Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Drawing Attention - March 2021

The official zine of the Urban Sketchers organisation

Drawing Attention March 2021

Drawing Attention, the official monthly zine of the Urban Sketchers organization, communicates and promotes official USk workshops, symposiums, sketchcrawls, news and events; shares news about USk chapters; and educates readers about the practice of on-location sketching.

To subscribe to Drawing Attention click HERE .


Drawing Attention February 2021


Drawing Attention January 2021 

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Wednesday, 17 February 2021

We drew 'Naughty and Nice' 13 February 2021

Zooming into 2021 

 by Helen Hayhoe

Our first virtual sketch meeting: 'Naughty and Nice' on 13 February 2021        

In 2020, soon after I joined the USk London admin team, I was lucky to participate in a (4am!) global USk meeting via the video conferencing platform Zoom. I heard about the resourceful ways in which people across the planet have managed to keep on sketching in the face of the global pandemic. What struck me was the fact that, despite COVID-related lockdowns, sketchers have found ways to remain true to the USk manifesto of drawing on location, storytelling, keeping a record and being truthful to what we witness, in whatever media we choose. What we lacked though was the mutual support of being together in our sketching.

I could see that many USk chapters are using virtual media to sketch together and share their work. In our London chapter we already use social media: our blog, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Instagram --  different people favour different platforms. But until 2021 we hadn’t used a virtual platform for our live meetings.

All that changed in February. We had set sketch meeting themes for the first months of 2021, and in January for the theme 'Regeneration' we had encouraged participants to sketch changes in their homes and neighbourhoods. Participants produced lovely sketches, but we had hoped to see more drawings from that session on social media. So for our February sketch meeting we decided to try a new tack: Zoom.

Nicky Browne gamely agreed to host the February meeting, and as it was Valentine's Day weekend she chose the theme ‘Naughty and Nice’. Nineteen brave souls joined in. It was so good to see everyone's faces and find out where they were located. We began with introductions, and learnt that many of our sketchers had had difficult times during the pandemic. We heard tales of loss and demotivation, but also positive stories about new ways of working, and some incredible visual diaries of the past year. 

Nicky Browne's delectable still life

Nicky had prepared some delicious prompts – Cavan cakes and champagne – and started us off with a pep talk and examples. Many people then headed off to another room in their home, or ventured out despite the chill weather to sketch what they could see in their local streets. Others had set up sketching stations at their computers, and continued to sketch together via Zoom. It was lovely to hear the squeak of their pencils and the sigh of brushes across London. Nicky could be seen bravely live-streaming her sketch the entire session.

Sasala Wickramasinghe's 'Naughty and Nice' 

At 2.45 people got together again to show and talk about their sketches and where they had observed their subjects. Looking at their sketches in the moment, and later as they popped up on Facebook, I delighted in the humour, the storytelling and the range of styles and media on show.

Sarah Lee's Valentine's treats

Feedback has been positive. I think that if we use Zoom as one of the ways we get together, it will continue to add to our experience. I definitely don’t see it as a substitute for face-to-face meetings out of doors and on location together. Think of it instead as a supplement.

We will continue to come up with themes that can prompt us to sketch in ways that are true to our USk mission, however we manage to do that. If you would like to join us for our virtual sketch meeting on 27 March, please do. For the Zoom link and passcode, just send us an email and we will send you the details. Or if you prefer you can just sketch as you always have, and post your drawings on social media. We welcome you.

Oh, and if your sketches are drawn on location within the M25, please send them to us, and we will add them to the Our London interactive sketch map on our blog and Facebook. 
John Webb's cellar


Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Let's draw: Saturday Sketch Meeting 27 March 2021 - 'People'

"People are always missing from my drawings."

(Could this be you?)

Hosted by John Webb

St Paul's
All sketches by John Webb

As Urban Sketchers our default setting tends to be the built environment. But if it were not for people, there would be no need for places. People come first, then come places. So drawing people in places is a legitimate urban sketch. Indeed, places without people would be unnatural. So why are they missing from the greater proportion of our drawings? 

Richmond Park

Are we like some photographers who will wait hours to get a ‘good shot’ without people, believing that ‘people spoil the picture’? Not in my case. For me it's simply that drawing figures is a challenge. 

Kensington busker

I’m sure I’m not alone in having trouble with people (read that as you will!). But people are a big asset in a setting -- they give a sense of scale and direction, lend interest to a composition, and add life and a bit of fun. This isn’t portraiture or long-pose life drawing, but the human part of the urban scene...whether people are sitting, standing, cycling, contemplating, reading or running, or playing instruments or sports.

Some of us are old enough to remember dry-transfer figures available by the sheet to rub onto graphic illustrations, their frozen-rigid postures instantly recognisable. Or the stylised, hand drawn carrot-shaped figures loved by architects. 

There's an equally wide variety of styles and techniques dotted about on our social media pages. At the end of this day, there’s a lot for us to enjoy and take inspiration from. 

Lord's Cricket Ground

Plan for the day

This will be our second sketch meeting with an online element (our first virtual session, 'Naughty and Nice' on 13 February 2021, was a delight). Please draw whatever and wherever you can on the day, while observing current COVID restrictions, and post the results on social media in the usual way.

As always, we will be sketching from life -- but you are most welcome to join us to say hello and for an online introduction to the March challenge.

You can stay and sketch together -- sketch yourself, whoever is in your household, whoever walks past your window, or anyone you see if you venture out and about -- or join us later for show and tell. 


We will host a Zoom meeting around the 'People' theme. First, John will introduce the session with a few words on his ideas about sketching people. You are then free to go and draw. The Zoom link will remain live throughout the day, so that anyone who wishes to do so can stay in the Zoom session and sketch together at home. We may throw in a few in-the-moment challenges!

2.45 - 3pm

We will gather again on Zoom for a show and tell. The Zoom link will remain open for a while, so anyone who wishes to can have a virtual drink together afterwards. 

Our first virtual sketch meeting, 13 February 2021

How to join in

If you are interested in joining the Zoom meeting, please let us know via our email address. Put 'March Sketch Meeting' in the subject line of your message, and we will send you the Zoom link and passcode.

Wait, there's more!

If you are sketching from London and drawing a specific place in your neighbourhoods, your sketches can be included in the Our London interactive sketch map. We can then see who is where and get a sense of place. It may help sketchers to know who is very local to them when, in future, we are able to meet again in small groups.

We are very interested to know what you think of these new ideas, which we hope will combine our desire to continue to sketch in situ with the social element we all miss.

And if you'd like to see what we have planned for the coming months, have a look at the USk London programme for 2021.

Happy sketching!

Metropole waiters


Monday, 25 January 2021

Let's draw: Saturday Sketch Meeting 13 February 2021 - 'Naughty and Nice'

Valentine Sketch Meet: Partners not required!

Hosted by Nicky Browne and Helen Hayhoe

Sketches by Nicky Browne

It is very NICE to see Valentine Day again – spring flowers in gardens, catkins, buds on trees, longer days, bunches of roses, pinks, bright yellows and greens, reds, hearts, bows and smiles after a long locked-down winter. Rejoice!

And then this is the time to enjoy the NAUGHTY pleasures and having fun ... and not just any chocolates, but extravagant and indulgent chocolates, frothy Valentine cakes and puddings laden with almonds and cream, fresh spring vegetables, the first blood oranges from Sicily. Fizz and fun, naughty floaty lacy delights, forbidden kisses! Well - all kisses are forbidden now - but we can dream! And how about sketching your celebratory Valentine's breakfast, to be read with today's paper? Please sketch whatever and wherever you can within the current rules.

This month we are aiming to introduce a new option, to add an online element to our sketching.

11 am

We will host a Zoom meeting around the theme above. Nicky and the Admins (our new rock group) will invite you to join a live event. Nicky will introduce the session with a Valentine’s breakfast for about 40 minutes. Bring your own! You are then free to go and sketch. The Zoom link will remain live throughout the day so that anyone who wishes to sketch together at home can do so.

3 pm

We will gather again on Zoom for a show and tell, and those who wish can have a virtual drink together afterwards.

If you are interested in joining the Zoom meeting please let us know via email. Put 'February Sketch Meeting' in your subject line, and we will send you the Zoom link.

If you are sketching from London and drawing a specific place in your neighbourhoods, your sketches can be included in the new Our London map. We can then see who is where, and get a sense of place. It may help people to know who is very local to them, for when we are able to meet again in small groups.

We are very interested to know what you think of these new ideas, which we hope will combine our desire to continue to sketch in situ with the social element we all miss.


Wednesday, 20 January 2021

2021 Review of 2020, Welcomes, Thanks and New Ideas

Isabel Carmona writes:

Happy New Year! 

I want to review last year as it was an odd one for us. A year of change and adaptation.

We started with a couple of well attended sketching events in January at the Tate Modern and then in February at the Wallace Collection. And then our brilliantly put together programme of meetings (masterminded by the fabulous Jo Dungey and Lis Watkins) had to stop as big gatherings were not allowed and we went into the first lockdown.

We put up a challenge of 30 days indoor urban sketching during the first lockdown and many of you contributed and that kept us going.  

Helen Hayhoe's 30 days sketchbook

We gathered ideas of creative activities by all sorts of institutions and attempted a virtual sketchcrawl and kept the summer evenings sketching ideas going as close to home or in small groups as slowly we were allowed to come out. We also listened to the USk Talks by the global Urban Sketchers group and some may have taken up their challenges. 

Helen Hayhoe's Summer sketching

Jo Dungey left the administration team in the first half of the year. We can't thank you enough Jo for all your great organisational skills, getting people together to contribute ideas for the next sketching venue or ideas for a challenge. Thank You!  

Helen Hayhoe joined the administration team in May and immediately engaged with the global community, taking part in a global collaboration creation. We look forward to all the new ideas she brings.

We continued with various sketching challenges including words and Victorian buildings, history, took inspiration from various London locations and looked at our own personal collections (during the second lockdown).

Jo Dungey's Historical sketching challenge

Throughout the year, we've learned to sketch by ourselves or in smaller groups (when we were allowed). However, I still miss our larger gatherings and seeing each other regularly. Our Facebook group and Twitter presence keeps growing and collect the day to day of our urban sketching adventures. 

For 2021 we are still in lockdown, now version 3! and our 2021 sketching programme can be done in your local areas (and even in your homes).  Keep an eye for announcements as we are introducing a few changes and hope to be able to do intros to the themes and virtual throwdowns in the next few events.

We thank Lis Watkins for all her hard work during the last four years as administrator of the group. Lis stepped down at the end of the year and we welcome Sasala Wickramasinghe to the administration team.

With a fresh team to take on 2021 a few new projects have started and we need your help for all (taking part and contributing in organising events).  Most importantly, we need you to keep sketching and sketch your local environments in London.  

Our London

In 2021, we are embarking on a new adventure and need your help. We've called the project Our London and it is an online interactive map collecting our London sketches

We want to put our urban sketching view of London on the map and have created a map page that we want to fill with your sketches of your London area. 

So far we've gathered all the locations we've sketched since 2017 and other places we've sketched as individuals and have posted in the blog.  

The Our London map shows that many of our areas within the M25 are in need of sketches. The map is live, and we'll be including more and more sketches as we get contributions.

Our London - an interactive sketch map project by Urban Sketchers London

Perhaps you have sketches of your local areas to contribute and would like to share them with us, so that we are able to populate it with our stories and places: local, interesting, quirky, famous, mundane, historical (whatever interests you!). If so, please send a good image (and also the story behind the sketch in a few words) to us by e-mail with the subject line: Our London. Remember to tell us who you are (so that we can credit you) and what is the location of your sketch, so we can locate it easily on the map.

Thanks in advance for your contributions - get your London neighbourhood on the map!

Note: The map administrators reserve the right to exclude any sketches that don't clearly comply with the urban sketchers principles or have insufficient information about the sketch.


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Let's draw: January 2021 - Regeneration (Battersea Power Station)

Happy New Year and welcome to 2021.

As we mentioned at the end of the year, until we are able to meet in person, we are going to propose a monthly theme to be explored. We are suggesting a date and time to share the sketches on Facebook and other platforms but if you wish to do it before or after the date please keep them coming. 

We are treating this virtual meeting as it would be for real, only that you can choose to: sketch on the suggested London location, sketch in a different location nearer to your home but exploring the same theme or even sketch within your home, still from reality, exploring the theme.  

January's theme is Regeneration and the location is close to my heart, Battersea Power Station.  

Alternatives: Changes that you notice in your local area, Changes in your home: redecoration, DIY

Sketching Theme Date: Saturday 16 January 2021  

Suggested Times: 11am to 3pm

Post your sketches in Facebook or Flickr with the # suggested below or in the event post itself.

Suggested # are: #urbansketcherslondon #UskLondonJan2021 #UskLondonRegeneration.

Remember: to tell us the story behind the sketch, why you chose to do it, how did you do it, anything you'd like to share that completes the sketch and makes it more personal.

Battersea Power Station (sketches by Isabel Carmona, 2018 and 2019)

As an architect I worked on one of the teams that worked on the early projects (in the 2000s) that were looking to convert the power station and surrounding area into a media and post production area, as well as including retail and theatre in the mix, a few hundred dwellings and loads of open space all towered by the 20th century power station. That was one of the early projects that due to its cost never got realised.

It is good to see the area coming together now and the sketches that follow were done in 2018 and 2019 in two separate trips to London.

The first (above) is a very quick  sketch indeed, probably 15 min maximum as we walked by and I got inspired to do it when we found out we could get this close to the front and see what was going on, the feeling was cranes everywhere, a flurry of activity.

The second (below) probably a year later (in March 2019) looking from the other side of the Thames with the cranes appearing behind the glass building (apartments) and the Power Station chimneys amongst the cranes, barely recognisable from this angle. 

After the watercolour sketch, I walked closer to Battersea, where you could sit in the warmth of the coffee shop (it was not too warm that March) and get a closer sketch of the front chimneys and the construction elevators.

This area will continue changing for some time, gentrifying perhaps but the site is open to walk through and one can get closer to the Power Station than ever before, one day we'll go in and get to appreciate its size - inside (when it was empty) one could have fitted St Paul's.  It is enormous.