Saturday, 30 June 2012

a South Bank Saturday stroll

thames jubilee campers

Here are some happy campers. A few more sketches from my recent visit to London. People came from all over the UK to wait by the Thames for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant earlier this month, many bedding down on the banks of the river to be sure of seeing the flotilla pass by in the pouring rain. Long to rain over us, eh! Well it wasn't raining on the day before, when I strolled down the South Bank sketching, soaking in the excitement. I love a party with a happy atmosphere, as someone once said.

 sketching the jubilee campers

It was windy though, and that bunting on Southwark Bridge was taking a battering. I was fine, sheltered away from the breezes, but I couldn't block out the sound of a rather less-than-stellar street band playing in the tunnel behind me. I didn't want to put on my iPod headphones though, because it was nice to have little conversations with people as they passed.
 southwark bridge 

This charming house is right next to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and after sketching I was surprised to learn that this is where London's great architect Sir Christopher Wren lived during the construction of St.Paul's!! Convenient location (except there was no Millennium Bridge in those days, so he probably took a ferry, or just sloshed over the muddy river in his boots).
cardinals wharf

And here is the Anchor, an old pub on Bankside, decked out for the Queen's big party. I sat for about an hour and drew this, finishing off much of the brickwork later on. I popped in to have a look around at the interior, but it was pretty busy, full of passing tourists, and so I decided against an interior sketch and went for a grilled halloumi sandwich at Borough Market instead (highly recommended!). I do love to sketch a London pub, on location. Though many are disappearing there are still so many out there, ready for us to draw (and we should, in case they do vanish, or become trendy). One flickr group I enjoy looking at is London Pubs, devoted to photos of pubs around the capital. (If you're interested here is my own Flickr set of pub drawings from London and elsewhere in the world). I would love to do an old London pub-sketch-crawl some time!
 the anchor, southwark
I am looking forward to seeing some other sketchers' London posts!


Thursday, 21 June 2012

on either side of Hungerford Bridge

Westminster skyline
Hungerford Bridge is so much nicer now than it used to be. Remember when the footbridge was that creaking old rusty attachment to the eastern side of the railway bridge? Crossing it made me feel like Indiana Jones on an old rope bridge. What's more, it was on the side without the nice view of Big Ben. When they tore it down and built two brand new shiny bridges on either side of the railway bridge, I couldn't have been more thrilled, and I still am. Officially they are the Golden Jubilee bridges, though nobody I know calls them that. One day I will even draw them, but in the meantime here are my sketches of the amazing views they offer. Above, after a morning of shopping culminating in a very confused Pete struggling to survive at Piccadilly Circus (it's like Piccadilly Circus down there) I ended up at the calm of the river. The Thames has always been my place of escape, ever since I was a kid I would come to the South Bank, do some drawing. It looked quite different then. There were a lot more homeless people, living under the bridges. The whole south bank of the river has been transformed in my lifetime, and keeps on changing. Even Big Ben will probably be renamed; well, Big Ben's just the bell, but the tower people often call Big Ben is really called the Clock Tower, and they said recently they may change it to Elizabeth Tower to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee; people will still call if Big Ben. That's ok. Just over a decade ago it wasn't possible to sketch this view from this spot, and now it is. I sat out there, a bright but windy May afternoon, and took advantage.
Waterloo panorama
The London skyline continues to change as well. After completing my sketch of Westminster (and Lambeth), I popped around to the eastern footbridge and did a double page spread in the other direction. It was pretty windy, and I stood for most of the sketch (sitting down you get a barrier blocking the view). I started in the middle, at St.Paul's, the constant. Waterloo Bridge in the middle, that was built by Giles Gilbert Scott (who gave us the red phone box - the arched roof is the same curve as the arches on the bridge), and Cleopatra's Needle, on the Victoria embankment to the right, centuries older than Cleopatra herself. In the City you can see the NatWest Tower - sorry, it's called Tower 42 now (but still looks like the NatWest Bank symbol from above) - and of course the Gherkin (or '30 St.Mary Axe' as it's really called). Buildings keep going up. Coming soon will be the Pinnacle, a building in the City that twists and turns and blocks the view. The biggest and brightest and sharpest of them all is the Shard, that large 1984-ish triangle in the right hand of the panorama.
This whole panorama, a two-page Moleskine spread, took me a couple of hours, what with squinting to observe, waiting for people to pass by, and fighting the winds. I wonder what it will look like the next time I come to sketch this skyline?


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Victoria Park before the games

Crown Estate, Victoria Park, watercolor in 19x19 cm Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook  Trees by St. Agnes Gate, Victoira Park, watercolor in 19x19 cm Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook

Victoria park is ready for the Olympics. I live on the edge of if and have the pleasure using it every day. Sadly it's also the closest big park to the Olympics site and half of it will be roped off by the Olympics activities. It's been daunting to have it all dug up and in construction for the past year and a half but luckily all the improvements are here to stay after the busy summer passes. 

 By the Pavilion cafe, watercolor and Farber-Castell Pitt pen in Seawhile of Brighton sketchbook


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Up the Watling

Watling Avenue, Burnt Oak
If you should happen to travel up the Northern Line, up the Edgware branch past Golders Green, you'll come to Burnt Oak, which is where I was born and grew up, where my mother grew up, where my family still lives. This is the 'skyline' of Watling Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Burnt Oak, weather-beaten chimneys crawling up the hill to Burnt Oak Broadway (aka Edgware Road, part of the ancient Roman highway called Watling Street). Burnt Oak it must be said is not a particularly charming part of London. It has changed a great deal over the years, nowhere more so than the shops on Watling Avenue, but these chimney-tops remain epic and unaltered, like a row of ancient statues. There is the odd shop here and there, however, that has survived the changes over the years as if unnoticed by the world - Hassan's clothing, Anthony's Drug Store, Pennywise, and of course my favourite shop Vipins, still run by the same Indian couple of who still remember me as a small red-headed eight-year-old buying felt-tip pens and glitter-glue. I sat in a quiet spot outside the Ming takeaway (another remnant from my youth) and sketched the chimneys, while the daytime passers-by passed me by, sometimes smiling, sometimes talking to me about what it was like round there when they were young. Burnt Oak might not be charming, but there is still charm to be found.


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Meet the correspondents: Nathan Brenville

I first came to London as a student in 2001, and I fell in love with the city immediately. Although I grew up in the North West of England, I think of London as my home. Apart from a brief sojourn in Baker St, NW1, I've lived the best part of ten years in South East London, in various places between Camberwell and Lewisham (as the drunken crow flies), and consequently the places that are dearest to me are mostly scattered around the South East.

It wasn't until around two years ago that it occurred to me to draw any of these places however, but once I discovered location drawing, I couldn't stop. The excitement of capturing places - their architecture, their atmosphere, the colours, the shadows, the people flowing in and out, having on paper your own emotional response to being somewhere at a certain point in time, when that happened there was no going back. The camera and I didn't speak for quite some time, I was pretty angry that it had kept me dependent on it for so long.

The first few sketchbooks I kept of location drawing were mostly all of trips abroad, I found it a wonderful way of engaging with your environment intensely, to soak up as much as you can before having to leave it behind.

But after nearly ten years of living, working and commuting in London I was looking to reconnect with my home environment too, and I decided the best way would be to go back to all of my favourite places around the city and begin to sketch them. I soon discovered there were far more than I'd realised, and sitting there, really looking at places I thought I knew well opened my eyes to much more. I began to investigate the history of the locations, to find connections between sites, to discover just how intertwined all of London is, in its personalities, its fashions, its parks and streets.

The Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

Even better, with living here, I was in no rush to finish my sketches but had the luxury of coming back, of finishing drawings at a later date or drawing it again in a different season, weather, or time of day. I'm three quarters of the way through my London sketchbook (or more accurately, 'My London' sketchbook), slowed down mostly by being back at university, but I feel more excited than ever to be living here; it's fuelled my desire to draw and it's helped me rediscover the city afresh. On top of that, and perhaps best of all, through drawing London I discovered there are other people out there drawing London, or England, Europe, Asia, America, all over the world, one drawing at a time - being part of the Urban Sketchers community continually provides invaluable inspiration and encouragement, so contributing to this blog is really exciting for me.

I will share some of the drawings of my favourite places and their stories, but also other sketchbooks of the new places I find or familiar, unassuming spots that suddenly leap out at me and demand to be drawn. The more you draw, the more you find to draw.

Dulwich Park in summer

I like to sketch the places that don't normally get a lot of attention, the places people pass by without giving a second glance. I usually prefer the everyday London to the tourist London, and delight in drawing (literally) out the hidden histories of ordinary looking buildings, trees and spaces.

You can find a lot of my location drawings on Flickr.

I also have a blog in which I post more general artwork, from comics to animations and various other pieces, at

I'm currently studying for an MA in Animation at Central Saint Martins.

I'm looking forward to meeting all the other London artists out there on our future sketchcrawls.


Friday, 8 June 2012

urban sketching with london sketchers

Cheshire Cheese  
A couple of months ago, while proctoring an exam at UC Davis with a notebook and pen handy, I decided to organize a sketchcrawl in the Temple and Fleet Street areas of London, and see if anyone else wanted to come as well. I was inspired by the launch of USk London and thought this a great way to meet other London sketchers. I wasn't wrong! On May 26 more than fifty of us got together and drew my favourite part of town, with the main bulk meeting outside Temple station on a hot sunny and altogether happy Saturday morning. Dang, I miss London when it's like this!
 Let's Draw London May 26, 2012: start
It was so cool to finally meet London sketchers who I had followed online for years (though I didn't get to meet everyone - sorry James, next time!), as well as many more sketchers I hope to sketch with again. Before the sketchcrawl kicked off, I got a very quick sketch in of Temple Station, and followed this with a sketch by the Thames, accompanied by my two long-lost cousins Dawn and Claire (who are both truly amazing artists, and who I was seeing for the first time since I was smaller and people were taller). The large pointy thing in the distance is the Shard, Europe's tallest building. I think the motto of the project is "come and have a go if you think you're shard enough", or something along those lines.
 Temple Station Embankment
I missed the midway point at Temple Church because even though I knew much of the Temple shuts its gates at the weekend, I am clearly not the savvy know-every-alley Londoner I used to be (and believe me, I really used to be). That's what seven years of America's grid systems does to a man. By the time the secrets had been revealed I was mid-sketch, so just carried on, before following my cousins down to the Cheshire Cheese - no, not that one, a different one round the corner from St.Clement Dane's. It appears at the top of this post. Incidentally the sketch below on the left, that is the Prince Henry Room on Fleet Street, but the gate around it is actually a detail of the building (a closed gate which I had hoped to visit the Temple church by, ho hum). the one on the right, Essex Street I believe, was probably the quickest of these sketches at less than 20 minutes including colour (the pub above took an hour and a half without colour, added later) and the reason is perhaps because that one was drawn while I wasn't yapping away! Well, I don't get out much, its nice to talk to people about pens and stuff.
 Prince Henry Room Essex St
Ah, now this sketch below, drawn in my small Miquelrius sketchbook (with the Lapin-drawn cover), this was a quickie drawn while walking down Fleet Street to Gough Square. I wanted to scan this, but my scanner actually went and died while scanning. There isn't much more to this one except some blue pen for the sky. 
sketching Fleet Street 
And so to the finishing line! So many amazing drawings were laid out around Hodge, Samuel Johnson's beloved pet and my favourite cat statue in London (take that, Dick Whittington). I had such a great time, and met some exceptional sketchers. I can't wait to get back to London and sketch with you again!
 Let's Draw London May 26, 2012


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Fleet Street and Temple Church

Fleet Street and the Law Courts
9" x 12", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
These are my sketches from the First Sketchcrawl by Urban Sketchers London on 26th May 2012.

My first sketch was done while sat at the rear of St Clement Danes Church at the point where Aldwych becomes Fleet Street.  The very impressive buildings which are the Royal Courts of Justice were on my left.  I tried pen and ink so as to avoid too much rubbing out of pencil and then added coloured pencils.  I strengthened the latter when I got home.

In the foreground you can see of two other sketches from that day's sketchcrawl.

Below is a map of the area of the Sketchcrawl.  This is a link to a Google Map I've started of the locations of where I sat to draw these views - Urban Sketches London

My second sketch was done not far in the Inner Temple - not from where we had the lunchtime get-together to look at the morning sketches.

I sat on the steps next to the cloister and looking across to the oldest and round part of Temple ChurchThe Church was built by the Knights Templar (crusading monks) and was designed to remind them of the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem which was the holiest place in the Crusaders’ world.  Today it is better know to some as one of the locations in The Da Vinci Code.
This is the church of Inner and Middle Temple, two of England’s four ancient societies of lawyers, the Inns of Court
Temple Church website
Temple Church
12" x 9", pencil and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The perspective was a bit of a challenge so I decided to go with pencil in the first instance and created a tonal sketch before adding in some colour.  I then strengthened the colour when I got home

This is how to find your way to the Temple Chuch Access for pedestrians after 20.30 on weekdays and all weekend is via Tudor Street only.

Dr Johnson's House and Hodge the cat
Gough Square
pen ans sepia ink
My third sketch was a very fast one, done in a few minutes, at the end of the Sketchcrawl in Gough Square.  I sat on the bench and drew the house of Dr Johnson the famous writer and the statue of Hodge his cat.

This is what Boswell had to say about Hodge in his account of Dr Johnson
I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature. I am, unluckily, one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, 'Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;' and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, 'but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.'


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Around Temple Church

Middle Temple Lane, London

Pete Scully's Let's Draw London was a great sketchcrawl, and the first one I've been on, which is odd, because it immediately seemed a natural thing to do. We went as a family (Naomi, my wife, and our daughters aged 13 and 10), and I realise now that of course I have been on family-only sketchcrawls before. An occasion springs to mind when all four of us sat outside a cafe on a Swiss mountain and drew together like some visual arts version of the Von Trapp family, taking a break on our escape to safety.

The Temple Church, London

The London sketchcrawl was great fun, and an opportunity to meet people I'd only communicated with online. I also bumped into some people who had come to the launch of The Art of Urban Sketching at Cass Art, and some who I'd told about the sketchcrawl after seeing them drawing in the streets of London in the weeks gone by. But somehow I didn't meet Pete. Next time, Pete.

For more, see


Friday, 1 June 2012

London sketchcrawl

Saturday saw the first London sketchcrawl - so many people! All excited about drawing on location in London on a hot sunny day. I met lots of people, some very experienced, and some new to location drawing. When we met up at the end of the day the range and quality of the work on show was very exciting.

I was set up to draw at A3/A2 size - when I'm spending the day drawing I like to work quite big, and an A3 sketchbook is a good compromise between portability and size -it can open up to give an A2 size spreads. My drawing materials, as usual, were quite mixed. Each drawing is a bit of an exploration of media for me, I'm never content with using the same materials or approach in my drawings.

I started down on the Embankment, looking downriver at the hazy light off the water, and  the strong shadows. This drawing used chinagraph, charcoal pencil, brushpens filled with diluted ink, and pigment powder. I think it would have been a better drawing if I had ignored the ship's stern on the right. I should remember that drawing is as much about lying as telling the truth!

Then, finally finding my way into Middle Temple I made a quick drawing before lunch using charcoal. The midday sun was very hot, and the contrast of light and shade down the lane dominated my view. The site of my drawing  is apparently the location used in the TV drama series, 'Silk'. I was informed of this by a couple who were there with the sole aim of tracking down all the locations used in the series...

For my last drawing of the day I sat in the shade by St Bride's Institute and drew the old tree that grows in the churchyard of St Bride's Church. This drawing is A2, on a double spread of the sketchbook, and I threw everything at it, trying to represent the light/shade and the intriguing space of the stair well and the view through to Fleet Street. Media included ink, charcoal, black pigment, white correction pen, white wax crayon, pen, fingers, and eventually knife!

I look forward to the next sketchcrawl!