Tuesday 30 November 2021

My London sketchbook: Out and about with Sue Lees

Global Day of Action for Climate Justice march - November 2021

= By Sue Lees =

I have been outdoor sketching, and urban sketching, for quite a few years now with the Islington Art Society, the Highgate Watercolour Group and Urban Sketchers London. The benefit of having others around also with their drawing books out in public places is huge, helps to get over assorted fears and stage-fright.

I sketch mostly in watercolour, but I do use pens and watercolour crayons if either the subject or the weather suggests watercolour will be difficult.

Vauxhall Bus Station 2017

These two pictures are from an Urban Sketchers London sketchcrawl in 2017 around Vauxhall. It began to rain as I emerged from the Tube. I started the bus station pic on site, but it had to be dried off in the Underground, and I finished it at home. I went into the nearby Starbucks to dry myself off and warm up, and while I was there I sketched a girl with her phone. 

On the phone in Starbucks 2017 

Always the outdoor painting brings with it a memorable encounter. I got talking to two men in schoolboy uniforms, shorts and all. Never got to the bottom of why they were dressed like this!

The bronze horses of Goodman's Fields 2017

Another memorable outing in 2017 was with the Islington Art Society's 'Art in the Park' group, when we went to Goodman's Fields in Aldgate. Fantastic bronze horse sculptures by Hamish Mackie were the draw. Unfortunately the water feature the horses were meant to be rushing through was not working, and there was the most appalling noise from building works as the already vast development was being expanded. 

The churchyard at St Mary's church, Walthamstow 2018

In 2018 I joined Urban Sketchers London in Walthamstow where I drew St Mary's churchyard, looking very pretty in spring. 

Extinction Rebellion rally in Trafalgar Square 2019

This is a peaceful protest reportage drawing from Extinction Rebellion's rally in Trafalgar Square in 2019. I have turned out in support of climate action and pro-'Remain in the EU' marches many times. I find it very difficult to sketch marches, as everybody is moving and that presents difficulties with composition, etc. The Extinction Rebellion rally was relatively easy to do because everyone was listening to the speeches.

I see from my notes that I had very little drawing gear with me -- the police were banning protests under the UK's Public Order Act, and I had thought that there might be a roundup of all attendees. (A charming protester lent me the coloured markers.) I fear for liberal democracy as the Conservative government threatens crackdowns on peaceful protest.

I now make my own watercolour sketchbooks! 

In post-lockdown 2021 I'm using my bicycle instead of public transport for outdoor sketching. I can't carry as much watercolour gear as I used to, so I started making my own A5-sized sketchbooks with my favourite watercolour paper in them (Saunders Waterford High White Rough). 

I found a YouTube demo which seemed achievable, and am very grateful to Julia Bausenhardt for putting up this demo. Though YouTube itself has become more irritating with its adverts since it was bought by one of the internet giants.     

While these homemade books are less smart than professionally made sketchbooks, I know where I am with the paper -- and the paper matters hugely with watercolour. And they are much cheaper!

St Augustine's Tower, Hackney 2021

I took my new sketchbook along on a drawing day with the Islington Art Society's 'Art in the Park' group. St Augustine's Tower is all that remains of the original Tudor Church -- the oldest building in Hackney -- which was demolished when they built the huge St John's Church nearby.

Egyptian Avenue, Highgate West Cemetery 2021

On another day I was out with the Highgate Watercolour Group at Highgate West Cemetery. The day was wet in patches -- this has not been a good summer for plein air painting.

To my knowledge, this is the first season when visitors have been able to go round the amazing West Highgate Cemetery unescorted, and without the guided tour. So sketching has suddenly become possible!

The architecture of Highgate West Cemetery transports the visitor back into ancient Egypt (this part) and into other very old places of antiquity (slightly loosely interpreted). Definitely a place of atmosphere and deserving of many artistic visits.  

Global Day of Action for Climate Justice march 2021

On the 6th November I went on the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice march, and made this sketch at the Bank of England assembly point before the march moved off (I applied washes at home). Once again, the police were a static central feature of my drawing, and provide a handy splash of colour as well. Regrettably I did not see any other urban sketchers!

While the main street action was obviously at COP26 in Glasgow, it was great that the London march (and other marches around the country) took place to try to drive home to our government that people around the country want actual emissions reductions to stop the global climate changing any more, and not just promises for future action which can - and have been - broken.

Sue Lees is on Instagram as @suesymslees 


Thursday 18 November 2021

CANCELLED Let's draw Covent Garden: Saturday 18th December 2021

Covent Garden Sketch by Karen Jones

[By Isabel Carmona and Sasala Wickramasinghe]

= Cancelled =

In December we will draw Covent Garden.

The giant Christmas tree, specially selected for Covent Garden! 

Iconic Covent Garden will be full of festive cheer and be bustling with Christmas shoppers. The giant baubles and mistletoe are back in the piazza - Karen Jones (see main image above) drew these back in 2016. We certainly will be spoilt for choice on things to sketch!

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

Key times and meeting points

11 AM

Meet outside the Apple Store (1-7 The Piazza, WC2E 8HB) under the arches in the covered area, which should provide shelter in case of rain.

1 PM

We will meet at the same place outside the Apple Store for the first throw down and photograph. 

3.30 PM
Meet next at the side of St Pauls Church through the arched gate (see photo below) between the NatWest bank and the Church (by the performers’ area) to look at drawings and take final group photographs. This area is not sheltered, and if it rains we will revert to the covered area outside the Apple Store. One of the admins will be around to guide people if this is the case. 

3.30 pm meeting place at the side of St Pauls Church


We could then gather in the cafe/restaurant in the Royal Opera House on the ground floor next to the shop. This is open to the public until at least 8pm on days when they have performances. 

There are plenty of other pubs and bars (albeit very busy running up to Christmas) in Covent Garden, if people want to stay back for a drink. 

Options for drawing

  • The Victorian market buildings: the central market and Jubilee Market. There will be a Christmas market/stalls just outside the piazza opposite the entrance to the Royal Opera House. 
Sketch by Lindsay Topping
  • St Pauls Church (also known as the Actors’ Church) with its peaceful churchyard: numerous memorial plaques (including one for Sir Charles Chaplin!) and inside the warm interior is mostly covered in beautifully polished wood.  

  • Royal Opera House: the top floor bar area offers some spectacular views of Covent Garden markets below. The Floral Hall, with its magnificent barrelled roof and stunning ironwork, occasionally hold free public performances.  

Sketch by Isabel Carmona
Sketch by Jacqueline Röhr
  • Street performers and musicians: they’re everywhere! Street performers’ area outside the piazza (where the giant Christmas tree is); there is another performers’ area in the North Hall inside the piazza; there are regular Christmas carol and opera performances and musicians playing downstairs in the South Hall. 
  • London Transport Museum: The museum itself charges an entrance fee, but entry to the beautifully vibrant shop and cafe is free.  

Practical information

COVID-19 visit information

COVID-19 and its variants remain prevalent even though restrictions have been lifted. It's sensible to take all necessary precautions to keep ourselves and fellow sketchers safe throughout the event. The risk of infection for outdoor events is low, but basic guidance still applies: please do not attend if you feel unwell, wear a face covering when you're close to others, give people space, and practice good hand hygiene. There is also the option of self-testing before the event. 

All indoor venues (Royal Opera House, London Transport Museum) require visitors to follow social distancing rules and wear a face covering. 

Getting there

Unfortunately, there are tube strikes scheduled on several lines on the London Underground on Saturday the 18th. Please check service updates before starting your journey and try to use alternative modes of transport if possible. 
More information on the planned strikes can be found on the TFL website here.

The nearest Tube stations include Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line; 1min walk), Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern Lines; 7 min walk) and Holborn (Central and Piccadilly Lines; 10 min walk). 

See you at Covent Garden!

The day is run by Isabel Carmona and Sasala Wickramasinghe.

⧫ ⧫ 

Join our new mailing list

If you haven't joined our new mailing list yet, sign up here to receive all the latest Urban Sketchers London news and events.

⧫ ⧫ 

Location map

⧫ ⧫ 


To remind -- Let's draw the Design Museum: Saturday 20 November 2021

= To remind =

In November we draw the Design Museum, off Kensington High Street. 

Joining instructions

We're meeting at 11am on the paved area outside the main entrance of the Design Museum at 224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8 6AG.
For all of the key times and meeting points, options for drawing and practical information, please see the original blog post.

COVID-19 visit information

Since COVID-19 and its variants remain even though restrictions have been lifted, it's sensible to take all necessary precautions to keep ourselves and fellow sketchers safe throughout the event. The risk of infection for outdoor events is low, but basic guidance still applies: please do not attend if you feel unwell, wear a face covering when you're close to others, give people space, and practice good hand hygiene. There is also the option of self-testing before the event.

= The day is run by Jimmy Lu and Helen Hayhoe =

See you at the Design Museum!


Thursday 11 November 2021

London's Day of Action for Climate Justice - by Sarah Minty

By Sarah Minty

At the end of the first week of the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (aka COP26), the 6th November marked the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice which saw protests take place in cities all around the world.

In London, hundreds of people walked from Threadneedle Street by the Bank of England to Trafalgar Square, and it was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at some reportage illustration and attempt to capture the positive and hopeful atmosphere. It was also a new challenge for my ‘100 days of drawing’ project which I’ve been working on since the Summer (although please don’t do the maths, as I’ve had to skip a few days here and there!).

It turns out marching and sketching isn’t that easy though … So it wasn’t until the rally in Trafalgar Square, perched on the steps leading up to the National Gallery, could I attempt to try and sketch some of the protesters as they watched the inspiring speakers, and scribble down the chants and slogans that had been surrounding us all day.

I only had a few pens and coloured pencils with me, and next time I’ll take more things. Because there will be a next time - it feels like everyone is starting to wake up to the fact that we need to fight for our future and I would like to be there to document it. 

Sarah Minty is on Instagram @sarahminty16


Wednesday 3 November 2021

Urban Sketchers London now on Instagram

Urban Sketchers London is now on Instagram 

Follow us @urbansketcherslondon and use the hashtag #urbansketcherslondon to have your drawings featured.

Please follow these simple rules:

  1. Drawings about London only 
  2. Drawings done on location only 
  3. No promotion or advertising. 

Our blog remains the main channel for information and updates about upcoming events.

See you on Instagram!


Don't miss our next sketchcrawl on 20 November 2021 at the Design Museum  

And if you haven't joined the new mailing list for the Urban Sketchers London blog, sign up here to receive all the latest Urban Sketchers London news and events.