Friday 15 May 2015

REMINDER: Let's Draw Kew Gardens tomorrow!

The weather looks as if it's set fair for our expendition to sketch Kew Gardens tomorrow. You can read about all the details in Let's Draw Kew Gardens - SATURDAY 16th MAY 2015

Key features of Kew Gardens on a Google Map - click to see a larger version

Let's Draw Kew Gardens - Saturday 16th May 2015 

Let's Draw Kew Gardens - Saturday 16th May 2015

Here's the summary
  • Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in south west London
  • Date: Saturday 16th May 2015 (The gardens are open from 10am if you want to get there early and close at 6.30pm if you want to stay late)
  • Entrance Fee: Please make a particular note that this venue is NOT free and there is a charge of£15 per adult (£14 if purchased online) and Free if you are a Friend.
  • Start: 11:00am at the Terrace outside the Victoria Plaza café next to the Entrance (just to the right of the ticket gate) - introduction to those new to urban sketching and tips re. Kew Gardens
  • Lunch: 1:30pm at The Orangery - share our sketches, group photo - and time for lunch. The Orangery has hot and cold food from Peyton & Byrne and tables and chairs to sit and eat at.  You can also buy sandwiches from Tesco on the left as you walk out of Kew Station.
  • End: 3:30pm - in front of the Palm House (Lake side) - share our sketches + another group photo to add to the collection!
  • Travel: Kew Gardens Station
    • Underground: District Line to Richmond - There appear to be no problems with the District Line this weekend. For other lines see the map below
    • North London Line to Richmond. 
  • Map
According to BBC Weather, the weather is due to be light cloud in the morning (15C) then sun from 3pm (17C) - so hopefully no rain.

Tweet your sketches tomorrow using the hashtag #USKLondon and/or #sketching.

Follow live tweets from Kew Gardens on

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Urban Sketchers go to Silvertown (part 2)

Isabelle Laliberté, Millennium Mills

As James said in his post below, it's hard to put your finger on the appeal of places like Millennium Mills: a vast area of broken stone and glass, weeds, graffiti, and emptiness. Perhaps because they are modern-day ruins, if that isn't an oxymoron. Like visiting Rome for example; it's startling to come upon huge sections of a city that were so obviously important and full of life at one point, now abandoned and crumbling, but with an added shock value that rather than belonging to a distant bygone age, it has occurred within our own lifetimes - the Royal Victoria Docks only finally closed in 1981.

Nathan Brenville

Originally built in 1905, Millennium Mills was partially destroyed first by the infamous "Silvertown Explosion" of a munitions factory in the First World War, 1917, and then again in the Second World War, by German bombing. As you can just make out in my sketch above, the building was rebuilt both times - on the left in 1954, and on the right it says 1933. What attracted me to drawing it was that the building was now such a wreck - the company didn't really have much luck, did it?

Olha Pryymak, sketchbook pages

Sue Pownall, Powerful
Olha Pryymak, sketchbook pages

BBC "Ashes to Ashes" - silo D in the background

The area is not only popular with us sketchers and the location scouts for film and tv, but with "urban explorers", who are, I suppose, similar to urban sketchers but without the pencils, (and with a slightly more reckless attitude to going into places they're not supposed to go) - a quick Google reveals a wealth of photos from inside, on top of and around the Silvertown site that are well worth a look.

Isabelle Laliberté, Grain Silo D

Sue Pownall, Silo D

On the far side of the site, with a stretch of water separating it from the Mill, is an intriguing and large section of open land, which from what I can gather was approximately where the munitions factory was in 1917 before it caused London's biggest ever explosion. I suppose after that they must have rebuilt something on there, but you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd just left it, as rubble and rubbish lies strewn around all over the place, and not much else, except for the odd looking "Dome". Maybe it was supposed to echo the Millennium Dome (which can be seen in the distance) but at any rate it is the most recent addition to the landscape - used as a pop-up cinema during the Olympics.

Nathan Brenville, Weird Dome Thing
Capturing the changes at this site will be an interesting experience, and one I hope we can involve many more sketchers in over the next few years, getting different styles and perspectives as redevelopment continues. It seems to be a similar project to Kings Cross, which when I first arrived in London in 2001 struck me as a desolate, bleak, industrial shell of a place, but is now (rather successfully, I would say) completely regenerated. Seeing the redevelopment that's already occurred in the Silvertown area and the space (unusual in London) for new buildings, I'd say it's a safe bet that it will gradually become much more popular in future.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Urban Sketchers go to Silvertown

Lis Watkins, Millennium Mills

London's Urban Sketchers were recently invited to draw Silvertown, a major £3.5 billion regeneration project in east London that will turn the derelict post-industrial wasteland into what aims to be the city's "new creative capital", with 3,000 new homes and 21,000 new jobs. Named after its 19th-century founder Samuel Winkworth Silver, it handled much of the old Empire's exports and imports until the 1960s when containerisation and new docks downstream took over. What remains - monumental, crumbling, windswept, beautiful – is Millennium Mills, once home to Rank Hovis MacDougall and Spillers, and Silo D, a surviving grain silo. Set by the Thames in a wealth of concrete, graffiti, aircraft noise and wildlife-rich greenery, the site is an exciting and evocative place to draw.

From left: Sue Pownall, Evelyn Rowland, Lis Watkins, James Hobbs,
Julie Bolus, Isabelle Laliberté, Olha Pryymak and Nathan Brenville

Because work is underway at the 62-acre site numbers were limited to eight. We will be returning as it develops over the years so other regular urban sketchers in London may get a chance to visit it to draw. This post includes the work of four of us from the first visit: Lis Watkins, Julie Bolus, Evelyn Rowland and me, James Hobbs. The work of the other four – Nathan Brenville, Isabelle Laliberté, Sue Pownall and Olha Pryymak – will follow in Nathan's post.

Julie Bolus, Millennium Mills

The site is a forbidding place. It is reached from a high footbridge over the Thames near the Excel Centre, where planes for City Airport fly low overhead. Security is tight, and there are dogs on the site. The area inside is huge and bleak, but strangely appealing to draw. Within minutes we were scattered across the site. Our high visability jackets – bearing the logo of the asbestos removal specialists working in Millennium Mills – meant it was possible to pick each other out on the other side of the wilderness at what seemed miles away.

Evelyn Rowland, Silo D

What is planned for all this? Millennium Mills and Silo D will be home to businesses and restaurants, the Crossrail link will connect it to the rest of the city and beyond, there will be new amenities for people already living there, such as schools and health services, a piazza the size of Covent Garden, new bridges and walkways... but this is all a long way off.

James Hobbs, looking west

Silvertown has been a popular backdrop for films and music videos. Yet quite why something grim in so many ways is so moving I'm struggling to understand. What is so alluring about urban desolation? London's sights are visible in the distance: Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Dome, Canary Wharf and the cable car. But Silvertown is still a twinkle in the developer's eye. Whatever it becomes, it can never be more lovely than it is now.

Lis Watkins, Millennium Mills

Julie Bolus, Millennium Mills

Evelyn Rowland, Fire escape

James Hobbs, Millennium Mills

Our thanks to the Silvertown Partnership for inviting us. There are more images by the other artists on Nathan's blog, which follows this one.