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