your sketches, perhaps from copies of old maps or historic photographs: look on the internet, or in local history collections run by a public library or museum.


This building in Dulwich is called the Old Grammar School.  The poet George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron, 1788-1824) attended the school in Dulwich run by Dr William Glennie from 1799 – however this building dates from 1841, designed by Sir Charles Barry.


As a child, artist and poet William Blake claimed to have seen angels in a tree on Peckham Rye.  My sketchbook pages show a portrait of Blake, sketches of the trees today, and a recent sculpture on Peckham Rye by Morgan Paton, which includes wings which refer to the vision of William Blake. 







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