Monday 14 October 2019

Let's draw at the Natural History Museum - Saturday 14 December 2019

Join us in December to draw at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.  This spectacular Victorian building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and has ornate terracotta facades inside and out.  A sculpture of Charles Darwin presides over the main hall, which now features a skeleton of the blue whale.  The collections include 80 million specimens including wildlife and geology in an extraordinary “cathedral of nature”.   In December the museum's front garden is transformed into a magical outdoor ice rink.

The day is free of charge, no need to book, just turn up with your art kit.

Safety: Please be mindful of the safety of yourself, other sketchers and passers-by.  Be careful about your possessions when you are sketching and in crowded places.

Key times and meeting points for the day

11am: Meet at the Exhibition Road entrance, outside if the weather is fine, inside if wet (allowing time for bag search)

1pm: Meet inside the Exhibition Road entrance to look at drawings done so far.  The meeting point is the area to the RIGHT of the door by the CLOAKROOM

3.30pm: Meet inside the Exhibition Road entrance to look at drawings done and take group photographs.

Note that we are meeting inside the Exhibition Road entrance, not the main entrance on Cromwell Road.  This is the less busy entrance, as there is often a long queue at the main entrance.  There is a bag search, so do not include sharp tools such as craft knives or scissors in your art kit.

Although we meet up at the less busy entrance in Exhibition Road, for sketchers the main entrance in Cromwell Road is a masterpiece of decoration and not to be missed.

About the Natural History Museum

The Museum was opened in 1881 as a department of the British Museum. It was to be built by Francis Fowke who designed the Royal Albert Hall, but he died shortly after receiving the commission, and the young architect Alfred Waterhouse took over.

He redesigned the building and based it on German Romanesque buildings. The result is a Victorian Romanesque extravaganza, with rounded arches and ornate columns. Light is introduced by the use of iron and glass. Waterhouse included sculptures, decorations, tiles and details that all relate to natural history. There are gargoyles on the outside, owls and other birds on the capitals, animals peeping out of foliage, and many other extraordinary details - apart from the exhibits. He used a French sculptor, Dujardin to realise his designs, which were then cast in terracotta by Gibbs and Canning, a sanitary-pipe factory in Staffordshire.

Some stunning extra details are the 162 hand-painted panels of botanical species on the ceiling of the main hall.

Options for drawing

In summary, the building itself is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture housing millions of exhibits.

In front of the building, the skating rink will be open for the very hardy sketchers and on the day of our visit The Penguin Skate Club will be giving lessons to 4 - 8 year olds.

Inside the museum, the collections are organised into four zones.  There is an easily downloadable map on the website. 

  • The Blue Zone with dinosaurs, mammals, fish and reptiles is likely to be the busiest area. 
  • The Green Zone includes the spectacular Hintze Hall displaying the Blue Whale skeleton, and also has birds and creepy crawlies. 
  • The Red Zone includes geological exhibits, and on the top floor an earthquake simulator!
  • The Orange Zone is mainly outside, including a Wildlife Garden and the Darwin Centre.

Practical information

The nearest underground station is South Kensington, on the District and Circle lines.  The Natural History Museum is at the junction of Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road, London SW7 5BD.  Note that we are meeting at the entrance on Exhibition Road, not the main entrance on Cromwell Road. 

The Natural History Museum is open from 10 am to 5.50 pm, and has free admission, apart from some special exhibitions.  Inside the Museum, there are restrictions on what art materials can be used, so bring dry materials such as pencils.  There are some portable stools available.  The Natural History Museum has a cloakroom, cafes, gift shops, and toilets.  The area between the underground station and the Museum has a range of shops and cafes. 

This day is run by Nicky Browne and Elizabeth Blunt.  The drawing of the Blue Whale in the Hintze Hall is by Kenneth Chin of USK Singapore, and the sketches of antelope and birds are by Elizabeth Blunt.


Monday 7 October 2019

We drew the City of London - October 2019

(Olga Mackness writes)

On the 5th of October 2019 we have met at London Guildhall to draw this wonderful building and many others in the area.

As we were getting ready at 11.00 am and Katy Evans and I were doing introduction speeches -  a carriage appeared from the "backstage". It was as if we were back in time watching some noble person to arrive. However the carriage has been pulled by landrower car and few men.

The timing was perfect and I think it was one of the most spectacular openings of the Urban Sketchers London meetings.
Sketch credit to Cal Hoy. Beautiful object to draw. Lord Major's carriage, in the museum hall.
In the morning all went exploring the area - finding many different architecture styles to draw. Many concentrated by the Guildhall - producing many lovely sketches.
 Zane's chosen Bank of England
One of the sketchers drawing - watercolour was popular choice of medium on the day.
The weather was not too cold, not too windy, streets were not too crowded - it was possible to get comfortable and get on with the work.
Guildhall by Monica Phillips.
In the afternoon we have had a group picture taken by St Lawrence Jewry Church.
Pictures show time in the afternoon - photo credit to Zane Karklina
Later in the afternoon everyone enjoyed more sketching, - St Mary Le Bow, St Paul's Cathedral, nearby streets and some panoramic scenery -
Sketch by Martin Stone - roof of One New Change building
Just before we were ready to take 3.30 pm pictures, getting together by the Guildhall - the wedding party came out of the Church. They also wanted to have their photos done near Guildhall. It was a treat to see bride and groom, and the large party, all dressed up, looking happy.

The day felt like a treat, like a party and like a holiday at the same time.
Hope you all enjoyed it.

Thursday 3 October 2019

Let's draw the British Library - Saturday 2nd November

Drawing by Sangeeta Bhagawati
Join us in November to sketch the British Library and the Francis Crick Institute. The day is free to attend, just turn up with your drawing supplies and sketchbooks.

The main foyer at the British Library
PLEASE NOTE : The British Library are happy for us to draw there but have specified that ‘the only thing we would ask is that you are all mindful of other people and you are not setting up ‘large’ bulky easel stands.

Key times and meeting point

11 am – We’ll meet in the main foyer just inside the main front doors - see photo above.
1 pm – We’ll meet in the main foyer just inside the main front doors to look at drawings so far
3.30 pm – We’ll meet in the main foyer just inside the main front doors to look at the drawings from the day and take a group photo. For those who want to stay and chat further we can go to one of the nearby coffee shops or pubs.

The many levels at the British Library

What to draw

The British Library's St Pancras building - a grade I listed largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century - is a delight for any artist to sketch. It's a busy hub for students, researchers and readers and it has many significant things to draw - in the middle of the building is a six-storey glass tower containing the King’s Library, with 65,000 printed volumes collected by King George III and given to the nation; very spacious and visually pleasing atrium and piazza, reading rooms in different floors if one has a reading pass (free registration to get a pass); British Library extension - Centre for Conservation; Entry gate designed by Lida and David Kindersley; large sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi (a bronze statue based on William Blake’s study of Isaac Newton) and Antony Gormley; regular exhibitions (which are ticketed).

One of the outside terraces 

The Francis Crick Institute

The Francis Crick Institute is ‘a biomedical discovery institute researching the biology underlying human health.’ The building itself is large, with an interesting design and they have a small cafĂ© and exhibition area which is open to the public.

The outside of the British Library

Practical information

Facilities include cloak and luggage room, shops, toilets on each floor, free Wi-Fi, cafes (3 inside the building and 1 in the piazza) and a restaurant (on the 1st floor).

Good public transport connections with St. Pancras and Kings Cross stations nearby, both having National Rail, Underground and bus connections.

The address of the British Library is 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

The day is run by Sangeeta Bhagawati and Lis Watkins