Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sketching the Olympics in Trafalgar Square - and afternoon tea!

The medal ceremony in Trafalgar Square
11.5" x 17", pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Yesterday, inbetween the Press View for the Threadneedle Figurative Prize and the evening Preview Party at the Mall Galleries, I sat on the steps in Trafalgar Square, in front of the National Gallery, and sketched the huge screen showing the Olympics and the watching crowd.

I arrived just as Christine Ohuruogu won her gold medal for Britain in the 400 metres and my sketch is of the medal ceremony. Christine lives in Stratford, right next door to where the 2012 Olympics will be held - which is also a hop skip and rather long jump from where I live in London.

I did toy with trying to catch live action - but they were all just too fast for me so I waited until the action slowed up a bit - like when the National Anthem gets played. We didn't all stand but we did clap!

There was a very good crowd in Trafalgar Square - all watching the Olympics on the big screen erected at the foot of Nelson's column. The action all takes place with Sir Edwin Landseer's Lions who guard the outside diagonals of Nelson's Column looking most aloof!

It began to drizzle so I decided that having missed lunch and due to get home late I'd better go and have a National Gallery Afternoon Tea in the National Dining Rooms which overlook Trafalgar Square. The sketch below is of other people enjoying tea against the light from the windows which overlook the Square. I love sketching people 'contre jour' - you get rim lighting. One of my tips for 'how to sketch people' is to try sketching them against the light so you focus on shapes and can't see any detail, except for outlines. I was rather amused by the fact that the banners hanging down outside are about 'Radical Light' the current exhibition at the gallery.

Afternoon Tea at the National Gallery
11.5" x 17", pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

With both sketches I got a bit of colour down when I sketched but added a bit more later to get more coverage. Plus I waited until I could see the photo of the medal ceremony properly before I completed it - having roughed in the shapes and placement while staring at the screen in the Square.

I had the Orange Pekoe Tea and sketched slowly so I could enjoy the tea! I did mull over the notion of sketching the Afternoon Tea..........maybe I need to go back?


  1. I love the afternoon tea in the gallery drawing, nice values and love the color in the trees.

  2. Yes, please, Katherine, DO go back and sketch Afternoon Tea. I love to see your "tea sketches" such as those at the RA. They are not only fun to see but very instructive to us sketching beginners. I also like to see how to sketch people in ways that will protect their privacy, and
    this sketching against the light does it so beautifully.


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