Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fish! Supper in Borough Market

Fish! Supper
11.5" x 17", pen and ink in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

In the middle of Borough Market, in the Bankside area - south of the River Thames, is a restaurant called Fish!. I had a fish supper there early on Friday evening last week after going to see the SGFA exhibition at the Menier Gallery.

Travelling late afternoon/early evening is always problematic for me due to my mobility problems and very poor balance. Part of my risk management strategy for this is to avoid the crowds in the rush hour on the tube - introduced after I managed to fall down half an escalator during a rush hour! I've found various ways of avoiding crowds and challenges to my mobility and one of the more pleasant - and productive - ways is to find a local cafe or restaurant and to have something to eat while I sketch and then go home when it is quieter.

The main trick to eating and sketching at the same time is to order something which you can eat with a fork and is either cold or is unlikely to go cold quickly. In this particular instance I can confirm that their fish pie takes ages to go cold!

This was a very complicated drawing in terms of structure and perspective but I think it came out OK. I'm now thinking about adding in some limited colour (maybe the structure of the beams between the windows?) and will update this post if I do so.


Monday, September 24, 2007

In the Pink - at the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum

In the Pink - at the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum
8.5" x 11.5", pen and ink and coloured pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I had tea in the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum on Saturday afternoon. I'd walked from the SOFA exhibition at the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in Waterloo to the Menier Gallery in Southwark Street, near London Bridge. The SGFA exhibition closed at midday and I was picking up my unsold artwork.

The afternoon has suddenly got very warm and I was in need of a cup of tea - and right across the road from the Menier Gallery is the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum at 40 Southwark Street.

The museum is apparently the first one in the world to be devoted to telling the story of tea and coffee. It certainly seem to attract visitors from all over the globe. While I sat in the Tea Room a party of ladies arrived to take tea and I mentally christened them 'the russian ladies'. They seemed to enjoy their full English Afternoon Tea - that's cucumber sandwiches, hot crumpet, tea cake, cake and choice of tea!

The Tea Room has the most amazing pink walls. I was rather tired and, sat in the tea room, I was very much inclined to draw just whatever I could see. My first drawing at the top is of a very small sample of the various teapots, tea caddies and tea on the pink shelves on the pink wall of the Tea Room and my second drawing is of the party of 'russian ladies' having tea.

I had a peek at the museum at the rear of the tea room and it looks very extenstive - lots of interesting things to draw!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Northern Rock - drawings from the front line

The Front Line
(Houndsditch, City of London 17.09.07. 12.30pm)
11" x 16", pen and ink and coloured pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell - all rights reserved (see note at end)

I've just spent three days trying to get my money out of Northern Rock - and took my sketchbook with me to the very long wait outside two different branches of Northern Rock on both Saturday (Bromley) and Monday (Houndsditch in the City of London). This post has drawings from the front line of the 'run' on a bank and some comment from me for the context of each one - from the perspective of the queue. Note I also now have a new category on this blog called 'life events'!

We are in the middle of a bank run. We've never seen it on this scale in Britain - of a major bank - since the 19th century.

Will Hutton, The Work Foundation and former Editor of The Observer quoted on this BBC site

(See links at the bottom of this post and today's post on "Making a Mark" for the context of what has happened at Northern Rock. Bottom line - NR is the 5th largest bank in the UK and we've just been through a massive crisis in confidence for people depositing money in the banking system - and a 'run' on a bank.)

The first sketch (below) was done on Saturday - after I heard about the problem with Northern Rock late on Friday night. I went to bed very worried as I had a sizable chunk of my life savings in Northern Rock and woke at 4.00am, got on the Internet and eventually decided that I had to go and get my money out. I went down to the closest branch which was open on Saturday morning - in Bromley in south east London. I got there at 9.00am and the queue already had several hundred people in it. It then took me 5 hours to move about 100 feet forward in the queue. BUT nobody who arrived after 8.00am got inside the branch on Saturday.

On Friday, branch customers withdrew £1 billion pounds and we later learned another £1 billion was withdrawn in 5 hours on Saturday.

The queue that got nowhere (Northern Rock, Bromley 15.09.07 1.00pm)
11" x 16", pen and ink and coloured pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell - all rights reserved (see note at end)

I'd estimate about 90% of the queue at Bromley were pensioners - including some very elderly people and three people in wheelchairs. I'd estimate the average age of the queue to be about 70-75 years old - but some were much older. Anxieties forced us all to queue outside the branch for up to five hours. Virtually everybody in the queue at Bromley had - as I did - their pension lump sums or life time savings in Northern Rock. Naturally for a lot of people this was an awful lot of money and most had well in excess of the £35,000 compensation limit and most were planning to withdraw the lot. It was a very tense time.

(Top) The sketch at the top is the scene outside the Northern Rock branch at 155 Houndsditch on Monday 17th September. I did this one from across the road in Starbucks at 12.30pm after I'd got my withdrawal lodged somewhere safe and before going home.

Having queued for five hours on Saturday (and then spent all Saturday evening and Sunday 'seized up' and virtually immobile as a result) I decided I had to get to the branch nearest my home on Monday as early as possible.

So I got up at 3.50am, got a taxi into the City of London and arrived at Houndsditch about 4.30am to find I was first in the queue! I then sat outside the branch for three and three quarter hours until the branch opened (I can highly recommend my new chair for comfort while sketching!).

At 5.00am 'H' arrived. He was an 80 year old pensioner who had managed to get the last stand-by seat to fly back from abroad to get his money out. He'd got a lift in from a taxi driver. At 6.30am we had our photo taken by a man on his way to work in the city who could not believe what he was seeing and then we both gave interviews to the independent radio news reporter! Other people started to arrive at 6.00am and then there was a steady trickle joining the queue as the early morning tubes and trains started to arrive in the City of London.

Drawing from the Northern Rock
11" x 8.5", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell - all rights reserved (see note at end)

The next sketch (right) was done while I was sat inside the branch. The printer failed, the computer could not read my pass book and the manager had to update my book for interest by hand! I did this sketch while she was doing that. I'd chatted to this couple, both pensioners, in the queue for the previous two hours as we waited for the branch to open.

I exchanged some pleasantries with the Branch Manager and we talked about how things used to be. Northern Rock used to be a Building Society until about 10 years ago. As with all building socities - before they converted to banks - in order to get a mortgage, you had to save with the building society first and then wait for an allocation from the 'quota' of funds which were released each month. It used to be that if depositer's funds dried up so did mortgages. I think it's a very great pity that it has changed and brought so much stress to so very many people, particularly pensioners. After this fiasco, I think we'll see a resurgence of "mutuals" limited to lending savers money for homes.

It took about half an hour to update my savings passbook with all the interest and I walked out with a cheque for the amount which was the excess above the sum covered by the Government Compensation Scheme in the event of a failure of Northern Rock. It then took about two and half hours to get the cheque placed in a 100% Government backed National Savings and Investment account!

Late in the afternoon, as the Chancellor and others began to realise that it was apparent that nobody believed what the CEO, the Bank of England, the FSA or the government had said so far,the Chancellor finally stated that all depositers money in Northern Rock would be guaranteed 100%. Which may have meant I wasted my time yesterday but did at least mean that I could get a good night's sleep last night and don't plan to get up early tomorrow morning to take the rest of my money out. It's now safe.

The simple fact now is that the Chancellor has made it clear that all existing deposits in Northern Rock are fully backed by The Bank of England and are totally secure during the current instability in the financial markets.

We are all working night and day to provide you with the service that you expect from us and deserve from us. And I would like to express my appreciation to our staff for their work and commitment over the last few difficult days.

Above all I would also like to thank all our customers for their support and understanding.

I am also pleased to announce that any customer who has paid a penalty for withdrawing their investment, will have the penalty refunded if they re-invest the same amount in the same type of account by 5th October 2007.

Extract of letter from the Chief Executive of Nothern Rock on front page of the Northern Rock website

Note: Please note all rights are reserved in respect of all images and text on this blog. Please contact me if you want to copy either sketches or my comments.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Autumn at Sissinghurst

Autumn at Sissinghurst
9" x 12" coloured pencil on Saunders Waterford HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This post was first published in Marking A Mark on 20th October 2006. It's included in the summary of travels with a sketchbook in Kent.

Sissinghurst Castle in Kent closes its house and gardens to the public a week on Sunday and does not reopen until March. I visited the garden late on Monday afternoon when it was very quiet and sketched the sixteenth century tower, in which Vita Sackville West had her writing room, and the grounds from the bank beyond the moat at the back of the gardens.

My earlier post in August (ie the last post in this blog) details the background to the gardens and in this post you can see a small photo at the end which is the view I was drawing. I still can't decide what is the best crop for this view as one either has a picture with two halves or a picture with very heavy foliage on both side - neither of which is ideal. So this drawing really represents compromise #1 with just a smidgen of a hint of the long Moat Walk on the extreme left and rather more of the orchard in the right half.

Having done a 'not very good' sketch I decided to exercise some artistic license and pushed the autumn colours a bit when I got back. However, I think I've probably introduced rather too many different colours as this was a total nightmare to scan and then colour adjust so that it reads right. I've also got a bit of feeling that my old problem with verticals has come back to haunt this one. There seems to be a distinct lurch to the right going on - which is possibly partly due to having 'eyeballed' the drawing of the tower while sat on the grass on a slope with my Saunders Waterford HP block on my knees. Sissinghurst can be very limiting as to set-ups because they won't allow a lot of things (easels/tripods/chairs) into the gardens because of health and safety concerns as the gardens are so popular. Overall though, it comes pretty close to what I saw around 5.00pm on Monday afternoon.

I then had a pot of tea in the barn restaurant and did another quick sketch of the fields at the back of the barns area. It had three distinct zones - lush green grass (and nettles) in the foreground, bare harvested fields in the middle ground and dusky green blue woods in the distance. As is often the way when you do something really quickly this one came together very quickly and looks like it might deserve being revisited in order to develop a more finished work.

Sissinghurst fields
8" x 10" pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil in a Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The White Garden, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

The White Garden, Sissinghurst
coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook 10" x 8"

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This post was first published on Marking A Mark on 28th August 2006.

We went to Sissinghurst Gardens in Kent on Friday and I produced the above sketch while sat in the corner of the White Garden. The White Garden only contains flowers which are white and rather a lot of 'silver/grey foliage plants.

There's a pergola in one corner - next to the South Cottage - which is covered (I think) by white wisteria. Underneath there is a table and chairs around it which I've used before for drawing and painting. I sat on the table and "he who must not be bored while I sketch" read his latest book "The Ides of August" for those who are interested)

We were greatly irritated by a helicopter who hovered over the garden at a dangerously low height for about 20 minutes or more - a quite horrendous noise. My guess is that they were taking photographs - and also probably breaching air traffic control regulations!

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens were created by Harold Nicolson and designed by Vita Sackville West who used to have a gardening column in the Observer newspaper. Harold Nicolson suggested that the gardens were in reality the true 'portrait of a marriage'. They are now owned and run by the National Trust and are the most visited garden in the UK. The National Trust describe the gardens as follows.......
One of the world's most celebrated gardens, the creation of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson. Developed around the surviving parts of an Elizabethan mansion. A series of small, enclosed compartments, intimate in scale and romantic in atmosphere, provide outstanding design and colour throughout the season.
It's difficult to know whether to call it a garden or gardens as there are no many different garden rooms' within the overall garden - which is probably one of the reasons why it proves so popular with visitors. The gardens are located in the Weald of Kent, near Goudhust and Tenderten. Directions to the gardens are given in the at the end. It's certainly well worth a visit any time any time you are in Kent. However, please note that the garden is unfortunately closed from the end of October until the middle of March each year.

You can get a very good insight into what the gardens are like from this website about Sissinghurst which has been put together by a devotee and contains lots of photographs.

Sissinghurst is unusual in that it will not allow either tripods or easels into the gardens while they are open to the public. However the NT do run courses at the gardens and you can also apply to visit when the garden would normally be closed. For details of events in the coming months see this link.

One of the things I wanted to do on Friday was plan future visits and find potential alternative places to sit which would be out of the way of people and at the same time give me the space to spread out my kit. This is one of the views I found which will be getting a second visit.

Links to previous posts about Sissinghurst on this blog are listed below. The next post will document the next visit which tackled the view seen in the last photo.


Friday, September 07, 2007

More sketching at Sissinghurst and a salutary tale

The Moat Walk, Sissinghurst
11" x 16", pencil and coloured pencil in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'm transferring all previous posts about Sissinghurst to this blog. This particular post is about a sketching trip to Sissinghurst two years ago. It starts with a full-on whinge by me!

I have to tell you I had the most frustrating afternoon. First, dear partner decides to navigate to where we're going in the Weald of Kent via the county town. I am not impressed, my idea of holidays is not sitting in traffic trying to find the sign at junction after traffic light after junction etc etc. However I've only got myself to blame as I'm the geographer not him!

Then when we get to where we're going - a very beautiful garden called Sissinghurst (do take a look at the photos but they are about half as good as IRL) in Kent, I find that I'm unable to try out my new tripod as they cannot be used in the garden while it's open to the public (My birthday arrived six weeks early on Monday - after I carefully led dearly beloved into the camera shop!)

And then the batteries in my camera give up more or less straight away. But, I think, "I'm a clever clogs and brought a spare set and all we need to do is change them" and then I found out that they're flat too. At this point remarks which need a great deal of asterisks when written down are emanating from my lips.

When I get home I find that somehow or other the switch which says "charge only 2" batteries is on (rather than the 4 which my camera takes) hence the problem with both sets.

Anyway, since I had no opportunity whatsoever to take photos I did a sketch instead. For this one I had about an hour or so. The intention was that I could sketch while partner sat next to me doing something he likes doing - reading in the sunshine. Unfortunately, our seat wasn't in direct sun and he wasn't enamoured with the comfort of the I had to work quite quickly.

I had a very nice little German girl watching me for almost the entire time I was doing it and had great comments from observers - the best was "It takes those with an eye..........great colours" and "Sehr schön"

My approach to proportion and perspective

This sketch was a bit of a challenge in terms of placement and perspective, although, to be honest the only perspective I was interested in was whether the trees forms had recession - despite being different in type, shape and colour!

My usual practice when sketching is not measure anything accurately since I consider these to be essentially colour roughs. I can do more careful measuring and perspective later but I won't be able to reproduce the colour which is changing in front of me as the sun swings round. So I usually devote most of my time to capturing light in terms of value and colour.

I basically "eyeball" a subject and measure very much as I would do if I was drawing a person - that is to say I find one thing to act as a measure and then mentally measure everything off against that in broad terms. Plus I pay attention to angles.

What I did with this one is work out where my eyeline was and I noted that the top of the 'box of box hedge' was dead level. I then worked out a horizon line and decide where that should be placed on the page - in this case it was the top of the distant hedge beyond the moat. I then very roughly worked out the angle of the lawn walk and decided I wasn't going to be fussed about whether or not it was dead accurate. I think I adjusted it slightly as I worked my way down the border lightly drawing in the outlines of shapes and forms. I then roughed in the perspective on the old walls either side of the steps down to the lawn. Again I was more interested in the colours of very old brick and the impact of shadows then whether the perspective was correct.

Finally if anybody was ever wondering what a box hedge looks like wonder no longer - see big square shape on the left of the sketch - how big would like your box........?

Note: I now have a battery charger at home and in the car and take the batteries out of my camera and recharge on the drive home!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Monet's Sketchbooks

Claude Monet French, 1840 - 1926
The Luncheon on the Grass, c. 1865
black chalk on blue laid paper, 30.5 x 46.8 cm (12 x 18 7/16 in.)
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

National Gallery of Art, Washington

Over on Making A Mark, my Garden in Art project continues - with a new focus on Monet. However this post focuses on Monet's Sketchbooks and includes a summary of the way in which Monet used his sketchbooks. I'd be interested to know how many people recognise his way of working.

The sketchbooks are part of an exhibition which I saw in London at the Royal Academy and which has now moved to the Clark Art Insititute in Massachusetts . All the sketchbook images for this post come through the link to the sketchbooks online. An earlier drawing by Monet from the National Gallery of Art in Washington can be seen above.
THIS UNPRECEDENTED EXHIBITION challenges the conventional, long-held understanding of Claude Monet's artistic process and life. Drawing upon recently discovered documents and a body of graphic work largely unknown to the public and scholars alike, the exhibition reveals that Monet (1840–1926) relied extensively upon drafting in the development of his paintings in addition to painting his subjects directly.
Introduction to the exhibition website - Stirling and Francine Clark Art Institute
This is the link to Monet's Sketchbooks from the Musee Marmottan in Paris which currently form part of the "Unknown Monet" exhibition at the Stirling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown MA (which finishes on Sunday 16th September).
The complete contents of these books—some three hundred drawings—have been newly photographed for inclusion in the accompanying interactive application. This digital presentation of Monet's sketchbooks gives unprecedented public access to works that are among his least refined yet some of his most intimate artistic utterances.
Clart Art Institute - Website Introduction to the sketchbooks
I saw this exhibition earlier this year when it was at the Royal Academy (see this post) - but despite two visits was unable to see the sketchbooks on the viewers in the exhibition - so I'm now especially pleased to be able to see them as they appear in the sketchbooks. A well researched and comprehensive catalogue is also available for the exhibition - The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings (Clark Art Institute) The authors are James A Ganz and Richard Kendall and the book has been published by Yale University Press 2007. James A. Ganz is curator of prints, drawings, and photographs, and Richard Kendall is curator at large. Both work for the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

The sketchbooks normally form part of the collection of the Musee Marmottan - they were bequeathed to his son Michel (who appears in some of the drawings) who left them to the Marmottan. As the sketchbook site on the Musee website links to the Clark website, I'm wondering whether there may only 10 days left to look at them or whether this hugely informative resource will be available in the future. The credits indicate that the online version was a project undertaken by people from the Clark Art Institute with the co-operation of the Musee Marmottan and the Bridgeman Art Library. Many congratulations to all involved. This is a very worthy project of huge significance to those interested in Monet and all of us interested in how artists use sketchbooks generally and especially on their travels.

The images from the sketchbooks can also be viewed via the Bridgeman Art Library - if you know the number of the sketch as assigned by Bridgeman (given in the info below each sketch in the online presentation)! This is an example - a sketch of two young women in a rowboat at Giverny - from Book 6 page 9

Chapter 7 of the book produced for the exhibition reproduces a number of the sketches - but as anybody who uses sketchbooks will know, it's the act of looking at somebody's sketchbook which is intrinsic to the experience. We want to know how somebody works as well as what marks they make on the paper. This is where the online exhibition scores so significantly with me.

This is my summary of what has been gleaned about how Monet used sketchbooks. My source is Chapter 7 of the publication produced to accompany the exhibition.

Monet and Sketchbooks
  • Monet habitually carried sketchbooks with him in his teenage years when he went on expeditions to draw landscapes. He then made use of sketchbooks from the very beginning of his professional career in the 1860s through to the 1920s.
  • Ganz and Kendall suggest that he regarded the sketchbook as a working document and the sketches in them as having no intrinsic value
How Monet used Sketchbooks
  • Monet seems to have used sketchbooks in a strictly functional and utilitarian way to:
    • make drawings for their own sake - eg drawings of his children
    • jot down visual ideas for exploratory purposes - both at home, Paris and other parts of France and abroad. It's suggested that he used to scout locations and that some are records of potential sites for future places to paint - the sketchbooks cover a large number of locations.
    • produce rough drafts or preparatory studies at initial stages of working out a painting - selecting and framing motifs (eg the grainstacks in Sketchbooks 3 and 5)
    • mark the outlines of motifs as subject matter within a view (and potentially a painting - for example see Book 2 and the drawings of the Gare Saint Lazare)
    • record shapes and positions rather than detail
    • record 'stock' images - for example of craft on the water or turkeys and ducks (which are, of course, forever changing position). A few of the sketches are obviously sequential and have a time lapse effect.
  • The later sketchbooks have the least refined drawings. The drawings of waterlilies are the most abstract
  • The graphic language of his sketches varies from the spare and minimalistic (outlines only) to evidence of retracing which suggests working on composition and design. There is little evidence of the use of tonal marking - although he modelled form in the charming drawings of his children (see Book 1)
  • It's important to note what the sketchbooks lack. The sketchbooks contain
    • relatively few annotations. Examples include notes about expenses, plant names in Latin and mailing addresses.
    • almost no color notes. However he does record the time of day of the sketch.
Sketchbook Format and Media Used
  • Sketches are not sequential - Monet seems to have opened sketchbooks at random. Some have been worked from the front and some from the back and not all the drawings are the same way up. He recycled - late drawings have been worked on over earlier sketches.
  • The sketchbooks are landscape format - but many of the drawings are vertical (portrait format).
  • Most of the sketches are executed using a soft or hard pencil - but some of the waterlily sketches were done in black chalk and black crayons
  • The Marmottan sketchbooks tend to have medium thickness, neutral cream coloured paper - some are laid and some are wove. They have pages which are left blank and pages have been removed. The sketchbooks have been catalogued by Wildenstein - who assigned numbers to the drawings and sketches. However there is evidence that sketchbooks were used at different times so the order is not chronological. The authors of the book conclude - and I agree - that many of his sketchbooks have been lost.
The book observes how different the practices of individual painters are in relation to the keeping of sketchbooks. As we well know this continues to this day!

What I find interesting is that, apart from the few beautiful drawings of his children, I look at Monet's sketchbook drawings and would have no difficulty at all in characterising them as being what I would call the 'large thumbnail' variety. I have very many similar sketches in my own sketchbooks - and I've seen lots of similar work in other people's sketchbooks. Sometimes sketches are value based. Most often it's about finding the edges of the composition while working plein air and the relative positions and edges of the shapes of subject matter within your view - the old challenge of working out what can you fit in and what actually looks best. They are the sort of sketches I do while looking at a subject prior to developing a more finished drawing or sketch - they are the records of me trying to work out what to do. They look very scrappy. They aren't meant for public show. My guess is that Monet would have said much the same thing.

I do sincerely hope that some arrangement will be made so that these sketchbooks can stay online after the exhibition finishes or become available on a CD or DVD. It's a real privilege to be able to see them in the current online presentation.