Saturday 7 July 2012

Playing, Watching, and Drawing Tennis

Every year for a few brief weeks, tennis fever grips the nation as we proudly watch our British players try and inevitably fail to get to the final of Wimbledon. But whaddya know - THIS YEAR HE'S GONE AND DONE IT!!! Andy Murray is through to the final, and win or lose, he's achieved something special. As a true part-time tennis fan, I've picked up a racquet myself and gone out on my local courts, trying to emulate our British number one. My closest place to play is Hilly Fields, which is also a great place to sketch, there are some fantastic panoramas of surrounding London and Kent, and I'll be returning there soon when there's some good weather for more drawing.

I like the building in the background, which is actually a college.

I used to play tennis regularly, but its been a couple of years now since my last game. Living in London though, you can't beat the real thing, and Wimbledon is only 40 minutes away from me by tube/train. On Wednesday I went down there to try and see some of the men's quarter finals. I got to see Roger Federer warming up on an outside court, but the real attraction was Andy Murray's match.

To get in to Centre Court, unless you've booked way in advance, then you need to queue up for resales. Anyone who leaves early hands in their ticket, and they're then resold cheaply, with profits going to charity.

The sun sticker was a bit optimistic

We arrived at 10am, and were queuing all day. It was such a long wait that I felt I could attempt an ambitious drawing- the view from just above 'Henman Hill', of Centre Court and surrounding courts, with Wimbledon town in the background. I had a good feeling about this sketch, but unfortunately I didn't reckon on a) frequent bouts of pouring rain and b) I wasn't supposed to leave the resale queue for longer than 15 minutes at a time, so I didn't get to finish, which I was annoyed about.


But finally, at 5pm, we got tickets in time for the end of the 2nd set of Murray's quarter final, right at the turning point of the match. The atmosphere was electric, unlike anything I've been to before.

taken during a break, but the match itself was packed full

It was a very tense match, and it was hard to concentrate on drawing when the game was so absorbing, but I managed pretty well, doing the majority in between points and during a rain break. I finished the colour off at home.

This was my third time visiting Wimbledon, but the first on Centre Court, and it was definitely worth the queuing.

I may even go back down on Sunday just to sit on Henman Hill and watch the final, but I'm not sure I'll have the steadiness of nerves for more drawing - I'll be too busy shouting "Come on Andy!"


Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Royal Academy of Art

I'm fascinated by the illustrious history of the Royal Academy of Art, and seeing exhibitions there is always a pleasure. I've been wanting to draw the outside of the building for a while now, so last week I made time to stop by and sketch it on a fiercely sunny day.

The Royal Academy of Art, Burlington House, Piccadilly

The Summer Exhibition is on at the moment, and the choices for display are always interesting, and often provokes debate about what should and shouldn't be called contemporary art. Don't get me started on that subject! But the story of one year when the RA rejected a sculpture but accepted and displayed the plinth it came with, believing it to be a separate work of art always makes me chuckle.
The Summer Exhibition has been held every year since 1769, the year after they were founded. The Royal Academy weren't always at Burlington House however. For a number of years they were based in Somerset House, where the Courtauld Institute is now housed.

Somerset House courtyard looking North

Eventually, they moved to share lodgings with another great London art institution, in the newly built National Gallery, in 1837, and then, as both continued to expand, moved to the present site 30 years after this.

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
This last sketch was done while it was raining and quickly became the most uncomfortable location drawing I've done - I thought I'd found a sheltered spot on the steps of St Martins In the Fields, but as it rained harder my sketchbook was getting soaked, and I was desperately trying to finish as quickly as possible, one hand drawing, one hand holding the book, another hand balancing a broken umbrella...wait, I didn't have that many hands... which is probably why I got very wet, and cramp. I gave up and did the ink wash at home.