Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hampstead Heath and the Boating Pond

Yesterday we went to Hampstead Heath to walk on the Heath.

You can see the circular route we took from the tube, across Hampstead Heath and back again on this Google Map of Hampstead Heath Walk #1 - circular walk to the Boating Pond.

We walked from the tube down Flask Walk and spent some time sheltering under the trees in Well Walk opposite where John Constable used to live at 30 Well Walk as a heavy shower passed by (see my earlier post on Travels with a Sketchbook - Hampstead - Flask Walk, Burgh House and John Constable).

The weather forecast had been good but we seemed to spend the first half an hour after we got to the Heath dodging showers. This is isn't too difficult as you walk down the path which extends across the road from Well Walk as it involves walking through a green tunnel of mature trees. Although we could hear the shower overhead we stayed dry underneath.

It was very odd to think that this was probably the walk that Constable took every time he visited the Heath from his home in Well Walk. I've got a book about Constable and Hampstead and intend to spend some time on my favourite hobbies when travelling with a sketchbook - walking in footsteps of artists who have gone before.

I started a sketch while sat in the shelter at the sports field as the heavy shower proved persistent but didn't have time to finish it as the sun came out and rain stopped.

So we headed out into the open part of the heath and walked across to the Boating Pond where I did the sketch which you can see below. I always like to have a sketch of the day new relatives are born if possible. This one is for Amalie who arrived safely yesterday morning and made me 'very nearly' a great aunt.

Amalie's birthday - at the Boating Pond on Hampstead Heath
11.5" x 17", pencil and coloured pencils in Daler Rowney Sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We then walked back past the Mens Bathing Pond and across the edge of Parliament Hill Fields and down to the other ponds before walking down Downshire Hill - past the road which contains Keats House - the house which poet John Keats used to live in - and back to the main road. Where we stopped for a cappucino at a branch of Carluccios and sat outside while I sketched the plane trees and the view up the hill.

Carluccios and Rosslyn Hill
pen and sepia ink in Daler Rowney Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Then back via Waterstones at 68-69 Hampstead High Street where we indulged in one of our favourite occupations - browsing the books. Walking and bookshops are always a good combination when travelling!

Note: Keats House reopened on 24 July 2009, after a major restoration projectand I think will be the subject of a future trip - and sketch. This is where Keats wrote 'Ode to a Nightingale', and fell in love with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One lake x 4 views x 10 mins each

I tried a new experiment. I walked anti-clockwise around the East Lake in Victoria Park and did a small values sketch at each of the cour "corners". I was looking in a different direction for each and each took no more than 10 minutes. This is what resulted in a double page spread of my Large Sketchbook Moleskine.

Four sketches of the East Lake, Victoria Park
3.75" x 4.5" (each), pencil in large Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I confess - I drew the frames for the sketches first so that I'd remember they all had to go on a double page spread!

The next part of the experiment was to try and see whether I could make anything of the value sketch in colour terms without the inclusion of any colour or any colour notes. Of which more in another post.

(PS. The other sketchercisers have been hard at it producing maps of their sketchercise routes using Google Maps - but I still need to do my sketchercise map for my walk in East London which involves the East Lake)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Little Art Break in Brussels

Part of the Grand Place in Brussels
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

How many places are two hours by train from central London? Well quite a lot of southern and central and eastern England - but not Cornwall or Yorkshire or my home area of north west England. However I've still not quite got used to thinking about where I can now get to on the continent in two hours.

I was recently thinking about days out with "he who must not be bored while I sketch" and my eye was caught by an advert for the Eurostar Little Break Big Difference and I started looking at the website to see where I could get to and how much the tickets cost.

I was seriously disconcerted when I got an email 20 minutes later inviting me to go on a little break in Brussels via a Eurostar Little Break with a group of fellow art bloggers. Apparently I am (I quote) "a well respected and reputable art blogger". This bit was just surprising rather than disconcerting! ;)

It turned out it was complete coincidence at one level and two examples of the same marketing campaign at another. Eurostar had engaged a communications agency called we are social to engage bloggers and others using social media sites in what a difference a little break can be. I'm being completely up front about this as I didn't have to pay a bean for the trip - apart from the £15 taxi fare when I managed to sleep through two alarms and woke up with 35 minutes to get from my bed to St Pancras! (You guessed right - I made it! I also managed to brush my teeth before leaving but my hair brush came too)

Anyway, this post is about my Brussels Art & Culture Day Trip along with a group of other art and design bloggers.

Travel

We took the 7.53 Eurostar from London St Pancras which takes 2 hours and gets into Brussels at just before 11am (after you've added on an hour for the time difference). You can get earlier trains with the 6.59 being the cheapest.

Melina and Mo on the Eurostar
pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We returned on a train leaving just before 8pm from Brussels Midi, Eurostar's station near the centre of Brussels and got back about 9.50 local time. So after allowing for travel to and from the station and checking in that gave us just under 8 hours in Brussels. That's a decent amount of time to see a fair bit of whatever interests you.

Try out different combinations of times out and return to see what's the best deal you can get. I've taken a long hard look at the fares and it looks like it's possible to travel there and back very cheaply but you'd probably need to stay a night to take advantage of the cheapest fares. I didn't find their website very friendly as to their current £59 return. The thing that's so odd is that the campaign is about "Little Break , Big Difference" and yet there's no part of the website which seems to spell out what are the current deals are for different destinations. Every time I clicked the icon on the website it wanted to take me to Paris! However the specific Little Break Big Difference blog is a lot more helpful - although I still can't work out how to get a £59 return ticket!

Tips for taking a break in Brussels

Going with a group of people is rather different from going on your own. My itinerary would have been quite different if left to my own devices and I'd be writing about different aspects of Brussels - however let's look at what I learned.

Just because it's a foreign country don't get too ambitious! Check out things to see/do in advance and stay in one area. We spent a little bit too much time on the Metro for my liking. It's a really good system but there's no English on the signposting and you can spend a lot of time working out where to go and walking long distances inside and underground.

I'd highly recommend researching Brussels using the Brussels tourist website and then picking an area which has the most to offer for your particular interests and tastes. Use the Metro to get there and then walk around for the rest of the day.

Wear shoes for lots of walking
- It's really easy to cover large parts of the central area very quickly just by walking. However do make sure you have trainers with nice thick support for your soles as there's lots and lots of cobbled streets. Don't be fooled by the cobbles either. We found ourselves wandering around the Place Royale thinking it was a pedestrian area before we realised all those cobbles were actually a road and there were cars bearing down on us!

I noticed that the tourist website has some MP3 guides for various walks which can be downloaded in advance.

Get to the museums early
- We visited the brand new Magritte Museum in the morning (read my review here - Exhibition review: Magritte at the Magritte Museum) and it was busy. I returned to the area in the afternoon and saw people queuing out the door to get in and later still 'tickets sold out' signs.

Fortunately several of the art museums are grouped together around the Place Royale. Don't assume their opening hours are the same as at home - I got caught out by there being no admissions after 4.30.

Musee Royaux des Beaux-Arts
on the Rue de la Regence
(Palais de Justice in the distance)

Here are just a few of the things you can see all year round:
Remember also to make time for the museum bookshop. I went there first and lingered a little too long. However when your first love is art books...........

Check out the summer events - for people who like to take their holidays in town there is Bruxelles les Bains (Brussels on Sea) - complete with sand by the canal - in the port area of Brussels. We went there for lunch and chose a Peruvian BBQ from the amazing number of food stalls.

Lunch at Bruxelles Les Bains
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

There's also the Brussels Summer Festival which seems to take over the grand buildings, squares and parks of Brussels. It happens each year and the programme spans hip hop, folk, reggae and electronic music, street performances, stand-up comedy and kids' entertainment. Those staying overnight can enjoy the concerts which seem to start around 8 or 9pm each night - and you can see scenes and hear music from these on the official website for the Summer Festival. I had it playing in the background while I did my last minute website search on saturday night!

However, it's loud and those who are not fans of loud music might like to avoid the city while the festival is on!

Focus on what's unique to the place
- My personal preference is to always spend time on the things which are unique to that particular place - like in the art museums - and then grab a sandwich or bite to eat in their cafe.

While it was interesting to see the beach area they've developed (see above), it really could have been any city in Europe. I also wasn't particularly enamoured with the food on offer but then I'm a bit of a foodie and probably a bit pickier than most people.

I like to eat food associated with the place - preferably from places which aren't targeting tourists - and my aim is always to eat one new thing that I've never had before every time I go abroad! (I've some fond memories of waterzoii which I had on a previous visit to Brussels). This time I got to sample cherry beer which was a definite first for me.

Mehrdad and David at the Cafe Leon
pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The art which is here all year round is what I always focus on first. However I also very much enjoy studying the local architecture - and Brussels has a lot to offer from that perspective. The Grand Place has some simply stunning architecture from the seventeenth century and the area in the centre is very old. There are also some excellent examples of Art Nouveau architecture. The link lists the various hotels and other buildings in Brussels which are listed as great examples of art nouveau designed by Victor Horta.


An Art Nouveau Chocolate shop and an Art Nouveau Museum (of Musical Instruments)
all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I didn't have much time for sketching but now have a better idea where I might go. I did manage a quick sketch sat in the Grand Place at the end of the afternoon. I decided I needed to rise to the challenge of all those buildings and all that gilt!

I've also done a Flickr set - see Brussels 15th August 2009. I hasten to add that not one bit of chocolate passed my lips however I did have a small break from the diet to try out the local beer - which is very, very good!

Meet new people! I have to say though that one of the best bits about our trip was meeting up with a range of art and design bloggers who I might otherwise have never come across. I picked up a few tips during the day - for which many thanks.

Here are the people who came on the trip or we met there.
A French phrase book is probably a good idea for those who don't speak French well as there is very little English used in the city despite it being one of the HQ cities for the European union.

Thanks again to Sarah and Violette and Melina for looking after us so well, staying calm when I fell over (again!) and to Eurostar for sponsoring the trip.

Finally here's the Little Art Break video of the trip



Links:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lake Trees and a veggie breakfast

This is a sketch I did recently of the trees by the West Lake in Victoria Park in Bow.

I sketched them while I sat and eat the organic veggie breakfast at the Pavilion Cafe by the Lake in Victoria Park - yummy! I think it had a beneficial effect as I'm rather pleased with this one

Lake Trees
11.5" x 8.5", pencil and coloured pencils in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'd been up and out at 7am as it was the first morning in ages with decent light and I wanted to get some photos in July of the Ecology Park Pond. After checking out the changes at the pond I walked up the canal to Victoria Park and had my breakfast plus a big mug of builders' tea.

Finished off by a walk back down the canal to home.

Then in the afternoon we walked all the way along the Herford Union Canal to the Olympic Stadium site and back again. So all in all I did quite a lot of canal walking that day - although only half of it was Sketchercise! Minus pedometer I've no idea how much but it will have been well in excess of 10,000 steps.

However I'm still very puzzled about how most people living in London can fit in 10,000 steps on a routine basis.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sketching Tate Modern people

There's no great secret to how to learn to sketch people. You have to practice. You can of course go to life drawing classes and I would certainly advocate that as a very good idea for those who want to master the art of drawing people from life. However you still need to practice.

So if you want to practice you need to find somewhere where there are lots of people.

Tate Modern People
11.5" x 8.5", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

One of the best places for practising the weird and wonderful effects of foreshortening is the grass lawn in front of the Tate Modern on a sunny day. You can always guarantee there will be lots of people sitting or spawling on the grass, on their own, or with a partner or in a group. Accompanies by various bags and/or small children or both.

Here's what you do:
  • Sit yourself down on the rather nice big black benches on the Thames side of the grass.
  • Face Tate Modern
  • Start drawing.
  • Start with one person and then build from there.
  • Your sketch doesn't need to be exactly what you see in front of you - you can move people around
  • However do pay attention to their relative distance from you as that dictates relative size.
  • Fill the gaps - but also leave space between people - much as they do in real life.
  • You don't have to fit everybody inside the four lines of the picture plane - you can crop people right down the middle! It is allowed! :)
You can repeat this exercise anywhere where you can find people in the sun.

Where's your favourite spot for sketching people?

Note: This was the sketch I drew on my home from the Drawing London group outing to the Royal Festival Hall (see A view of Charing Cross Station and Embankment Gardens). On my walk home along the South Bank I stopped to draw this scene in pen and ink. I spent about 20 minutes on it and added the green to the grass when I got home.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A view of Charing Cross Station and Embankment Gardens

This is a view of where I used to work for nearly five years - in a building which is right in the middle of the sketch just behind those trees in the Victoria Embankment Gardens across the River Thames from the fifth floor balcony of the Royal Festival Hall which is where I was! It was done during the Drawing London Group's sketch outing on 31st July.

A view of Charing Cross Station and Embankment Gardens
6" x 17", pen and ink and coloured pencils in
Artcoe Bluebell sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Do click the image to see a much larger version in my new panoramic sketchbook which is currently getting a lot of use!

Confusingly the gardens are right next to Charing Cross Station (on the left of the sketch) not Victoria. They are so called because the area of reclaimed river on which they stand is called the Victoria Embankment.
The gardens were created in 1874 after Sir Joseph Bazalgette built the northern intercept sewer and the northern embankment of the river Thames. Victoria Embankment Main Garden formerly Adelphi Gardens was the second of the four gardens to be created. The gardens as a whole are the home to numerous statues and monuments to the great and the good as well York House Watergate which marks where the River Thames originally ran prior to the building of the intercept sewer.
City of Westminster - Victoria Embankment Gardens
In front of the gardens you can see Embankment Pier where a number (but not all) of the riverboats stop. The link is to the timetable maintained by Transport for London.

The big building in the middle right is The Adephi - but it's not the original Adelphi.
The current building was erected in 1938. It replaced a beautiful riverside development of 24 houses built from 1772 on by John, Robert, James and William Adam (Adelphoi is Greek for brothers). Among its occupants were David Garrick (1717-79) at No. 6 Adelphi Terace (1772-79), George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) at No. 10 (1899-1927) and Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) (he worked at No. 8 for Arthur Bloomfield, the architect from 1862 to 1867).
walking informal education - the embankment to great russell street
The building I used to work in was opposite the Adelphi at 1-3 Robert Street. This is Grade II listed and is described in British History Online. Number 3 can boast of many famous residents - including John Adam himself.
No.3 Robert Street was built as a private house where John Adam himself resided from 1778-1785. This building can boast of other famous inhabitants: JM Barrie, best known as the author of Peter Pan, the poet Thomas Hood, Sir John Galsworthy novelist and playwright, along with other eminent artists and writers.
History of 3 Robert Street / my links
It's a really lovely building - with stunning views of the Thames - and is one I must try and sketch one day!

You can also see Cleopatra's Needle on the extreme right (there are two more in Paris and New York). I ran out of space before I could get the Savoy Hotel in where Monet and Whistler and other artists used to paint the Thames. It's shrouded in scaffolding and protective netting at the moment and does not make a good subject for a sketch.

The fifth floor balcony of the Royal Festival Hall is a really excellent place to sketch the river, practice sketching boats as they move up and down the river and sketch people passing by on the south bank of the Thames below. I can also recommend the E.A.T Cafe below for sandwiches and general lunchtime refreshment.

You can see some more sketches I've done from this location last October in RWS Friends: Sketching at the Royal Festival Hall.

My sketchercise for the day was walking home along the River Thames Walkway on the south bank and across the Millenium Bridge to Blacks at St Pauls where I tried to get a replacement for my pedometer which had stopped working. I've now worked out that when the manufacturer says it's not waterproof it actually means it's not "London humidity" proof! I'm now trying to find one which is humidity proof!

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