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:
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.
This week I spent a few days at St. Ives, Cornwall. I took part in a three day course called Expressive Watercolour, which had a particular emphasis on techniques to create effects and textures with watercolour such as using salt, resists, and different tools to apply paint. I had hoped for more opportunities to paint out of doors, but took the opportunity in the studio to paint three versions of the same view using different approaches. These were based on a pencil drawing I did on location of the church and houses overlooking the harbour at St Ives.
Recently I spent a few days painting in the Exmoor National Park, staying at Selworthy. The painting above shows a view of Exmoor near the North Devon coast. Below, a farm building near where I was staying, and a wind-blasted tree which was painted on the coast at Porlock Weir. All the works are watercolour, painted on location.
A few weeks ago, I posted some sketches I had done on a visit to Morocco. Here is some work I have done subsequently from those quick location drawings. There are two works in soft pastel, two small watercolours, and a section from the experimental sketchbook I have been keeping, drawing onto a background of collage, ink and gesso. Although this seems an obvious thing to do, to keep a sketch book and then make more developed paintings later, in practice I have rarely done this. The sketches have not seemed ‘good enough’, I am more interested in working on location rather than make studio paintings. I feel it is progress that I have taken this further and it has helped to embed my recollections of this journey.
Above are the pastels, first a view of the gardens of the Mamounia Hotel, followed by a scene from the Majorelle Garden, which used to belong to Yves Saint Laurent, both in Marrakech.
Above are two watercolours, first one of Essaouira, and the second a view of the Kasbah above Imlil in the Atlas mountains. The two last images, below, and sketchbook pages which aim to give more general memories of some of the scenes of Morocco I remember from my trip.
Recently, I have been experimenting with a new, mixed media approach to my drawing. Using a concertina sketchbook, I first prepare backgrounds with ink or watercolour, collage, and acrylic gesso. Then, on location, I add drawing, and I have been experimenting with different pens and pencils. Here are some examples, drawn in Dulwich Park, at the British Museum, at Kew Gardens, and on a recent meet-up of Urban Sketchers London, at the Barbican.