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!
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!
On the top floor of the brand new Fiona Stanley hospital in Perth, there’s a dedicated visitors’ room complete with all you need to help yourself to a brew or chilled water thanks to donations from the Australian #DryJuly. A perfect refuge for me who had just arrived from UK and was all at sixes and sevens with the seven hour time difference.
This was an unplanned, hasty visit as my sister had been admitted to intensive care then moved to ward 7D. She was so poorly.
I unplugged from all social media simply because I wanted to be fully present with my Aussie family.
My sketch book though is a great soother and even these bins became quite a focus when everything else was just too hard to take in. In spite of clear labels, when under stress – no one knows what to throw where!
Nights alternated between the ward and my temporary Aussie home, looking toward the river and my nieces’ childhood tree house, built to last over 20 years ago, by their Dad.
Every other night was spent on the recliner with Anne, on the top floor of the 5 star, state-of-the-art hospital, overlooking the city skyline. A room with quite a view!
Perth City Skyline from ward 7 D Fiona Stanley
Towards the end of my visit, my sister gradually began to recover. Looking out between the blinds, we noticed an unexpected sky treat – a splinter of light which burst into a huge illuminated candle on the corner of Perth’s landmark QV1 building, designed by the architect Harry Seidler.
These are rare and treasured moments.
Asking to ‘go out’ for a coffee is a significant sign of improvement!
This has been an unforgettable and profoundly moving trip. Anne remains an outpatient under the watchful care of her healthcare team with a large question mark as to what treatment next. We are all so grateful for the extraordinary care, prayers and kindness given to Anne. They are received by all our family with gratitude.
This post is for my nieces – with love and thanks, from Aunty Ron XX
Been thinking ahead to drawing another stretch of the Great North Road later this year. I like to sketch from the street first to get a good look at some of the details so pitched my perch opposite the Fig and Olive on Upper Steet, Islington.
I use a handy portable camping stool – it’s lightweight and fits easily into a bag and I tucked myself into a corner, well clear of the fire station.
Stating the obvious, it was pretty cold and so on the fist day of the Chinese New Year (Rooster), I chickened out after one sketch and went for an indoor brew nearby. Couldn’t see a Shirker’s Cafe, but this place, the Workers Cafe looked like I could sketch from the empty seat in the front window.
Back home again next day via a catch-up with a dear old pal, meeting up in Milton Keynes.
Getting back in the groove can be an effort, but it’s always helped by a brew. It’s been a while since I wrote here but it’s time to return to the sketch book. I have had 10th October 2015 in the diary for some time as it is the first #ArchitectureDrawingDay, set up by the RIBA as part of The Big Draw.
This year’s theme for the Big Draw is ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’. I packed my pencil case and took off to London to draw a few more sights on the Holloway Road, the old A1, that Great North Road.
No better sight at Euston, than the 253 which heads out to Nags Head:
Hopped off the bus at the Nag’s Head and found a bench free opposite this lovely frontage. The sun was out, so I pitched up to draw.
A few hours later, I made my way down the road for a bite to eat where I could continue drawing outside but under awnings. Had a tasty lunch at Constolia – and drew this domed character opposite. I have no idea about its history – have you? I would love to hear from you if you can shed some light on the building.
Festac nightclub and Holloway Mosque sit below this red brick and stone building – for an intriguing insight into this hot-spot corner of the Holloway Road, have a read of Islington Now .
Then, only a few hours later and it’s time to go home. This time back on the number 29 bus.
Thats all for now. I will say goodbye with the back of a very fine London bus.
Been such a tonic to spend the day with #ArchitectureDrawingDay.