A hold up, a queue or a gap in the day’s proceedings are a gift to me – if I remember to take it – or if I have my sketch book to hand. Today was one such gift. A slight delay for my sis-in-law as we waited for her pre-flight Covid test on Westmuir Street, Glasgow.
You just have to look up and there’s the skyline full of Victorian chimney stacks, turrets, ridges and eaves.
Birds flying with ease from one perch to another.
I’m almost at the end of this pocket sketchbook – a strange feeling as sketchbooks are companions to me. When a book gets filled up there is a sense of a chapter closing.
A page has turned in our family story as my nephew begins a new life as a student in St Andrew’s, a long way from his home. Little does he know but it’s thanks to him that I have filled the last pages of this sketchbook with Glasgow rooflines and scarlet rosehips!
Today, Thursday 11th June 2020, would have been Lanimer Day, a celebration and a week-long town party that has taken place in Lanark since 1892. You can read more about the history of the activities on the Lanark Lanimers website. It’s a rare day in early June that the streets of Lanark are not filled with one of the UK’s largest processions for the crowning of the Lanimer Queen and many other ceremonial activities to celebrate the Royal Burgh.
I’ve hardly been into Lanark these last 12 weeks of lockdown so urban sketching has been replaced by orchard sketching (more on than another time) but I didn’t want the day to pass without acknowledging this significant week or without giving some acknowledgement to a few of the traders who show up in my sketches and who must also be finding it challenging to adapt and keep going.
These are simply some examples from my 2019 sketch book where I can show a small taster of the work that goes on in Lanark by others. Let’s start with some of the work by a Scottish potter Richard Price. This one’s for my Stokie Pals; I can’t help but admire potters wherever they are!
If there is work going on then there has to be a rest in between. Ernie, Tom and Millie sketched whilst on duty during the Tolbooth Christmas exhibition.
Included in the exhibition was a wonderful example of a Yorkshire Ewe by the animal portrait artist Rosie Mark who also works here in the Clyde Valley.
Looking outside the Tolbooth window, the pigeons settle down to roost on the chimney stacks.
Now for someone we all miss – our hairstylists! This is Heather at Nelson’s Hair Salon, which is being redecorated in anticipation of opening sometime soon.
Something else that I miss: being part of an audience at a music event such as this one held at Scottish Wildlife Trust visitor centre, New Lanark.
Finally I’d like to include an acknowledgement of the work put in by Ian Wilson Leitch and the Tolbooth volunteers and Kirsten Harris who all worked tirelessly on behalf of so many artists and creators to set up this shared exhibition open to all working in the area. You did a great job!
Here’s hoping that the pandemic recedes and that we can all pick up some of our most treasure threads of our daily lives with renewed enthusiasm.
Sometime last month I was asked if I had any sketches of North London’s number 43 bus. I scratched my head and went back through my sketchbook to find this one which I hope will bring a smile to my fellow blogger’s face.
My apologies it has taken this long to respond, but my scanner packed in and I had to get a replacement, plus I’m in the thick of preparations for a twin exhibition of my streets in Eccleshall which begins next week.
So this post is short and sweet with a bit of a sketchy bus theme all drawn from a bus stop and a few drawn from inside or up on the top deck.
Back to the London sketchbook. All trips to London start with a tea from Gourmet on Platform1, Stoke Station. Here are a few sketches which I made around the Hornsey Road which runs parallel to Holloway Road, drawn over several visits.
On some of these trips, I enjoy making tiny thumbnail sketches in less than two minutes, then adding a bit of colour at home.
It’s surprising what you can catch when you know you only have seconds when the bus stops.
On my way to the Hornsey Road, I walked past Royal Northern Gardens, a park created in 2002 on Manor Gardens. The Royal Northern Hospital opened in 1888 and once stood on this site. A new Casualty Department was opened in 1923 following WW1 as a memorial to the people of Islington and these rainwater hopper heads caught my eye, having been salvaged from the subsequent demolitions in the mid 1990s. They are now part of the memorial wall and used as planters.
Heading down Bavaria Road, I stopped to draw the ghost sign from the former Alexander Coffee Tavern. it turns out that this was once home of The Blenheim Arms, 395 Hornsey Road. Following closure this became a temperance pub called The Alexandra Coffee Tavern.
Another old sign caught my attention – ‘Plough Stables’. I was joined while I sketched by Martin and his dog Barney and I discovered it too was once a pub, a favourite of Martin’s dad.
Then sketching this ornate entrance to the Mosque, it too was once a pub – I smiled when I learned it was called the Hanley Arms.
I usually have to go inside to warm up at some point and since a kind person brought me out a green tea from the Rusty Bike Cafe, I went in for a bite to eat.
I will sign off with this sketch of an old red phone box, not so many around these days.
With most mobile smart phones, it’s straightforward enough to take a great photo, crop and edit it and post on line. Here’s an example from a few years ago, when I began with indoor sketching, the softies option. I took this pic with my camera and although it looks ok, it doesn’t really engage the viewer with the content of the sketch.
I’m sure that most people can do a much better job than this with their phones and the wide range of editing tools available but over the last few years, I’ve found I get a fresher and more consistent image by scanning the sketch.
I keep a record of most of my sketches and file them by date and location. I scan them as a jpeg at a medium resolution (300dpi), on a six year old Canon MG5250 scanner/printer.
When I place the sketch book on the scanner, I press the lid down to flatten the spine so as to get an even scan up to the binding otherwise the edges are blurred. This works up to within 1cm of the spine and it’s worth bearing in mind to keep any penwork away from the spine when sketching. Pressing down also helps flatten bumpy page surfaces.
Here’s the unedited scan of the sketch. You can see the blurred lettering where the spine can’t quite lie flat.
The next thing to do is to crop the image and get rid of any unwanted parts in Photoshop or Microsoft Picture Editor.
I’ve cropped the image below but the lettering still looks fuzzy so I opted to lose it for the shared image and cropped it again.
There are lots of tools for colour corrections but I often end up using the ‘auto-correct’ tools to enhance contrast which lifts the mist from the image.
I add my web address in the image as a reference so when it sails off into the ethers, it retains a reference to my website. I prefer to keep the web address fairly discreet so as not to distract from the sketch. I also save the image at a lower resolution so it looks fine on screen but isn’t sharp enough to print.
This is a simplified description of my editing and like all these things, I could go into it in more detail, so any questions, just ask. That said – I may not know the answer!
I have all my street drawings scanned, colour corrected and printed professionally by Smith York Fine Art Printers as it gets quite complex.
Although this process takes up a bit of time, it’s an organised way to keep your sketches so you can find them easily and it’s also a record in case your sketchbook gets drenched in rain or coffee or your cat decides to help out…
Funny how waiting in a queue is now something I enjoy. There’s always something to draw. I started with one foot, then a bit of leg then another…
Back to this month. I’ve had a great time sketching in Burslem, the mother town of the Potteries, starting with this one of Market Place, one of the streets which I’ve already drawn formally a few years ago which you can see here.
Any urban sketcher knows that it’s almost impossible to walk past an art shop without looking inside and buying at least a new pencil. So, when I walked past Cowling and Wilcox, on Holloway Road a few years ago, I gave in to a new Daler Rowney sketch book, about A5 size.
I go to London regularly – partly family visits to our son and also to draw some of my Great North Road street drawing series, Holloway Road.
This ancient route has shown up at key points in my life: at school in York, going to University in Edinburgh and now as our son has made his home beside it. I’ve made a start drawing chunks of the buildings along the Holloway Road and the photo above is on one of the sunnier days sketching out Denmark Place preparing for the formal architectural drawing. It’s only when you stop to draw that you notice things like date stones way up the top.
Back to the sketch book. I decided to keep this one just for sketching during my London visits. Three years later, it’s full!
I’d like to share some of the content from time to time. All the sketches are made on location and most sketched in about five minutes. Less than minutes for my wobbly sketches from the top of a bus!
It’s easy enough to spot the ones made in the time taken to enjoy a brew in a cafe.
More sketches of Holloway Road to follow soon, but if you are in Highbury, pop in to The Only Place For Pictures and see a few more London streets.
A few weeks ago, the weather was set fair so we took off to Anglesey for a bike ride and a night in our tent. I love these 24 hour mini-holidays. Not driving too far and getting fresh sea air is a tonic and I really enjoy exploring places new to us.
I had a new tiny palm sized sketchbook to make a start in. The best sketchbooks are the full ones so I got stuck in. There’s a church tower rising over the dense trees opposite the entrance to the campsite. It’s dedicated to an early Celtic female saint – Saint Ceinwen. Apparently there’s a holy well somewhere in the area – finding where that’s hidden will be a destination for another day!
Thanks for the subject of this next sketch Aunty J!
The following morning, we cycled out to the Cefni Reservoir from Newborough Sands. Most of the route is off the main road, alongside waterways full of wildlife.
I love this time of year. We went on this trip just before Midsummer when growth is at its peak. Have to grab and treasure these days when we can.
This week, Stoke Urban Sketchers celebrated international recognition as they were granted the status of ‘Regional Chapter’ within the global community of Urban Sketchers.
The group met up for a sketch this Saturday in the New Vic and the group founders, Laura Green and Rhomany Klair Scattergood were interviewed by the Sentinel for a feature as part of the Stoke bid for City of Culture 2021. There’s a taster video of the sketching session here filmed by Rhomany.
Instead of sharing my recent sketches, I thought I would rewind a bit to where I began keeping a sketch book. A few years ago, it was a wish of mine to become a member of the Urban Sketching community. I loved the confidence and simplicity of sketches from life and how people would share their sketches from all over the world. The range of skill is quite dramatic – from hurried sketches to accomplished works of art.
Even with my background in architecture, I still found it quite daunting to sketch out on the street, but that was only until I came across the work of Danny Gregory and his genius idea of Sketch Book Skool.
I think I was the eighteenth person to enlist on ‘Beginning‘, that first round of Sketch Book Skool lessons, which was such a brilliant experience. There must be thousands enlisted now. Danny and his co-teachers taught us all to just go for it – to sketch our days and in so doing we sketch our lives.
For these sketches, I was following a lesson given by Prashant Miranda, recording a day from start to end, my early dip into sketching from life, which is all urban sketching is about.
If you are thinking of joining a local group of Urban Sketchers – it is really informal and you’ll be made very welcome!
Having a sketch book means waiting for anything is a pleasure, especially somewhere like Stoke Station where there are plenty of subjects to draw. This letterbox on Platform One caught my eye, marked with the initials GR, for George VI (reigned 1936 to 1952). The evening sunlight was pouring all over it and it was so bright, it looked gilded in places.
Thanks to @Rhomany for recommending Holbein Watercolours and the juicy Vermillion Hue, this is a proper letterbox red!
On the opposite side of the station stands the North Stafford Hotel , built in 1847, and listed grade 2*, with its grand Dutch gables and rows of chimney pots.
These sketches are tiny – drawn in a palm sized pocket sketch book – one of the ‘Perfect Sketchbooks‘ made up by Erwin Lian. The paper is lovely to draw on and means that is is easy to zoom on an a detail and draw something like a chimney stack, or a chap with his phone and coffee.
There were a few trips down south last month so a few London sketches will follow soon.
Signing off with the best thing to follow a run of townie sessions: a day out cycling on the Welsh coast!