Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sketching at night by the Thames

St Pauls and the Silver Birches - a study
pencil in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Have you ever tried drawing at night? I've done it a couple of times recently when down at Bankside as there are great views (and lights) and, of course, the shapes and values all change from the daytime.

The interesting thing about sketching at night is that you can't see much detail whereas the big shapes are so much more obvious. It's becomes more a question of how to crop big shapes than trying to find something with interesting design potential within the context of a very busy skyline with lots of detail.

The only drawback at this time of year is it's so cold! I want to know where I can buy a pair of trousers with a thick thermal layer in the bottom bit so anything I sit down on doesn't feel quite so cold! As it is although my top half was snug my rear gets frozen in about 10 minutes flat so my strategy is to sketch very fast - absolutely no more than 10 minutes and ideally only five.

So on to my recent sketches:

The study of St. Paul's Cathedral eliminates all the detail that one tends to get distracted by at day and renders the buildings round about into a very submissive role. No doubt about which is the biggest most imposing building round here!

The study for St Paul's and the Silver Birches (above) was done sat on one of the benches outside Tate Modern. There's a great view at night of the Cathedral masked by the avenue of silver birches which are planted either side of the paths up to the Tate from the Thames Path next to the river. The birches are underlit - stonking great big lights coming up through the planting so the light effects are stunning (if a bit OTT 'designed'). The only thing I had to do was ignore the great big enormous fat column for the big overhead lights which had been plonked down exactly where it shouldn't be for that view. Some people have no sense of aesthetics! ;)

The Bridges is a curious and very quick sketch. I got a big surprise while sat at the top of a flight of (very, very cold) stone steps next to the reinstated Globe Theatre (thank you Sam Wanamaker). I need to go back when it's warmer and with a camera to try a longer sketch and to also capture an effect which made this view quite magical.

I'd been particularly attracted to the pattern made by the bridges and the foreshore againt the night sky. A boat came past and its bow created massive waves - and all the shadows in the water suddenly started to become very crazy and very graphic and completely mesmerising. I know what I saw but couldn't capture it. I need to be able sit there for longer than 10 minutes at low water at night and wait to get more than one boat coming past so I can study the effect and maybe try and get photos of it - although in my experience these rarely do justice to such effects.

I googled to see if I could find some examples of other people's drawings of night and had no luck. What I got instead was lots of night class drawings, drawings by insomniacs, lottery drawings at night and references to something Nathanial Hawthorne wrote! Obviously not a lot of people draw the nightime at night!

Anybody with any idea of any websites which have good images of drawings done of night at night please post them in the comments section!

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  1. Never tried sketching at night...something else to add to my "things to do" list! These are very atmospheric.

  2. Katherine, these are wonderful. You've made me redouble my intention to do some night drawings/paintings. Your sweeping lines are so graceful and carry such energy.


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