Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Walbrook Wharf and Southwark Bridge

Barges at Walbrook Wharf and Southwark Bridge from the Thames Path
pencils and coloured pencil in Moleskine, 8" x 10"

all images and text copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is almost a nocturne. At the end of November, after visiting the Lynn Painter-Stainers Exhibition at Painters Hall, I walked down to the River Thames and sketched barges at Walbrook Wharf, with Southwark Bridge and the sun setting behind them.

Walbrook Wharf sits inbetween Cannon Street Station and Southwark Bridge (see map). This is where a lot of London's rubbish comes to be packed into containers and sent down the river on barges to landfill sites. The barges are enourmous robust affairs stacked with rust coloured metal containers.

I was sketching at what must have been close to high tide and I do remember trying to work out at one point whether or not the path I was standing on was above or below the high water mark.

I do know the strength of the River Thames is very apparent when standing that close. I was protected by a wall and was looking through an arch which I think is the one you can see at the base of the building with the turquoise blue windows.

You need to imagine the sounds which accompanied the making of these sketches. Water from a tidal river with a strong current is ebbing and flowing - slapping in a rhythmic fashion against the sides of the barges. Every so often it's stirred up as the wash left by a passing Thames Tugboat or a Thames Clipper reaches the sides and crashes very noisily against the sides of the barges and the embankment - just beneath my feet!

Sketching in half light is a challenge. As the sun set I had to switch to just pencil (with an overlay of colour added later).

When this happens I always focus on working out what sort of composition would work best in terms of what I can actually see.

I walked west as I left and saw the stone frieze in the underpass. This depicts scenes from the history of the area around Southwark Bridge. I'd never heard of it before - but it was fascinating and well worth a look if you are in the area.
Southwark Bridge was first built in 1819. The original design with 3 arches was made from cast iron and had a central span of 73 metres – the largest ever made from this material. The present bridge was completed in 1921. There is a stone frieze in the underpass showing scenes from Southwark’s past including Elizabethan theatres, fairs and the printing industry.
London Borough of Southwark - Historic Architecture

Weather in January and February isn't kind to my mobility and I'm not getting out a lot at the moment. I'm going to take the opportunity during February to post some sketches which didn't get posted when done last year plus I intend to revisit sketches from some overseas trips from the past - starting with Australia.



  1. Hello Katherine.
    May I say that I prefer the non-coloured sketch here ... ?
    Some people work mainly in black and white, as if they were sort of afraid of colours, and they sometimes hear comments like 'oh that would be great in colour - why don't you ever use colour?' ... well Katherine, I would like to ask you the opposite question - your 'black and white' drawings are very powerful, why do you so often prefer to add colours? Afraid of leaving it black and white? Sorry, don't take it as an offence... just a point for discussion ;-)

  2. No offence taken - good question

    The answer is that I enjoy drawing in both mono and in colour. (Look back through the entries and you'll see what I mean). It just depends on the subject. If the colour makes an impression on me then I tend to add it in. If I doesn't I leave it out.

  3. Katherine, your blog is a treasure trove of information. I'll be stopping by again to browse. Wonderful sketches.

  4. "Barges at..." is a remarkable drawing. Love it. It has complexity and simplicity together. It makes sense of a hard to grasp scene, and pleases the senses for it's balance and unity.

  5. I love the inclusion of colour here. Your sketching style in coloured pencils is very attractive ... you make complex subjects appear so simple.

    I don't know the bridge very well but I love the cathedral area and Borough Market! Will have to wander down there sometime for a sketching day.

  6. I love the barges too and really enjoyed your description of being there. Very brave, I think too, to be out sketching at all at this time of year. You make me feel l like a wimp.

  7. Robyn - how can you be a wimp when you have Dermott to protect you?!

    Mary, Casey, E-J - thanks for your comments also.

    Borough market and the north Southwark area around the cathedral and along the South Bank is a great place to sketch also.


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