In February/March 2015, I went with a group on a painting trip to Tamil Nadu in southern India, and I have been reminded of that in the last couple of days.
The pandemic changes everything, in big ways and small. I am involved in setting up and running, with Urban Sketchers London, a Thirty Day Indoor Sketching Challenge – Day One was Thursday 19 March 2020, but you can start it any time. Link to information here.
My sketch above is on today’s theme of ‘work’ and I decided to interpret this broadly as I don’t work, I am retired. I had pulled out a bright cotton scarf to wear yesterday, and it is one I had bought at a small weaving workshop in the Chettinad area of Tamil Nadu. You could watch a weaver at work on a traditional loom – I drew this scene (very badly, but I think she was entertained by my eccentric behaviour).
After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013, much was revealed about the poor conditions of work in textile factories globally, and the ‘Who made your clothes?’ campaign started. It struck me that (apart from some family hand knitting) the scarf represents the only occasion I have drawn someone who made my clothes.
My sketch above shows the scarf and the sketchbook.
I have never visited Egypt, but am always interested in seeing the art and artefacts from such an ancient culture. This composite drawing was done in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, as part of a joint meet-up with the London and Cambridge Urban Sketchers groups last Saturday.
Lately, I have spent a week in Amsterdam, including the annual international get-together of Urban Sketchers. About a thousand urban sketchers explored the city, painting and drawing on location. There were record-breaking high temperatures here as in other parts of northern Europe. I looked for shade, in particular enjoying the Amsterdam botanic garden and the parks. Here are some watercolour impressions of the city, including the canals, typical houses, the derelict areas of dockland, and dramatic modern buildings.
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 weekend, 7 – 9 June 2019, I have been sketching Stoke-on-Trent, the historic home of the English ceramics industry, including Wedgewood, Spode and other pioneering firms. This was the location of the annual get-together of UK Urban Sketchers, and we spent the weekend exploring the city and sketching.
The drawings I have done are a continuous image in a concertina sketchbook, and I have scanned them two at a time here.
The subjects are: Stoke Minster, outside and inside, including a panel of memorial wall tiles by Minton, a display of modern ceramics at the Potteries Museum, the façade of the Wedgewood Institute, ceramics moulds at the Middleport Pottery, inside the bottle oven at Middleport, a building in the town centre of Hanley, a bottle kiln at Middleport, and a vase made by Josiah Wedgewood. Without planning this, I feel I am now a bit better informed about the history of this industry.
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.
This weekend I have been drawing at the British Museum. This is a sketch of pots which are on display in the Africa Galleries. Urban Sketchers London, which I help to run, had a sketchcrawl there. More information can be found on the Urban Sketchers London blog.
One of the benefits of urban sketching is that it provides a reason to explore the hidden corners of London. Urban Sketchers London visited Three Mills Island to draw in May 2018, and for many of us it was a place we had never previously visited.
The House Mill and Clock Mill are tidal water mills on the River Lea in East London. There have been watermills on this part of the River Lea since the eleventh century – the Doomsday Book of 1086 records eight mills. The River Lea flows into the Thames and is part of the same tidal system; tidal mills use the flow of water to power the grinding of wheat into flour, and other purposes. The name ‘Three Mills’ was in use by the twelfth century; the mills ground and sold bread flour to local bakers. Grain was brought to the mills by carts or by barge from farms in Suffolk, Essex and Hertfordshire. Standing by the mills, you can see the tramways in the ground used by the grain carts.
The House Mill we see today was built in 1776; the Miller’s House adjoining it was rebuilt in the 1990’s to the original 1763 design after damage from Second World War bombing. The Clock Mill was built in 1817, replacing a timber-built mill. The clocktower is retained from the 1750s; the clock and bell summonsed the local people to work at the mills. These two mills have waterwheels under the buildings which would have driven the millstones. The buildings with conical roofs were used to dry grain.
My drawing above of the Clock Mill is a monoprint, based on an earlier location drawing.
Urban Sketchers London is part of an international network of groups who tell the story of the places where we live through location drawing. In London, we meet monthly in different locations, and there is information about this on our Urban Sketchers London blog. Here are some of the drawings I have done during 2018.
The first was done in January 2018 at the Wellcome Collection, a gallery with innovative displays about the history of medicine.
Above is a drawing is of St Dunstan-in-the-East, a ruined church in the City of London which is now a small garden. The drawing below was done at Gabriel’s Wharf, on London’s South Bank.