This weekend I have been sketching in London. Above is a drawing I did on Saturday of the ever-changing City skyline, drawn from near Tower Bridge. It amazes, and sometimes worries me how quickly major developments take place in key areas of London. A couple of years ago, Norman Foster’s ‘Gherkin’ building on St Mary Ax dominated the view of the ‘new’ City. Now new buildings have shot up which dwarf it.
On Sunday, I was helping run a sketch crawl with Urban Sketchers London at Trinity Buoy Wharf. This is further east, across the Thames from the O2 in North Greenwich (originally the Millennium Dome). Trinity Buoy Wharf has the only lighthouse in London, surrounded by other older industrial/nautical buildings. It is now a centre for cultural activities and related businesses, surrounded by very new high-rise housing and offices, with great views of the river. My sketches take different elements of this and put them together. All sketches are done with coloured pencil on prepared but random backgrounds in watercolour, on a concertina sketchbook. Below are the drawings from Trinity Buoy Wharf:
Last weekend I joined a workshop run by Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries, taught by Isabel Carmona and Celia Burgos. We worked out of doors in Hampstead and Highgate in north London. Our sketches were focussed on two main themes: contrasting the city and nature, using watercolour, and using colour to show tone and depth, using coloured pencils. Here are some pictures I created.
Day 1: Working on Parliament Hill, one of the highest parts of London, I did several studies which showed a panoramic view of the city through trees, and individual houses framed by trees.
This was quite a challenge, but I learned a lot. The second and third pictures above had colour washes added later at home – I think the apricot sky helps, and the added blue is overdone. The warm, apricot sky is not realistic; I added the colour I though the picture needed. I am not sure why it has taken me such a long time to realise I can do this. It helps, particularly when a subject is green and more green.
The painting above I think is better, and benefitted from the experience of doing the others.
Day 2: This looked at using colour, and coloured pencils, to represent tone (light/dark), texture, and depth, in particular the principal that warm colours (reds, oranges, reddish browns) appear to come forward in a painting, and cool colours (blues, bluish greens) to recede. Here are some quick experiments.
Here are two simple tonal drawings drawn with a single colour. For each one, I painted a simple watercolour afterwards, to remind myself of the principles.
The garden in question was Queen Mary’s Garden in Regent’s Park, London, since I don’t have space for 12,000 rose bushes at home. Urban Sketchers London visited on Saturday 20 July 2019. I had hoped to work in watercolour, but painting an English garden requires account to be taken of English weather, and what was forecast was ‘sunshine and showers’. So I returned to my concertina sketchbook and prepared some pages in advance with abstract watercolour washes. I could then draw on location with coloured pencils – more compatible with the stop-start weather which was forecast. The weather was better than expected. In the drawings, I incorporated different views of the gardens, with an emphasis on variety of mark-making in the drawings.
Later in July, I am travelling to Amsterdam, to take part in the annual Urban Sketchers international meet-up. Of course, I am very excited to meet with hundreds of other sketchers and to draw scenes of Amsterdam. And when an English visitor thinks of Holland – tourist cliché alert – that includes windmills, doesn’t it? So, maybe some practice is in order.
Did you know we have windmills in London? My fellow sketcher, Lis Watkins (both of us are admins for Urban Sketchers London) and I set off to explore. We found and sketched three in South London, from left to right: in Wimbledon, Brixton, and Shirley, near Croydon.
The wonderful windmill sketches of Lis Watkins can be found on the international website of Urban Sketchers, where she is one of the London correspondents.
This week I had the challenge of drawing two Hindu temples, or mandirs, in North London, both of them buildings with extremely complex stone carvings. I needed to find ways of drawing these buildings in a fairly short space of time. The drawing above, and the photograph on the left, is the Shri Sanatan Mandir at Alperton, near Wembley.
The photograph on the right is of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden. Here is a second drawing of the Shri Sanatan Mandir, and one of the entrance to the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
Yesterday, I ran a sketchcrawl in Dulwich Village with Urban Sketchers London. I also found time to draw across four pages of my concertina sketchbook, and the results are shown below. The paper was initially prepared with torn paper collage, acrylic gesso and random marks with diluted indian ink. Then I drew on location with chinagraph pencil, which is a waxy, quite thick black pencil which encourages a bold approach. I am finding that the concertina format encourages a more flexible use of different images across the spread, developing a portrait of the place, in this case Dulwich Picture Gallery and its surrounds.
Yesterday I was drawing birds in the galleries of the Natural History Museum in London. Once again, I had prepared pages of my sketchbook, this time with acrylic gesso and watercolour. The birds are drawn in coloured pencil, with no attempt at realism or scale. Here is an imaginary Bird World.