Wednesday, 28 April 2021

My year of COVID, drawing and London

[By James Hobbs in London.] The drawings in any sketchbook inevitably tell a story of the artist who drew them. They say where we were and when, and perhaps who we were with, and as much other narrative content as we care to give away. But looking back at my sketchbooks from 2020 I realise that it is the long gaps when I did not draw that were a large part of the story of my year. 

Between the end of March 2020, when I posted the view from our front window as lockdown started (top image), and the start of May, I barely drew at all as I succumbed to the virus. I had no energy to think about drawing: my focus was simply on breathing and getting through. By the end of April I picked up the sketchbook again, but the false dawns of recovery that are typical of Long Covid meant the extended gaps between drawings lasted through the summer and into autumn. 

Views from my isolation bed and out of the window came first, and later, when some strength had returned, I drew from the top of the house (above) and in the park at the end of the road. It’s odd to remember just how exciting and triumphal it was to walk to and draw somewhere so familiar and close at hand.

As time when on and fitness grew my subjects expanded: we went camping for a few days when lockdown eased, and later I drew a series on the vast unfinished construction sites of offices in London and pondered whether they would ever be fully utilised in a new age of working from home. (Above, 21 Moorfields, being built over the Moorfields rail and tube stations.)

Medical visits, to donate convalescent plasma (at Westfield shopping centre, Stratford, above), or to undergo scans and tests, provided more opportunities and subjects to draw. It was not as if these were the most exciting subjects, but it felt as if drawing them and marking them in my sketchbook played a part of my glacial creep to recovery from the virus.  

As part of my recovery I took to cycling into the largely deserted City of London to experience it during its silent days (above, Threadneedle Street on a Tuesday afternoon, and below, Bank). Even in the middle of a working day its pavements and streets were calm and quiet. One day in broad daylight I followed a fox as it trotted down the middle of a street close to St Paul’s. 

During this time I have connected with the city in a way I haven’t before. I have felt – ridiculously – as if I have had it to myself, despite the security staff, other essential workers and skateboarders who stayed on. The empty, gleaming towers and echoing historic backstreets were all mine for a bit. Now I can see it coming back to life post-lockdown, I am mildly resentful at having to share it with other people as normality returns. 

I’m glad to say that last weekend I met with some fellow artists to draw together in central London for the first time since 2019. My health is much better, thank you, and there’s lots to be positive about and look forward to in the coming months. Drawing has helped me through this past year, so I’m looking forward to meeting the wider Urban Sketchers group in a joyous London face-to-face reunion – when the time is right. 

There’s more about my Long Covid recovery on my website. And see more of my images on Instagram


Monday, 12 April 2021

Let's draw: Squares - Saturday 15 May 2021

 [Lis Watkins writes] The challenge for May is based on the theme of ‘Squares.’ You could choose a central London Square, maybe somewhere local to you or use the theme as inspiration for sketching at home. As always, the priority is to stay safe and follow the relevant government guidelines in place at the time.

Parliament Square

My examples are from Parliament and Trafalgar Squares, drawn earlier this year.

I attempted an idea learnt at a ‘Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries’ workshop, where Swasky* explained a method to do an urban sketch but show the whole area around you. It involves moving around each side of a square and drawing each elevation to give an impression of the space. It is a fun and unusual way to approach a drawing, and it would be lovely if you could have a go. It’s a very literal way to look at the world in a different way, something we have all been doing over the past year in many aspects of our lives.

Trafalgar Square

Some other ideas for using the inspiration ‘squares’ if you are at home: 
  • Board games - playing chess or draughts, rolling dice, solving a Rubik’s cube 
  • Tiles - in the bathroom, around the sink, maybe around a fireplace or in a hallway 
  • Paving - decorative paths, textures of slabs in the garden, 
  • Cooking- making tray bakes, using stock cubes, tea with Battenburg cake 
These are just suggestions, you can respond to the theme in any way you choose, as long as your sketches are drawn from life.

Whatever you choose to draw, I hope you enjoy the process! There will be a virtual ‘throwdown’ on the Urban Sketchers London Facebook page at 3.30pm on Saturday 15th May, but please share your sketches at other times during the month, if that is more convenient for you. Use the hashtags #urbansketcherslondon #usklondonsquares #urbansketchers if you are posting on social media to help us find your drawings. 

*Swasky is on Instagram @swasky


Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Drawing Attention - April 2021


The official zine of the Urban Sketchers organisation

Drawing Attention April 2021

Don't miss USk London founding member James Hobbs on page 51

"What really drew me to urban sketching was the storytelling side."

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 .


Sunday, 4 April 2021

We drew people on Saturday 27th March


 Sketch by Alison Gardiner (Crouch End)


Sketch by Anthony Mark Peters (Clapham Common)

Seventeen persons - well spread out over London - gathered on screen with other folk soloing in Parks, Markets, Gardens, a High Street - even a Butcher’s queue - to draw people.