Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sketching at The RA - The Friends Room #3

The Friends' Room
11" x 16", pen and ink and coloured pencil

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Another sketch from inside the Friends Room at the Royal Academy of Arts. This one is slightly larger than the others as we had our mandatory pot of tea after working our way through two exhibitions in October 2007!

This is the view from very near the counter looking down the full length of the room - sofas either side and at the end under the window - with tables and chairs down the middle and near the counter.

How to sketch people in a room like this

There were lots of people coming and going all the time.

I find in places such as Friends Rooms, tea room and cafes that the flow of people through seems to fairly constant. If you like something you see, you need to draw it immediately - because there's no guarantee it'll still be there when you get to that part of the sketch!

That means there is an imperative to think about the composition as a whole all the time - even though you don't have a clue what it's actually going to look like at the end at the point at which you start! I find it's just a process of continual adjustment - if you're flexible so much the better! Practice makes a lot of difference to confidence when working like this.

As usual I sketched whoever was around when I got to that bit of the sketch - or waited until they moved if I didn't like the 'shape' they were making in relation to the composition or other shapes within it.

If you want to know more about how to sketch people, try reading a post on my other blog which provides some guidance - 10 Tips for How to Sketch People.

When sketching with "he who must not be bored while I sketch" I tend to draw first - and then work out how much time I have left for adding colour. This depends on how interesting his book is or what else he wants to do.

With this sketch I decided to limit the colour palette. Partly from a practical perspective (this is a large sketch) and partly because local colours are always affected by backlighting and are usually more subdued and muted.

If you'd like to read about the exhibition we saw, see the original post on Making a Mark where this sketch was posted BritArt in History - RA exhibits admirable collections of British drawings - or click one of these links below.
Yesterday we visited two exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts - An American's passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy and Making History - Antiquaries in Britain 1701-2007. Both had excellent and unusual examples of drawings made by British artists, often of British places or British historical figures. It was BritArt of a completely different kind.
Making A Mark - BritArt in History - RA exhibits admirable collections of British drawings

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sketching at The RA - The Friends Room #2

This is the second of my sketches of people in the Friends Room at the RA. This one was done late afternoon in August 2007, after I saw the exhibition "Impressionists by the Sea".

Tea in the Friends' Room, Royal Academy of Arts
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I particularly like the composition of this one and the value pattern, with a bit of tweaking, looks like it might quite well in terms of 'reading the picture' if I work this one up into a 'proper drawing'.

I like revisiting sketches. They never need to be worked up straight away and it's often interesting to see which ones 'stick' in my head over time - I think they're often the best ones.

If you'd like to read a review of the exhibition I saw just click this link - "Impressionists by the Sea" at the Royal Academy. The links to details about the exhibition on the RA website are still live.
The Impressionists by the Sea exhibition in the Sackler Galleries of the Royal Academy opened a month ago on 7th July and will finish on 30th September. It includes works by Courbet, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Caillebotte, Whistler, Gauguin, Cassett and many other less well known artists.

I prefer to visit exhibitions when they've got over the initial rush - so that I can actually see the paintings. Except I forgot it was August - which is major tourist month in London - and there were lots of people visiting yesterday afternoon! I hate to think what it's like at the weekend!
Making A Mark - "Impressionists by the Sea" at the Royal Academy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sketching at The RA - The Friends Room #1

This week I'm going to post a series of sketches done in Burlington House, home of the Royal Academy of Arts (the RA) in Piccadilly.

Drinking tea and drawing people
8" x 10" pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'm one of the 85,000 Friends of the RA. I'm a Friend primarily because it means I don't have to pay for exhibitions, don't have to queue for tickets, get to go to exhibition previews and can visit an exhibition as many times as I want plus take an adult friend in for free.

But one of the other perks is use of the Friends Room to have a cup of tea and hopefully sit down on a sofa before starting out again. I don't even have to visit an exhibition!

If I have time, whenever I go to the Friends Room at the RA I also try to sketch. It's one of a few places where I can usually create a composition which includes people at a distance and close-up in the same sketch.

This particular sketch is from the week before Christmas 2005 and accompanied the third post Drinking Tea and Drawing People on my brand new blog Making A Mark - when I was still in beta mode and wasn't publishing to the world at large! The text which accompanied it is below.

Yesterday I went to the New English Art Club Exhibition at the Mall Galleries just before it closed. Many excellent works of art on view. This was followed by lunch with a very old friend and, inevitably, some Christmas shopping and - as it was nearby - a much needed cup of tea and a seat in the Friends Room at the RA which was packed, probably with people with very much the same idea! I was surrounded by lots of people having animated conversations so out came the Moleskine sketchbook for more sketching with some interesting lighting effects.

I enjoy doing drawings where you can't design who is in the picture or how they are going to sit and all you can do is decide what/who to do and where to crop to create the picture frame. Drawing people and working from life are both excellent ways of making you make such choices.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Tea at Fortnum and Masons after the Summer Exhibition

Cream tea at Fortnum and Masons after the Summer Exhibition
(in the old Patio Restaurant)
5.5" x 8", pencil in Daler Rowney Sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

On the 6th June 2004 I went to see the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly and then went across the road for a cream tea in the Patio Restaurant at Fortnum and Masons (now sadly no more due to a refurbishment). I know this as I've just found the small sketchbook which I'd lost which contains this sketch and the bill for the pot of Darjeeling and the cream tea!

This sketch was done using a mechanical pencil in an A6 size Black hardback black sketch book by Daler Rowney. I used a double paged spread and the sketch is about 5.5" x 8". As alway when sketching in a tea room or a restuarant, you never know when people are coming or going and I do remember that the people sketched in this one were never all in the room at the same time.

The Patio Restaurant (on the Mezzanine) has now been replaced by the Gallery Restaurant - which only serves a seasonal taster menu. Proper afternoon tea is now taken in armchairs or on larger more confortable tables in the St James Restaurant (on the 5th floor). This is a lot more airy and has much more space - meaning you always seem to be guaranteed to get a seat. Something which was not always possible in the old and much smaller Patio Restaurant.

The Summer Exhibition was first held in a warehouse on Pall Mall in 1769. The number of visitors to the annual show from 1769-2007 is over 33 million. This year the 240th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts is on until 17th August. The theme of the exhibition this year is "Man Made". £25,000 has been awarded to Jeff Koons for ‘Cracked Egg (Blue)’ by a panel of judges appointed by the President and Council for the most distinguished work in the exhibition.

According to the Guardian, in an interview many years ago he described his idea of pleasure - which was dining with a group of friends........

I think taking afternoon tea with friends is very nearly as good and it's certainly still a very popular activity at Fortnum and Masons!

Note: This post was based on one which first appeared on Making A Mark on 19th May 2006 - but it has been updated for changes and new material has also been included.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lunch at Fortnum and Masons

Following on from yesterday's post, two years ago - on the 9th June 2006 - I saw three exhibitions and about 2,500 images in terms of paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. In the middle of the day I sketched at the St James Restaurant on the 4th floor of Fortnum and Masons and these three sketches are the result.

The First Course at Fortnum and Masons
8" x 10" pencil and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Lunch at the St James Restaurant, Fortnum and Masons
11" x 15", pen and sepia ink

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Afternoon Tea in the St James Restaurant, Fortnum and Masons
11" x 15", pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Details as follows:
  • The first is a double page spread in my Moleskine in pencil with colour added with coloured pencils when I got home
  • the second is A3 size (approx. 15" x 11") and was executed in pen and sepia ink (no erasing!) in my Daler Rowney sketchbook
  • the third is a double page spread in my Daler Rowney sketchbook - A3 size (approx. 15" x 11"). It was drawn in pencil with touches of colour reinforced with coloured pencils when I got home
Note - Most of this post was first posted on Making A Mark as Lunch at Fortnum and Masons on 10th June 2006.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A day out in Piccadilly

Robyn of Have Dogs, Will Travel is in town and on Monday we spent a day seeing exhibitions, eating and buying books - but most of all talking. Those of you who have met up with other 'cyber buddies' face to face after a long time talking online will know all about what that's like.

My Fortnum and Masons cheeseboard
11" x 8", pencil and coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We started with the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, at Burlington House in Piccadilly. We then crossed the road and had lunch at Fortnum and Masons directly opposite. The St James Restaurant supplied the 'still life' for my sketching! Followed by a short walk to Ryder Street and a visit to the Summer Show at the Chris Beetles Gallery and then a quick trip to the shelves and shelves of art books at Waterstones in Piccadilly - Europe's largest bookshop!

We parted just about 6pm and I walked over to the National Portrait Gallery for the Awards Reception for the BP Portrait Award (see Craig Wylie wins BP Portrait Award 2008).

The Royal Academy

My day got off to a bad start. George Bush had arrived in town the previous day and my tube journey was difficult (a big understatement!). So by the time I got to the Royal Academy 25 minutes late, Robyn had already done her first sketch in the vast courtyard outside the entrance to Burlington House! I was in need of a cup of tea so we went to the Friends Room - and now Robyn knows what it looks like from seeing it for real besides seeing it in my sketches (see Interior landscapes with food - a Sketchbook. for links)

The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy

I like to get value from my annual Friends of the RA subscription and it's always really nice to take a cyber chum to an exhibition at the RA - as they get in for free!

This was my second visit to this year's Summer Exhibition and Robyn's first ever visit. I gather that while there are lots of opportunities to look at great art from the past in Tuscany, there aren't a lot of opportunities to view contemporary art.

I'd forgotten what it's like for somebody new to the Summer Exhibition and just the sheer size and quantity of the number and size of the rooms and the number of exhibits. Now in its 240th year, the exhibition includes around 1,200 works and the majority of works are for sale. Robyn was completely bowled over by the number of small paintings and how they were hung in the Small Weston Room - always a real jaw-dropper! ;)

It was also really nice going round with somebody who is experimenting and trying to find their way with media and style in drawing and painting. I've found, from experience, that people are always unconsciously drawn to the styles of artists whose work they wished they could emulate. Sometimes it's just about an aspect of the work. In the past, after I noticed this happening in other people, I gave myself a 'mental work-out' and sat myself down to think about the sort of work and the sort of artists that I was really drawn to. From that I could work out what they had in common and was then able to identify all the things I really wanted to be able to do - which in turn created the plan for addressing this!

An exhibition which has a lot of different pieces and styles presents a really great opportunity to see if my theory works. Personally I think it's very easy to spot what sorts of characteristics turn up the visual volume for a viewer just by watching which pieces somebody picks out or stops at. With Robyn by the time we left the exhibition I was very clear about what she really, really liked. :)

Lunch in the St James Restaurant in Fortnum and Masons

OK - this is for 'the Gardener' back home in Tuscany and also for Robyn and me as a record of our delightful and delicious long lunch! Readers can decide what they would have chosen from the June menu for the St James Restaurant(pdf).

Robyn decided to focus on fish and had Tian of Cromer Crab with Pink Grapefruit Dressing, followed by Brioche Crumbed Plaice Fillets with Homemade Tartare Sauce (see right) and Coconut & Lime Chiffon Pie

Robyn's Fish Dish
8" x 10"pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Of course, the penalty of eating with me is I can sometimes make you wait two minutes before eating! I did a very quick pen and ink sketch of her plaice dish before Robyn was allowed to dig in - and then added some colour which I reinforced when I got home.

I had the Salt & Pepper Squid, Pickled Cucumber and Sweet Chilli Syrup, followed by Sirloin of Highgrove Beef, Chantenay Carrots, Watercress Purée and Horseradish Cream and finished with St James’s Cheese Plate with Chefs’ Oat Cookies & Pear Chutney (see above right). We both did a sketch of my cheeseboard as it looked so nice. Pretty nice to eat too!

Beside munching, other activities included much discussion and, of course, we also had a look at each other's sketchbooks so we could see for real the sketches we only ever see on screen.

The Chris Beetles Gallery - and a second summer exhibition

The Chris Beetles Gallery is situated in Ryder Street opposite the rear entrance to Christies. It mainly specialises in watercolours, but also has a great stock of work by Illustrators and Cartoonists and is a world leading gallery in this respect. (You can see the 2nd Annual Cartoon Show online)

We were there to see the Chris Beetles Summer Show (you can see a selection of the pictures online by clicking the link). I think we were both rather taken with the lovely loose washy watercolours by Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821-1906). As always, it's amazing how little detail has been painted and how much such pictures are about simple shapes, simple colours and accurate values.

I also admired the oil paintings and one watercolour by Geraldine Girvan - a great favourite of mine - and I bought a catalogue for one of her recent exhibitions. I'm very happy looking at the paintings of people whose work I like. Her work is so colourful and rather more rich and vibrant than the online images suggest.


It was 5.30pm before we left Chris Beetles and walked up Jermyn Street and cut through to Piccadilly and Waterstones. Then up to the top floor to show Robyn just how many art books they can actually get into one shop. (The floor and shelf space devopted to art books is the size of a typical book shop in its entirety!) The plan was that Robyn would come back and browse at her leisure but somehow a couple of books managed to find their way to the till before we got out the door! It's that sort of place. I have to ration my visiting!

I had a lovely day out in Piccadilly with Robyn. Lots of lovely things to do and see, exceptionally good company and a whole treasure trove of topics of mutual interest to talk about. I enjoyed myself immensely - and look forward to doing it again - maybe in Italy!

You can see more of my sketches done in restaurants, cafes and bars in Interior landscapes with food - a Sketchbook.

This week I'm going to transfer two more sketches involving Fortnum and Masons which were first posted on my other blog - and by the end of the week I'll have a brand new section for the Interior Landscapes post!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More sketching at Bankside

River Thames series:Bankside Shore #2
pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Every time I go to the Bankside Gallery I look to see if the tide is out - and if it is, out comes the sketchbook. I've got a fixation about the view towards Blackfriars Bridge and the 'beach' at Bankside just in front of the Bankside Gallery. You can see another recent sketch in The shoreline at Bankside.

Above is a very rough sketch - done entirely while sat the other side of the railings and at the top of the steps down to the 'beach'. I'm wondering whether to have a go at doing a values based impressionistic drawing - hence the emphasis on values and lack of detail.

I seem to do so many of the Thames that I've decided - like Whistler - to have a Thames series!
(see Whistler Month: Thames Views and Whistler Month: The Thames Set, Etching Papers and watermarks)

I bought a book at the Bankside Gallery while I was there. It's all about the house at 49 Bankside which has the reconstructed Globe Theatre as its neighbour on its left (as you face it) and the Tate Modern as its very near neighbour on its right. The book is called The House by the Thames by Gillian Tindall. Here's a synopsis of what it's about
Just across the River Thames from St Paul's Cathedral stands an old house. It is the last genuine survivor of what was once a long ribbon of elegant houses overlooking the water. Built in the days of Queen Anne, it stands in the footprint of a far older habitation. Once, on this spot, was the Cardinal's Cap, a timbered Tudor inn; its vaulted cellars are still there, beneath the bricks and plaster and panelling of later centuries.Over the course of almost 450 years the dwelling on this site has seen changes on the river and in the city on the opposite bank. From its windows, people have watched the ferrymen ferry Londoners to Shakespeare's Globe; they have gazed on the Great Fire, and seen goods from all corners of the world transported from the Pool below London Bridge. They have watched new bridges rise, and the ships change from sail to steam. They have also seen the countrified lanes of London's marshy south bank give way to a network of wharves, workshops and tenements - and then seen these, too, become dust and empty air. Rich with anecdote and colour, empathetic, scholarly and textured, The House by the Thames is social history at its most enjoyable. Gillian Tindall excels at description and at picking out the most fascinating details. Some of the people who have lived in the house have been skilled; some were prosperous traders in the coal and iron on which Britain's industrial revolution ran. Some were rich and flamboyant; one was an early film star. Others have been among London's numberless poor.
Random House / Chatto and Windus
  • Wikipedia - Bankside
  • British History online - Bankside (including reference to 49 Bankside)
  • Approximate walking times to Bankside:
    • From the London Eye – 30 minutes
    • From the Royal Festival Hall – 21 mins
    • From Waterloo station – 18 minutes
    • From Tower Bridge – 21 minutes
    • From St Paul’s Cathedral – 13 minutes
    • From Mansion House station – 15 mins
    • From Southwark Station – 10 minutes
    • From London Bridge – 3 minutes

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lunch at the Portrait Cafe

Lunch at the Portrait Cafe
11" x 8", pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

After attending a preview of the BP Portrait Award yesterday, I had lunch in the Portrait Cafe which is in the basement of the National Portrait Gallery. Most of the ceiling is some sort of glass or perspex which gives splendid light down into the basement. The wall on the left then has some sort of matt metal finish and the light and wall combined have lots of slightly unexpected and subtle colours appearing.

I had a bit of fun with the composition - I like drawing lots of people all in a line and love the hand appearing from nowhere and holding the coffee cup!

The other big advantage of the cafe is that when you've finished lunch you can step right into the book shop......................


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Trafalgar Tavern and low tide on the Thames

Trafalgar Tavern and low tide on the Thames
8" x 10", coloured pencil on Moleskine

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We went for a walk down at the southern most point of the Isle of Dogs on Saturday afternoon. This is a map of where we were. Wewalked along looking at the opposite shore which is Deptford and Greenwich.

We tend to park next to Masthouse Terrace Pier next to what is left of the point where the SS Great Eastern was launched - after 13 failed attempts.
On January 31, 1858, the largest ship of that time, the SS Great Eastern designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was launched from the yard of Messrs Scott, Russell & Co, of Millwall. The 211 metres (690 ft) length was too wide for the river, and the ship had to be launched sideways. Due to the technical difficulties of the launch, this was the last big ship to be built on the Island, and the industry fell into a decline.
Wikipedia - Isle of Dogs
Just to the side of it is the old colour factory at Burrell's Wharf. You can see a plan of how the factory was laid out prior to closure and redevelopment here.

We then spent some time trying to work out where Deptford Creek linked to the Thames was the River was at very low tide and we could see a terrific amount lot of the shoreline on the opposite side of the river.

Deptford means 'deep ford' and it is actually a very old part of London.
  • Chaucer's pilgrims crossed Deptford Bridge on their way to Canterbury in The Canterbury Tales
  • Henry VIII sited the Royal Dockyard in Deptford in 1513,
  • Queen Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake on board the Golden Hind in the Royal Dockyeard on 4 April 1581 following Drake's return from his circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. The Golden Hind remained moored in the creek until it broke up.
  • the East India Company used to occupy the western side of Deptford Creek
  • the diarist John Evelyn, (1620-1706), writer, gardener and diarist lived at Sayes Court (which no longer exists) in Deptford
  • the playwright Christopher Marlowe was murdered in a tavern in Deptford on 1 June 1593.
Since the sixteenth century, Deptford had provisioned all vessels associated with pioneering voyages. Sir Francis Drake departed from its banks in the Pelican, and James Cook set sail with the Endeavour in 1768 to chart the coasts of New Zealand and Australia.
Greenwich 2000 - Deptford Strand
As the Thames was at a very low tide, we took the opportunity to walk down the slipway belonging to the Poplar, Blackwall and District Rowing Club almost to the edge of the River and stood some 15-20 feet below where the Thames reaches at high tide. It was a very weird experience! It's now mentally 'tagged' as being a really good place to draw or paint the old Royal Naval College - and I now need to pay more attention to tide tables!

The Trafalgar Tavern - in the sketch (done from the seats in Island Gardens) - is situated just to the side of the Old Royal Naval College (which looked really horrible with a tent between its two buildings - completely spoiling the classic architecture which you can see in the sketch done on one of our previous walks - A Canaletto View). When we walked along the path on Boxing Day on the Greenwich side, the water was almost reaching the top of the wall.

I remember once spending a Saturday afternoon sitting on the wall next to the Trafalgar Tavern to watch as all the (REALLY!) tall ships came down the River Thames for the very last time. I think it was just before they built the Dartford Bridge which meant that the really big ones wouldn't be able to get under the bridge and come up to the Pool of London any more. There was one absolutely stonkingly huge Russian one with four (five?) masts which couldn't even get up that far and moored up on the Isle of Dogs - and then came out very, very slowly - as all our jaws dropped at the size of it! I think it was this one.

You can get to Masthouse Terrace Pier and the south side of the river at Greenwich Pier via the Thames Clippers - which raced up and down the river while we walked. You can take a virtual tour of the Thames on their website!


Sunday, June 01, 2008

The view from the Downs

The Weald from Emmetts Garden on the North Downs
8" x 10", coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Emmetts Garden is the highest garden in Kent which is open to the public. Last weekend we went there on the sunny Saturday before the deluge which followed.

I parked "he who must not be bored while I sketch" on a bench so he could read his book in the sunshine and then I raced around the garden taking photographs. I'm still trying to master the use of the the macro and super macro on the new camera! What I have come to realise is that I'm now talking many more photos of small creepie crawlie flying things than before!

Then it was time for tea followed by a walk to the bluebell woods - which are, of course called the bluebell woods on a year round basis even if the bluebells are now over!

The sketch is the view from our favourite bench - right at the very far end of the bluebell woods. You can see for miles and miles over the tops of the trees of the slopes of the North Downs to the Weald of Kent beyond.

So - we had a nice long chat while I sketched........