Monday, October 22, 2007

Wisley in Autumn - and the National Fruit Show

The little trees on the lake, Wisley
coloured pencil in Daler Rowney sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I went to the RHS Garden at Wisley last Friday for the start of their Autumn Festival and National Fruit Show. Next to all the wonderful displays of apples and pears, they have lots of stalls with lovely tempting food. I resisted the charms of the slabs of organic chocolate with fruity bits at the Chocolate Alchemist but came away with a game pie, a bottle of Thai infused olive oil and stem ginger marmalade!

Lest you think I only went for the food(!), I also took the opportunity to check out how the trees were doing in terms of changing colour. I don't know if it's my imagination or not but they seem to be staying greener and keeping leaves longer this year. I wonder if the deluge this summer has anything to do with that?

One of the lakes had five very small trees whose leaves had already turned and they looked quite odd amongst so much greenery. They are however going to make some fabulous artwork for my series on drawings of gardens when I work out sizes and crops from the photos and the sketch I did.

I also visited a really good exhibition of garden photography called "Gardens in Focus" in The Glasshouse Gallery. It finishes at the end of this month. When I see excellent work like that it always makes me want to go and spend a small fortune on a camera - before I remember just how heavy those cameras are to carry around! I've got a very nice new small rucksack which takes all my art kit plus new addition of a portfolio for loose paper much more easily than my 'old' small one and I'm not looking to add in yet more things to carry just yet!

Wisley has various helpful sections on the RHS website about what is happening in different months of the year (see below for links).

I haven't spotted the RHS Garden - Wisley blog before - that's new to me. They explain in Painting with Apples how they produced the splendid garden mural which I photographed. It's produced entirely from different varieties of apples. Note the age of the designer!
This week the Fruit Department are painting…. with apples. For the last few years we’ve held a competition with schools to come up with a design that can be ‘painted’ using the restricted colour palette of apples. I’m always amazed by the imagination of children and the astonishing variety of ideas they come up with. This year’s winning design of a tractor is by 8 year old Jodie Francis from St Barnabas School, Market Lavington, near Devizes in Wiltshire.
RHS Garden Wisley - Painting with Apples

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lunch at the National Dining Rooms - and sketching at the National Gallery

Eton Mess at the National Dining Rooms
11" x 8", pencil and coloured pencil in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

On Wednesday last week, after my Diversity of Drawing Lecture by Prof. Petherbridge at the National Gallery, I took the lift upstairs and had lunch at the National Dining Rooms. This was purely in the interests of seeing what the vantage point was like for sketching Trafalgar Square and also as a possible venue for meeting people for a Christmas meal. Naturally I had to eat as well........

Above is my sketch of Eton Mess - a strawberries, cream and meringue confection. Wikipedia provides a recipe but for Delia lovers this is Delia's version. For those who love looking at the menus here's the core menu - to which daily dishes are added. I also had the scrummy chicken liver pate and halibut with creamed spinach - which has made me just think it wasn't maybe the most calorie conscious meal I've had recently - but I enjoyed it very much nevertheless! ;) The National Dining Rooms recently won the 'Best British Restaurant' category in the Time Out Eating and Drinking Guide and you can read The National Dining Rooms write-up here.

Sketching wise, there seems to be really only one table with a decent view of Trafalgar Square - and I managed to bag it. I'm not quite sure why the architects passed on providing a better view for more people but they did...

The table enables a look across the profile of frontage of the National Gallery and the top terrace of Trafalgar Square, part of South Africa House and the road down to Charing Cross Station. You can also see St Martin in the Fields on the left behind the gallery all wrapped up in polythene sheeting plastic during its restoration.

I did a very quick sketch to see if could work out a possible drawing and whether I liked it enough to do a big one - but I'm not sure I do. It seems to lack a focal point of interest - plus I'd have an awful lot of people and birds to draw as well! I've merely indicated a few to give scale.

Looking across the Square, there is a view of one of the fountains an the plane trees around the edge of the Square which are currently changing colour - much more interesting! And then I saw what the people on the table next to me were having for dessert and that my attention was distracted..........

Fountain in Trafalgar Square
10" x 8", coloured pencil in Daler Rowney sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Nelson from the National Cafe
pencil and coloured pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Later, after visiting the two exhibitions at Mall Galleries (see my blog entries for The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers - Annual Exhibition and Celebrating the Sea with the Royal Society of Marine Artists), I returned to the National Gallery for a cup of tea in the National Cafe - and a sketch - prior to attempting my last sketch of the day - of one of the paintings in the galleries upstairs. Plus one more that was completely unplanned and very fast. Wednesday is late night opening at the National Gallery and that makes it a good day for a long day in town - which is another good reason for eating a decent meal at midday!

The National Cafe sketch is of the view from one of the windows which looks out on to Trafalgar Square. I realised perched on my stool that I could just see the reaf of Nelson - and rather liked the graphic combination of statue and column and the woodwork architraves and panelling surrounding the very large window.

Lake Keitele - after Gallen Kallela
coloured pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I chose Finnish painter Gallen-Kallela's Lake Keitele for sketch of a painting. It's an oil painting on canvas and measures 53 x 66 cm. I love this work - and judging by the amount of gifts which bear its image in the National Gallery shop other people do too. I find it peaceful and mesmirising. The special page on the National Gallery explains its roots in myth and meaning.

'Lake Keitele' is the only painting by a Finnish artist at the National Gallery. Its elegant atmosphere of cool tranquillity makes it one of the best-loved paintings in the collection.

It was painted at a time when Finland was struggling to gain its own national identity and recapture its cultural roots. 'Lake Keitele' reflects the artist Gallen-Kallela's preoccupation with Finnish cultural history.
National Gallery - Painting of the Month page for Lake Keitele

Monet and the Women
pen and ink and coloured pencil in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I had just packed up when I suddenly noticed a group of young women standing in the next door gallery engrossed in conversation. I whipped out the sketchbook and my pen and very quickly 'grabbed' a sketch in a couple of minutes of them talking before they moved off. That's two paintings of the Houses of Parliament by Monet on the wall behind them!

I love doing groups like this - for poses rather than fatures of individuals. They're great practice and also make good references should I ever want a similar group in a work I'm developing. I added the coloured pencil when I got home having done my usual trick of naming colours to myself as I sketched.

So an art history lecture about drawing, a lovely lunch, two annual art society exhibitions, a cup of tea and a visit to the post 1700 galleries and six sketches - now that's what I call a good day out for both activities and sketching!

I then caught the tube home and got in just in time for the start of the final of "The Restaurant"!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Drawing Covent Garden Big Draw

Drawing the crowd drawing spaces
8"x11" pencil on HP paper
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

On Saturday I drew some of the participants in the Covent Garden Big Draw weekend (see above). This is part of the Big Draw which is a nationwide celebration of drawing held at over 1,000 events across the UK throughout October. It kicked off off on 30th September with Big Draw East which I wrote about in Sketching the Big Draw East.

It's the first time the Big Draw has launched its nationwide day in the iconic Covent Garden Piazza designed by Inigo Jones and there was a a lot going on:
  • a marquee in which cartoonists helped people learn how to develop a cartoon trip and how to caricature from members of the Cartoonists Club of Great Britain. This is what a girl called Jasmine produced - I think it's a splendidly funny cartoon strip
Sausage Dog! by Jasmine T
a cartoon produced in the Cartooning Marquee of the Covent Garden Big Draw

  • easels and another marquee were set up in front of the portico of the church for 'Picture the Past' which involved both children and adults drawing models dressed in the costumes of different historic figures. I contributed a head of Nell Gwyn to a big sheet of paper.
  • workshops on drawing different modes of transport were being held in the Transport Museum - which is due to reopen in November.
  • the celebrity frame where artists, cartoonists, designers and others drew their drawings.
Below are two small girls sat on the cobble stones in the Piazza watching Posy Simmonds draw a cartoon of the Owl and the Pussycat nursery rhyme. You may think they're drawing - whereas they are in fact tucking into waffles with what looked like chocolate sauce! Those of who are long-standing readers of the Guardian will remember Posy's cartoons of the middle class lives of three families in the 80s with huge affection.

Two girls eating waffles
8" x 11", pencil on HP paper
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Meanwhile, I got a teeny bit fed up waiting for the Walk and Sketch Tour to get going and so sat myself down and started to draw people drawing - and their audience! (I loved the little girl with her sensible Ugg boots and pink frilly ballet skirt combination!)

I came across the view at the top - and just found it amazing to see so many people - young and old - sat down on steps, and pavements and cobbles drawing architecture! What was interesting for me was to try and capture that look of intense drawing concentration and associated posture.

I also tried out my new wheeze for drawing en plein air - using a Daler Rowny drawing portfolio with loose paper inside. It worked reasonably well but I remembered too late that I get very irritated by lots of tape to tie a bow. I think I'm going to have to invest in some robust wide elastic tape! Or maybe velcro?

Two drawing
4" x 8", pen and ink and coloured pencil in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drawings from the National Gallery

Each Wednesday this month, after attending the lecture on drawing in the Diversity of Drawing series, I'm taking the opportunity to draw in the National Gallery. Yesterday I drew
  • a small slice of interior in the National Cafe - while having my tuna sandwiches and apple muffin and cup of tea!
  • the piano tuner - tuning the grand piano after the lunchtime Myra Hess concert and before the evening one.
  • a painting called "A vase of flowers" by Paul Gauguin. You can see the original here.
I did the lunchtime sketch in the other self-service part of the National Cafe where people eat sandwiches or have afternoon tea.

In the middle there is one of those marble top bars with a glass screen running down the middle and stools either side on which people perch and read papers or have animated conversations.

I picked up a view of the centre looking beyond into the service part where I was sat last week. A very dapper gent sat down to read his paper just where I needed somebody and I started sketching - only for him to be obscured by a couple of women having a 'private' (heads close together) conversation. The funny bit was they saw me sketching and I could have sworn they moved their seats just so they could get in the sketch - but I sketched round them!

The Piano Tuner
10" x8",
pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

From time to time the National Gallery runs concerts to commemorate Dame Myra Hess DBE, the concert pianist who organised lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery throughout the second world war.

While I was drawing I heard a guide behind me comment that all the great pictures were removed from the National Gallery during war time and so they created the Picture of the Month scheme...
...the pianist Myra Hess gave daily recitals in the empty building to raise public morale at a time when every concert hall in London was closed. In 1941 a request from an artist to see Rembrandt's Portrait of Margaretha de Geer resulted in the "Picture of the Month" scheme, in which a single painting was removed from Manod and exhibited to the general public in the National Gallery each month.
Wikipedia - National Gallery
This is a very fast sketch as I can't draw for long standing up. I knew I could go back and draw the archictecture again but if I ever wanted to develop this that I needed to get a good sense of the size and posture of the piano tuner. I added the coloured pencils when I got home - in just two colours.

Later on, I sat drawing the Gauguin but was able to hear a little bit of evening concert which was next door. It contained pieces called 'Last letter home' (which commemorated the fallen in Iraq) and 'Quartet for the end of time'.

Copy of Paul Gauguin's A Vase of Flowers (1896)
8.5" x 11", coloured pencil in daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I do sketches of paintings with the hope of understanding a bit more about the artist and how they worked. Now I'm not an oil painter but you do see the effects of layering colour when looking at a painting for long enough. Plus you see so much more colour when looking at it straight on as opposed to in a book or on a screen. Now with limited time to work on this I got the proportions wrong plus I didn't have the right green (a malachite shade) with me for the leaves so added that later - and now the colours don't look right on my screen but do in my sketchbook!

Finally - I'm nonplussed as to why the management of the National Gallery have yet to resolve the strike action taken every Wednesday at 5.00pm by some gallery staff. It's now been running for well over a year!

I learned yesterday that management apparently have no knowledge in advance of which galleries are going to be closed by staff walking out. This is hugely frustrating for visitors who can only get to the gallery in the evening. People can make journeys to see a particular gallery only to find it has been shut. Other galleries in London seem have grasped the advantage to both gallery and the public if they manage to open more often at times suitable for people who work and have started to open late on more evenings each week. The National Portrait Gallery - right next door - is one example.

Personally I really don't understand why they don't stagger hours and have some days as early opening days and early shut and others as late opening and late shut.

There are an awful lot of managers and staff in a variety of public service organisations who have found they've had to get to grips with the changing expectations of the public as to access - and I'm really not sure why the managers and staff of the National Gallery should apparently be an exception. Whatever the rights or wrongs of this situation surely it has gone on for long enough? It's time to get it sorted.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Useful art materials for sketching

Sunday morning in Mirepoix - without the people!
coloured pencil on Canson Mi Teintes

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is a summary of posts on my other blog "Making A Mark" that comment on and contain useful materials for sketching. I mainly use coloured pencils (artist quality and watercolour) and pen and ink.

Sketchbooks, supports and other useful kit
I will update this thread as and when new threads are produced so that it acts as a summary which can be bookmarked.

Please feel free to bookmark this thread in your browser or in a links section on your website.

[Updated: 11.10.07]

Note: The sketch is of one side of the square in the thirteenth century bastide town of Mirepoix - which lies half way between Carcassonne and Foix in south west France. The centre of town comprises an arcaded market square which is one of the most attractive in the whole of France.
The square is bordered by houses dating from between the thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries, and a relatively harmonious modern halle on one side, but its highlight is the medieval Maison des Consuls (council house), whose arcaded rafters are carved with hundreds of unique portrayals of animals, monsters, and caricatures of medieval social groups and professions, as well as ethnic groups from across the world.
In the time available I had the option of getting the architecture done or adding in people and only getting half of it done - guess which won! This was sketched from a cafe table at one end of the square.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Lunch at The National Cafe

The National Cafe
11" x 16", pen and ink in Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I had lunch in the National Cafe yesterday after going to the first lecture in the Diversity of Drawing series - which is being run as part of the Big Draw at the National Gallery.

As it was 2.00pm before I got there the 'after lunch' crowd was beginning to diminish and I stayed to draw the Cafe - with lots and lots (and lots) of hatching. I do believe this might have even been "a one pen drawing" as it's not looking too happy on the ink front now! The pen was a Pilot G-Tec-C4 which has a very fine point. There's an awful lot of very fine hatching in this one and it took me over an hour and half to cover the 11x16" image. I'm still trying to decide whether or not to add colour. I might try taking a print of the stitched image and colouring that instead of the original.

As I'm going to be going to the National Gallery for the lecture series every Wednesday in October, I'm going to use the opportunity to produce more drawings of interiors of people places where people eat. So there should be one of these each week. I spotted another excellent subject for a drawing from the table I was sat at - so I'll have to try and get that one again.

I may even have to try A National Catastrophe........
Our Famous Ice Cream Sundae
Made from freshly churned vanilla ice cream, marshmallow, hazelnuts, caramel, meringue, cookie crumbs, fresh raspberry sauce, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
Does it get any more dangerous?
Now before anybody asks - here's the menu and I had the gravadlax and the smoked haddock fish cake with poached egg - lots of fish and lots of green leaves and no dessert! Food was fine but it was slightly puzzling as to why it took 5 different people to deliver and collect my dishes....???

I then trotted off to see the 44th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists before returning home via the National Gallery Shop and the book sale - 50% off some of the National Gallery titles and catalogues for both exhibitions, British paintings and the National Gallery Complete Illustrated Catalogue, the catalogue of National Gallery British Paintings and other catalogues until 14th October. Very tempting - and I was tempted - but could only carry so much!


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sketching The Big Draw East

The Big Draw - Drawing Together in the "Big Picture Frame"
with Zandra Rhodes and Andrew Logan
16" x 11", pen and ink and coloured pencils in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The Big Draw 2007, organised by the Campaign for Drawing, was launched yesterday with The Big Draw East involving 45 different drawing events in the East End of London. I went to just a few of these and have organised my sketches and photos by location below.
Over 1,300 Big Draw events take place across the UK throughout October. Venues range from royal palaces , museums, galleries and castles to parks, schools, hospitals and village halls. Collectively they demonstrate that drawing is a universal language connecting people of all ages, abilities and cultures
The Big Draw Press Release
The main themes for the Big Draw 2007 are:
  • Shape the Future - Designing for Sustainability
  • Changing Cities;
  • Inside/Out;
  • Body Science/Body Culture; and
  • Drawing Differently.
For more information see the Campaign/Big Draw website or my post Big Draw events around the UK in October on my main blog.

Queen Mary College, University of London

In the Octagon at Queen Mary College (University of London) there were various workshops and drawing opportunities linked to the Body Science/Body Culture theme.

I sketched a small boy and his Mum. He was having a great time drawing animals on the interactive drawing board. He seemed pretty passionate about drawing and even managed to get into two of my sketches!

The face paintings were some of the best I've ever seen - children were being made up to have hybrid fish/animal qualities

I then sketched the children and their parents participating in How One Cell Made Me - which focused on biology and drawing animals. Huge rolls of drawing paper ran right across this large room and people were crouched either side totally absorbed in drawing their animals. The big purple patch is a dolphin who was apparently swimming with a little girl called Emma. I thought the best animal was the 30 foot snake which ran along the edge of one sheet of drawing paper!

Drawing Animals #1 and #2
8"x 10", pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I had no need of my own colouring pencils as tins of pencils from Derwent were spread all round the room - there were huge numbers of Coloursoft, Graphitints, Inktense and sketching pencils.

Museum Gardens

In Museum Gardens I visited the Big Picture Frame - where teams of guest professional artists and illustrators were scheduled to draw for an hour at a time. (This Big Picture Frame makes a reappearance at the National Big Draw Day - held in Covent Garden over the weekend of 13-14th October.)

I arrived just after Zandra Rhodes and Andrew Logan had started their stint. After they had finished, one of their assistants spotted my drawing of them both doing their drawing in the big Picture Frame (see top) which includes two versions of Zandra Rhodes. So then we had photos of the sketch and photos of them both with me - but you're not seeing that as I managed to pull the most awful face which is not about to appear in public! They were, of course, both extremely photogenic!

They were followed by Gavin Turk and Jessica Voorsanger - who did drawings of children in the bearskin helmets worn by the Footguards. Posie Simmonds, one of the Patrons, was also due to appear later in the day.

The Campaign for Drawing - Big Draw and the Save the Children Fund are working in partnership to improve the lives of children in war torn parts of the planet. Millions of children around the world never see the inside of a classroom. Funds are to be raised to help children round the world go to school through a Big Draw/Save the Children competition where the winner gets to work with a famous artist. Drawings need to be about "The best thing about school". Materials and details can be downloaded from the web. All drawings are entered together with a donation of a £1. Drawings and cheques have to be sent to the Save the Children Fund before 31st October - see websites for further details. Big Draw East also had a Save the Children Fund tent with lots of children engaged in making drawings.

Museum of Childhood

At the Museum of Childhood the focus was on Changing Cities and I took a peek at what the children were doing. A range of activities included:

  • Lots and lots of Quentin Blake birds - suitably decorated in a variety of ways (above)
  • 'Building Lines' - using thread to recreate Cutler's Wharf which used to be home to the East India Company's sugar, cotton and tea warehouses
  • Drawing People and Places - recording people moving around the museum
  • Changing Cities - building a gigantic city with roads and 3-D homes (below)
Changing Cities' - drop in and help create a miniature 3D city. Using card, paper and pencils, draw and build the structures that make up your city; houses, schools, shops, cinemas, museums and swimming pools.

I'd like to make a point of noting that I was hugely impressed by the truly enormous quantities of pencils and paper made available by Derwent and Tullis Russell respectively for the launch events yesterday. HUGE rolls of paper and tins and tins (and tins!) of Coloursoft and Inktense and Graphitints and Sketching pencils and pastels! Lots of very helpful volunteers in blue Big Draw T- shirts too.

Queen Mary College

My final visit of the day was to the Draper's Lecture Theatre at QMC for a lecture on 'Visual Imagination and the Invention of the Body' Dr Sarah Simblet, artist and author of 'Anatomy for the Artist' and The Drawing Book (Dorling Kindersley). She had some amazing slides of how drawing bodies had changed over the centuries. I loved the one with the skeleton with the rhinocerous in the background - but there were no opportunities for sketching in the blackout required for the slideshow.

Amazing day - my only reservation about it was that there was too much good stuff going on. I wanted to go and do all the Changing Cities events for adults over in the Spitalfields area as well! The panoramic sketchathon sounded very interesting. Events spread over two days would have been maybe made that possible.

NOTE: The Campaign for Drawing is a charity. Read about its history and its plans for the future plus its endorsements and funding partners and supporters here.

Its patrons are Quentin Blake CBE, Lord Foster, David Hockney CH, Sir Richard McCormac, Andrew Marr, Sir Roger Penrose OM, Gerald Scarfe and Posy Simmonds MBE.