Thursday, December 30, 2010

Margaret Mee's paintbox at Kew Gardens

Usually when I'm out and about with a sketchbook, I'm sketching places and sometimes people in places.  Now and again however I sketch an object which catches my attention - such as Margaret Mee's paintbox which went with her on her travels to Brazil.

Margaret Mee's Paintbox at Kew Gardens 
(Old and New South American Botanical Art exhibition)
8 x 10", pencil in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I was at Kew Gardens to this summer to see the exhibition of Old and New South American Botanical Art at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery - and only realised recently that I hadn't actually got round to posting this sketch of her paintbox and brushes.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking at the Turners in the National Gallery

Looking at the Turners
11" x 17", pencil and coloured pencils in large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This is a sketch I did on Friday evening while sat in Room 34 in the National Gallery - which comprises British paintings completed between 1750-1850

The sketch is of people looking at the paintings by JMW Turner - plus a couple of guards who are looking after the paintings in this very large room.  They include:
Turner was of course born a very short distance away in Maiden Lane.  This is inbetween Covent Garden Piazza (where I sketched in the morning - see previous post) and the Strand.
Turner was born near Covent Garden in London and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789. His earliest works form part of the 18th-century topographical tradition. He was soon inspired by 17th-century Dutch artists such as Willem van der Velde, and by the Italianate landscapes of Claude and Richard Wilson.

He exhibited watercolours at the Royal Academy from 1790, and oils from 1796. In 1840 he met the critic John Ruskin, who became the great champion of his work.
Turner became interested in contemporary technology, as can be seen from 'The Fighting Temeraire' and 'Rain, Steam and Speed'. At the time his free, expressive treatment of these subjects was criticised, but it is now widely appreciated.
The bulk of his work - which was bequeathed to the nation on his death - is looked after by Tate Britain.  However a few of the most famous paintings hang in the National Gallery - and this room forms part of my high speed tour of the National Gallery for visitors to London.

Room 34 also contains paintings by John Constable, Gainsborough and Reynolds.  Click the link to read more about it.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giant red nosed reindeer in Covent Garden!

Giant Red Nosed Reindeer outside Covent Garden Market
8" x 10", pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Yesterday was the last outing of 2010 with the Drawing London group.  We went to Covent Garden for the morning before having a lovely Christmas lunch.

The big surprise for me was finding that an extremely large red nosed reindeer had landed in the Covent Garden Piazza!  This one was really big and green!

It was too cold to stay still for long so this sketch only took me about 15 minutes.  However I think it gives the stong sense of just how big this reindeer actually is (see right for photograph of it).

I couldn't work out what it was made from but it seems to be some sort of articificial foliage wrapped around a skeletal structure which was most impressive.

Apparently real life reindeer petting for kids is taking place every Saturday in Covent Garden Piazza!

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is the site of the former fruit and vegetable market in central London which has featured in many paintings over the years (see Townscape: Covent Garden Market).

Here are some facts about Covent Garden:
  • 600 AD:  the land was and settled and became the heart of the Anglo-Saxon trading town of Lundenwic.  Excavations show that the settlement covered about 600,000 square metres, stretching from the present-day National Gallery site in the west to Aldwych in the east, and was laid out on a grid pattern. 
Lundenwic in the early eighth century was described by the Venerable Bede as "a trading centre for many nations who visit it by land and sea". 
  • 830 AD onwards:  The Vikings invaded and raided the settlement and apparently it was subsequently abandoned by the Saxons.
  • 886: captured by the forces of King Alfred the Great of Wessex and reincorporated into Mercia.   This was the point at which the main focus of the City of London moved east.  The old settlement of Lundenwic became known as the ealdwic or "old settlement", a name which survives today as Aldwych.
  • 1200: enclosed and used as arable land and orchards by Westminster Abbey for many years
  • 1515: first use of the term "Covent Garden" in a lease
  • 1540: following the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII took the land belonging to Westminster Abbey, including the garden and seven acres to the north called Long Acre;
  • Inigo Jones (1573 – 1652) was commissioned to design fine houses on the north and east side as well as St Paul's, Covent Garden on the west (1631-1637) (only the church is left)
  • 1654:  a small open air fruit and vegetable market starts on the south side of the fashionable square
  • 18th century:  Covent Garden now known as a red-light district
  • 1830:  the market building was erected to cover and help organise the market
  • 1974:  Covent Garden Market relocated to New Covent Garden Market at Nine Elms.
  • 1980:  the old market building was reopened as a shopping centre

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tornados and Travel Sketchbooks

Sometimes you realise you haven't seen somebody's blog in a while.  I've got my blogrolls set up so that they show the top five or top ten of those I have listed in a category.  Which means if you don't post in a while I have to remember that I should be seeing your blog posts - but they're not there.

I was really shocked to find out this week that the reason that Debbie Kotter Caspari's sketchbook blog Drawing the Motmot hasn't been showing up recently, in my blogroll over in the nature section on Making A Mark, is that her home was blown away by an EF4 tornado in May.  Quite literally.

These blog posts record the event - and how Debbie found her sketchbooks from her travels.
My reason for posting this here?  I can't do any better than quote Debbie from her last post.
"I swear I heard angels singing when my sketchbooks were found"
From Debbie's post Nature is a moody Muse
It reminded me of one of the reasons why I'm glad I blog about my travels and the sketches I do.  Computers may come and go - but once the images are on my blog they are there forever.

See Debbie Kitter Caspari's sketches from her travels with her sketchbook:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Liz Steel and Borromini at Kew Palace

This is a long overdue post about meeting up with Liz Steel (Liz and Borromini) and Alison Staite (Art Journey) at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in September.  Of course Borrowmini - as you can see below - was also there as well.

Liz and I sketched Kew Palace while Alison took photos!

Borromini inspects Liz's watercolour sketch of Kew Palace
photo by Katherine Tyrrell
Here's my sketch of Kew Palace

Kew Palace
11 x 17", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
We talked non-stop from when Liz arrived, all through the visit to the Waterlily House, all through the sketching, through our very late lunch in the Orangerie and didn't stop until I had to leave to go and get ready for the Threadneedle Dinner that evening.

Well if somebody is only over from Australia once in a while you don't want to waste any time!

Here's an action shot of Liz sketching lunch - see the crockery and the sketch in the same shot!  I loved her sweatband/brush wiper - that's a new one on me.

Liz sketches lunch - note the neat brush wiper!

I do so enjoy meeting up with people I've got to know online.  So often they are exactly as I expect them to be.  It was great meeting up and I hope we get to do it again sometime.  Maybe next time in Australia!

Kew Palace

Kew Palace is looked after by the Historic Royal Palaces Trust.  It was reopened to the public not that long ago after a very long and throrough restoration which took some 10 years.

Kew Palace is the oldest building at Kew Gardens and used to be known as the Dutch House.   It was used royal monarchs and their family between 1728 and 1898.
  • Queen Caroline leased several parcels of land and buildings in the hamlet of Kew which included Kew Palace while her husband King George II worked on extending Richmond Gardens.
  • Their son's wife Princess Augusta established the botanic gardens at Kew
  • Her son, King George III lived in various properties at Kew.  He bought Kew Palace in 1781 as a family home. 
  • In 1818, Kew Palace was closed after the death of George III's widow, Queen Charlotte
  • In December 1896, Queen Victoria agreed to Kew's acquisition of the Palace, providing there was no alteration to the room in which Queen Charlotte died. 
  • In 1898, the Kew's Department of Works acquired the Palace and it was opened to the public.
At the rear is the Queen's Garden.  This has been developed in the style of a seventeenth century garden and has only plants associated with the period.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Leadenhall Market - Hanging the Christmas Tree Lights

Leadenhall Market Christmas Tree - hanging the lights 14.11.10.
pen and ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook, 11" x 11"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Today, the RWS Sketching Group were out and about in the City of London on a day which progressed from spots of rain to drizzle to heavy rain.

So I opted for sketching in Leadenhall Market where they were putting up the Christmas Tree outside the Brokers Wine Bar where one of my exhibitions was in March this year.  Apparently this week is the Winter Festival in the Market and the Lord Mayor of London is due to formally light up the lights on Friday 19th November at 5pm.

This sketch is of the lights being hung.  It was quite intriguing watching three blokes work out where they all needed to go!

I think I may well return and do a late afternoon/early evening one of the lights on.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

An exercise in posture and floor polish

Watching people: Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition, Mall Galleries
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Molsekine Sketchbook, 8" ax 10"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I went to see the Annual Exhibition 2010 of the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition which was back at the Mall Galleries last week - for one week only.  The last day is today so you need to get your skates on if you want to catch it before it closes

A review will follow on Making A Mark however this is about my sketch done as I watched people looking at the paintings.

The above sketch, across double page spread in my small Moleskine, is an exercise in drawing people and trying to capture their postures in just a few seconds.  In other words, how real can I make people look when there is no time at all and they're not posing for me.  It made me glad I've done life drawing classes with warm up exercises of a few seconds for each pose! 

It also reminded me of the tip which I first read about in a Charles Reid book of making sure that you go for the big shape when drawing groups of people.  You know they're separate people but often the lighting doesn't separate them effectively.  Thus trying to draw them as separate people can make them look a little unreal - while joined up they look perfectly normal! 

The people are not all there at the same time.  I did them one by one and filled in gaps as people came and went.  The trick was to make sure I got the height right.  

Towards the end of the sketch I got very distracted by the highly polished floor - its colours and the shadows from the people as they moved around the room.  It soon became clear to me that what would make the sketch 'real' would be to try and capture the multi-colour and diffuse nature of the coloured shadow shapes on the floor.  What do you think?

That floor was fascinating - I could really get into drawing shiny floors!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wet evening at Burlington House

Wet evening at Burlington House
sketched from the leather sofas of the Friends Room, Royal Academy of Arts
Brushes iPad app and iPad
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This is my very first digital sketch on my brand new iPad.  It's the direct result of learning how to use Brushes - with no manual or instruction - while sat on the leather sofas in the Friends Room at the Royal Academy.

I was quite pleased to end up with ANYTHING which looked remotely like a drawing!  However I can now see the potential of the iPad as a sketchbook and will be doing this again.  Although I might practice a bit more first!

It's a bit of an odd sketch since it has the capacious and comfortable black leather sofa under the window at the bottom and then the wet courtyard of Burlington House out the window behind.

Two elderly ladies watched me while they had their cup of tea and came up and asked me about it before they left.  They were very intrigued and absolutely loved the way the picture swivels when I turned it towards them.

Anyway - what do you think?  Any good?

I had a little bit of a fright as I left the RA and walked out under the archway to Piccadilly.  There was police incident tape absolutely everywhere.  It turned out that there was a "suspect vehicle" (which in London is code for "suspect bomb") parked not very far away and the Police had closed down the whole of Piccadilly.  It's a long time since a policeman has said to me "I wouldn't look that way" as I turned around to peer and see where it was.  Realising that white van man had parked a bit too close for comfort I scurried away to the tube - all the while doing mental calculations about the value of the artwork currently residing in the exhibition galleries inside Burlington House!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Burlington House Courtyard - and sketching locations

The Royal Academy - Courtyard of Burlington House - in the rain
11" x 17", pen and ink and coloured pencils in large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This is a sketch of the courtyard of Burlington House, off Piccadilly, drawn from the covered terrace in front of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Our Drawing London Group in late September was supposed to be visiting my local park in East London but I spotted that the forecast was for heavy rain so we needed to relocate to somewhere which offered a variety of drawing locations which were dry.

We were sheltering from the rain under the covered verandah at the front of the RA but even so I had to keep moving back as the drizzle drifted onto my sketchbook as the wind changed!  However the rain did make for some interesting challanges such as trying (as with the Tate ketch) to find colours in the grey day and neutral stone of the building and courtyard.  It was there to find but you had to look hard and find the nuances.

Burlington House

Did you know Burlington House is not just home to the Royal Academy of Arts
Since 1874, Burlington House has been home to:
Together, the societies contribute to the cultural, historic, natural and scientific cultural environments.
Places to sketch in and around Burlington House

We chose Burlington House and round about as there's lots of interesting stuff to draw in the vicinity - even when it's raining!  Here's my list divided into wet weather and dry weather options

Wet Weather Sketching Locations
Dry Weather Sketching Locations

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Cosmic Conversation + RA Sketchbook

The Cosmic Conversation
The Portrait Gallery cafe #3
pen and sepia ink in Royal Academy sketchbook, 20cm x 20cm
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
After visiting the press preview of the new Thomas Lawrence exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, I went for a quick bite to eat and herbal tea in the basement cafe.  (Note: exhibition review to follow/highly recommended by me)

Two gents at the table next to me were having this very intent conversation about the cosmos and movements of the planets and planetary houses (as per astrology) while I sat and eat my crayfish and rocket on brown.  After 10 minutes of drawing people, the sketch was christened "The Cosmic Conversation"!

I've just started to use the Royal Academy Sketchbook (20cm square) which is a casebound sewn sketchbook containing 80 leaves (160 pages) of mouldmade Stockwell catridge paper.  It has different images by the members of the RA - mine's got a very nice by Fred Cuming RA who's one of my favourite ever painters.

It seems to work fine for pen and ink!  This is what one of my pen and ink sketches can often look like before I start to add coloured pencils

Royal Academy Sketchbook
Image: Camber Sands by Fred Cuming RA

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St Pauls from Tate Modern on a grey day

St Paul's Cathedral and the City of London from Level 7, Tate Modern
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils, 11 x 17"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
One of the great views in London is from the bar/restaurant on Level 7 of Tate Modern across to St Paul's cathedral and the skyline of the City of London.  Lots of Wren churches peeping out inbetween office blocks in varying shades of "blah".

Yesterday, after the press preview of the Gauguin exhibition which opens at Tate Modern tomorrow,  I sat up on Level 7 and draw again a view I've drawn before.  This time I managed to get boats on to the Thames - and they actually look like they're moving.  Plus I discovered that the colour of the Thames is actually a dull pink moving through to a drab grey/green.  Maybe because I was sat looking at it undeneath the red brick of the City of London School 

The thing is when I'm drawing urban landscapes on a very grey day, I always find I'm looking for ANY colour which stop it being an unremitting grey.

The other very entertaining part about sitting in the bar at the Tate is the fantastic variety of foreign tourists who come and sit next to you and talk about all manner of things under the sun. They all seem to love the cream tea though.  I was good and drew a line and contented myself with Jasmine Tea!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Early evening near Richmond Bridge

Richmond Bridge
penc and ink and coloured pencils in small Moleskine sketchbook, 8" x 10"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This sketch was done at the end of August.  I'm next to the River Thames at Richmond looking west towards Richmond Bridge.  The early evening rowers and lovers were out and about.  Actually, there were lots more people walking along the Thames Path but I didn't have time to draw them all in so it looks a bit more romantic than it actually was!

I am soooooooo behind with posting sketches!  We spent a couple of days visiting Richmond, Twickenham and Ham this summer and there are a couple more sketches to post of Eel Pie Island and Ham Common Pond.

I've decided I need to visit more often as there are lots of opportunities for sketching combined with exercise - not least from the top of Richmond Hill - plus the autumn colours should be excellent!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Tate People - Get a room!

I'm either getting older or the tourists are getting friskier - but my jaw did drop rather when I sat down to sketch the people sitting on the lawn in front of Tate Modern last week.
Tate People - Get a room!
pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook

Some of them weren't sitting!

I was on the Bankside last week there to see the preview of the new exhibition by Frank Kiely at the Bankside Gallery (next to Tate Modern) which is on until 5th September

 Frank does great images of London - mostly screenprints but latterly paintings as well.

He's got a Meet the Artist reception tonight Thursday the 2nd of September at the Bankside Gallery 6 - 8pm. It's a great opportunity for those of you intrigued about the how, when & why behind his London works.

You can read more about him in an interview I did a while back - Frank Kiely - an Irish artist in London

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Victoria Tower from College Garden

Victoria Tower, Palace of Westminster - from College Garden
pen and ink and coloured pencils, 11.5" x 8"

copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This is a sketch of the Victoria Tower which is part of the Palace of Westminster.  It's the big square stone tower, 98.5 metres/323 feet tall, at the southern (opposite) end from Big Ben. The Union Flag flies on the top when Parliament is in session and inside they keep all the Parliamentary archives.

I recently went sketching in College Garden which is part of the precincts of Westminster Abbey with my Draw London Group.  This is a view which you don't often see of the Victoria Tower and is from the inside of College Garden immediately west of the Tower

Most UK readers will be familiar with watching parliamentary reports on television from TV correspondents interviewing MPs standing on College Green which is just the other side of the medieval wall at the far side of the garden inbetween the Garden and the Tower.

College Garden used to be the infirmary garden of the monastery adjoing Westminster Abbey, and it is said to be the oldest garden in England under continuous cultivation.

Ahem....the Victoria Tower is not falling over. I made the fatal mistake of not checking my verticals when I started to draw and I have a distinct tendency to get leaning structures if I don't do this!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Photograph of my sketching set-up

My sketch in Moleskine Sketchbook, basic sketching kit
and cup of tea at the Mall Galleries
 I normally forget to take a photo so this is a rare example a sketch in progress!

Yesterday I went to the Mall Galleries to see the  Watercolour Academy Exhibition and had a cup of tea and a sketch as is my usual practice after viewing the exhibition.

This time I remembered to take a photograph of the sketch in progress.  I did a bit more to the colours when I got home but all drawing in was done at the gallery.  This was taken just after the ladies who I had been sketching had got up and left - via a trip to view my sketch!  As always I draw figures rather than faces and often draw people from behind so nobody is recognisable - so no objections possible!

Watercolour Ladies at Watercolour Academy
pen and ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The exhibition review of Watercolour Academy will be on Making A Mark shortly - and the exhibition closes on Friday.  It's worth a visit.

My basic sketching kit is a mechanical pencil, a Pentel G-TEC-C4 gel ink rollerball, a Moleskine Sketchbook (lilac wrapper) and a basic set of Derwent Coloursoft pencils

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sketching Syon Vista

Last week we went to Kew Gardens and I sat on the steps leading up to the Palm House and drew Syon Vista with the new Lavender beds in the foreground.

Syon Vista from the Palm House, Kew Gardens
11.5" x 17", pen ans sepia ink and coloured pencilsin large Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is my plein air sketch.  I'm really enjoying my large Moleskine sketchbook as a double page spread gives me a good size to work with.  You can see the photos I took while trying to work out the best composition in Kew Gardens 11th August 2010 on Flickr.  I find that using the LCD screen on a digital camera is a really good way of working out a crop for a plein air sketch.  I went for a cropped further version of the second photo.

As always when posting these sketches I end up learning a bit more about the history and heritage of an aspect of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.
Syon Vista is a major feature in the Nesfield/Burton landscape. This part of the Gardens was originally part of Richmond Gardens, but its character is dominated by the 1845 and later design of Nesfield and the Hookers.

The view along the Vista to Syon House across the Thames make this possibly one of the the most visited areas at Kew.
Kew Gardens - History and Heritage
I never knew before today that the Vistas which raidiate out from the Palm House are the work of one man - Willian Nesfield
William Andrews Nesfield (1793-1881)
Nesfield was at first a soldier who later turned to drawing water colours. However, he found his real vocation in landscape design, gaining his first commission in 1836. This was the start of a long flourishing career, working on over 260 estates belonging to the most wealthy and influential people of the day. In 1844, he was asked to re-design the arboretum at Kew. His extensive plans included a number of vistas stemming from the Palm House, a parterre, the remodelling of the formal structure landscape around the Palm House as well as the Palm House Pond. One vista pointed south, called the Pagoda Vista, another facing west towards the Thames was called the Syon Vista. Although eroded in detail by time, Nesfield’s formal structured landscapes surrounding the Palm House, as well as his arboretum design and vistas, have largely kept their structure today.
I've added a "location" to this post but I'm not quite sure how this works in Bloggger - just off to find out.

You can see other sketches from Kew Gardens on this blog and in my Parks and Gardens in London gallery on my website

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Perfect Cuppa with Liz Steel

I love sketching interiors landscapes - of places where people eat and drink

One person who does something very similar is inveterate sketcher Liz Steel (Liz and Borrowmini) - however in her sketches she mainly focuses on tea rooms and the still life landscape of the tea table.

Below you can see A Perfect Cuppa - the book she has created in Blurb about sketches of her visits to the T2 Teahouse in the Macquairie Center in Sydney, Australia in 2009

Have you developed a series of sketches of 'interior landscapes' with a theme?

Liz is currently on her travels - sketching her way around the USA, UK and Europe - why not follow her on her blog?

Monday, August 09, 2010

A Cheshire garden in summer

A Cheshire garden in early August
11.5" x 17", coloured pencils and pen and ink in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is what's known as incredibly lazy sketching - done entirely while sat in an armchair next to my Mother's glazed door into her garden.

It was very satisfying to do as it's a scene I know well and yet had never drawn - possibly due to the number of trees in this view.  

Intermittent showers meant that the planned gardening wasn't a great idea.  Plus the image of the doves sitting on top of the bird house meant that it was absolutely necessary to sketch!  My other cat Polly sat next to me at the open door absolutely transfixed by the doves as they preened and pecked.  I think she was only a quarter of the way through the door when they took off - having teased her for quite a long time.

What was slightly amazing to me on my journey north was to find that while London and the Southeast now closely resembles scorched earth due to lack of rain (shades of the summer of 1976), North West England has been getting a lot of rain - hence the garden was very lush with multiple variations on the colour green.  However even there they are having to close down sections of the canal system as the reservoirs which feed the canals lock system are so low.

Last week I came to the conclusion that there's an "English garden green" that I need which I didn't have with me as I was continuously mixing greens.  I'm still trying to work out which is the missing green......

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Cosmo weighs up the escape routes

I've been up north this week in Cheshire and Scotland.  My cats went with me and as always spent a long time trying to work out different ways in and out of my mother's garden.  Variety is after all the spice of life and my cat Cosmo does like to ring the changes.......

 Cosmo pondering the escape route options
11.5" x 17" coloured pencils and pen and ink in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This sketch was done one morning as Cosmo tried to decide whether it was best to break out of the garden through the trellis, tangle with the blackberry brambles or dislodge the clematis which covers the loggia....

Mind you I reckon he was indulging in wishful thinking about it really as he's now ten, carrying a bit more weight than he used to and doesn't race up and down vertical surfaces quite the way he did when younger.  Although he still makes regular appearances on the top of the doors at home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

St John Bread and Wine, Spitalfields

St John Bread and Wine, Spitalfields is an offshoot from the awardwinning St John Bar and Restaurant restaurant in Smithfield which I rather like.  Both are run by Fergus Henderson who's a big believer in nose to tail eating and has created what's regarded by many as a bit of a foodie favourite.

The Smithfield Restaurant opened in 1994 and is located in a former smokehouse.  It's rather splendid for not looking at all like other restaurants and it also has a menu quite unlike other restaurants.  This is the restaurant to go when you want to experiment with food you've never eaten before like chitterlings and trotter!  Last time I was there, there were rather a lot of "people off the telly" dining there except the only one person whose name I could remember was Sir John Birt
Tim Hayward (The Guardian's food blogger on Word of Mouth) spent the morning with Fergus at St. John recently preparing, cooking, and eating a pigs' head.
See also The Guardian - Word of Mouth Blog live web chat with Fergus Henderson

Sketch of St Johns Bread and Wine, Spitalfields
Brunch - St Johns, Spitalfields 
11.5" x 17", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
However, the focus of the Spitalfields branch of the St. John empire (see above sketch) is on baking the bread for this cafe restaurant and the one in Smithfield.  It's at 94-96 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ and is on the same side of the road as located right across the road from the old Spitalfields Market (now a very buzzy traders and arts market)

St John Bread and Wine opens for breakfast and progresses through elevenses to lunch and then supper.  In fact one could actually stay all day.  Tracy Emin who lives in Spitalfields did just that and has written a review of St John Bread and Wine - although  to be honest I can't out whether this review is by her or whether the site is compiled by a fan of Tracey.  There again it could be both!

I was there with my drawing group and as they got up to go and sketch in and around Spitalfields Market I decided to sit and have another cup of coffee and do a quick sketch.  It turned out to be a bit longer than a quick sketch as people came and went - and I never left until it was time to meet up for lunch!

What I really liked about it was that it has all white walls so I had to find the colours in the shadows.  I also very much enjoyed the matrix effect of the kitchen area - and the fact that all the chefs and kitchen staff came out to eat their meal in the restaurant before the lunch trade got going.

The chap who writes the Spitalfields Life blog has done a review of Hot Cross Buns from St John

I see from their website that they're opening a hotel at 1 Leicester Street, London WC2H 7BL in the bulding where Manzi's Fish Restaurant used to be in October.  I'm sure I shall find time to pay it a visit when gallery visiting!

The above sketch is of course another addition to my Interior Landscapes collection of sketches of places where people eat and drink. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Portrait Cafe

When I visit the National Portrait Gallery I quite often take time out in the Portrait Cafe in the basement if I'm going somewhere else afterwards.  They have nice food and it's almost always quiet and peaceful.

 The Portrait Cafe
11.5" x 8" pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

It also has this very curious design insofar as it's long and thin and is the shape of the space between the railings and the building at ground floor level.  The wall seems to be some sort of polished concrete and the roof is glass and that's the only light into the space.

It's a bit of a challenge to draw because all your normal mental measures of what's 'normal' don't apply!

This sketch reminds me of a bit of a break through moment for me.  This was when I realised that flat surfaces actually look more normal if they're not portrayed as having only one colour.  There's colour variations in every flat surface of you look hard enough.

I forget how many colours there are in the wall - but it's at least six and probably nearer 10.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Summer Sunday Sketching West Smithfield

This post was very nearly called "why I love sketching from cafes".

Henry VIII Gate, St Bartholomew's Hospital
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I get a table and chair and drinks to order - plus it's very "conveninent" if I have too many drinks!  Then there's the ear-wigging aspect which can often be very entertaining.  This morning I got a complete unexpurgated analysis of the politics of an architects office and the ramifications of doing PR for the LibDems.  It's amazing how people think you go deaf when you're sketching right next to them!

This morning, I was sat outside Carluccios in West Smithfield this morning.  For the first sketch, I had a cappuccino and sat to the right of the door looking towards St Batholomew's Hospital and sketched the Henry VIII Gate into the Hospital. 

Here's a little about the history of Barts from the hospital website - and an explanation for why Henry VIII should have a Gate named after him
It was founded, with the Priory of St Bartholomew, in 1123 by Rahere, formerly a courtier of Henry I.
Refounded by Henry VIII, who signed an agreement granting the hospital to the City of London. The Priory was closed as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, and although the Hospital was allowed to continue, its future was very uncertain as it had no income with which to carry out its functions. The citizens of London, concerned about the disappearance of provision for the sick poor, and alarmed at the possibility of plague breaking out, petitioned the king for the grant of four hospitals in the City including St Bartholomew’s. Henry finally relented; near the end of his life he issued two documents, one a signed Agreement dated December 1546 granting the Hospital to the City of London, and the other Letters Patent of January 1547 endowing it with properties and income. Along with Bethlem, Bridewell and St Thomas’, St Bartholomew’s became one of four Royal Hospitals administered by the City.

For the second sketch, I picked up my stuff and moved to the left of the door and had another cappuccino - followed by lunch of Insalate di Mare (Mediterranean prawns, squid rings and mussels in a light lemon oil and chilli dressing served on mixed leaves - and very nice it was too!) - and looked left to sketch Smithfield Market.

I sketched Smithfield Market in the Spring - see The Courtauld, Old Bank of England and West Smithfield (April 25 2010) - and I this means I need to come back in the Autumn and Winter to sketch it again.

Smithfield Market on a Summer Sunday
11" x 17", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is the "original sketch" which took a little over an hour.  I'll probably continue to work on it to finish off the tree and the sky and deepn some of the values.  Plus this scan is looking a bit weird and needs sorting!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's sketches of Northern Italy

The Glasgow School of Art has developed a wonderful website which allows us to see the sketches of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). 

I adore Mackintosh's drawing style and can stare at his drawings and sketches and paintings for hours and hours - so finding this site is very special for me!

The Northern Italian Sketchbook is a comprehensive website, created by Glasgow Arts Scool and funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC], offering:
Follow the links (above) to explore Northern Italy through the eyes of the celebrated Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) during his sketching tour of the Continent in 1891. Compare his superb sketches with present-day photographs from the same locations, and retrace his steps with our interactive 19th century Baedeker maps

The Sketchbook contains drawings from the later part of Mackintosh's tour, beginning with Verona. It covers
Como, Cathedral, studies of window and two finials
Charle Rennie Mackintosh - Northern Italian Sketchbook
  • Milan (28 June-6 July); 
  • Pavia (7 July-?); 
  • Certosa di Pavia ( probably several days around 12 July); 
  • Paris and Chateau d'Ecouen (late July?); 
  • Antwerp (late July?). 
It also contains several pages of designs for the Glasgow Art Club (1892-3) and the Glasgow Herald Building (1893-5).

If you use the search facility, it also shows you photos of the place today.

Most of the sketches are in pencil and some are now a tad faint.  However there are a few where colour has been added in watercolour.  He doesn't draw people - he draws buildings and most particularly he draws bits of buildings.  He's working out how the structure and ornamentation work.

What I like about is as a facsimile sketchbook is it shows you exactly what a real sketchbook looks like - even one kept by somebody who is technically very proficient at drawing.  It has all the unfinished sketches and the ones that went wrong and the bits of this and that which make it very real for me.  It's also very apparent, as one might expect, that he loves drawing architectural details.  He fills pages with unpicking and reassembling the twirly bits!

Finally, I have to add that I am very impressed by the Glasgow School of Art.  They appear to be one of the few art schools in the UK which have really grasped the potential of IT and the internet for sharing the riches of our artistic heritage.  Often, people start out on a path to learning about art because of the images they have seen and have been able to study.  I'm very grateful for their enlightened approach which allows others to share  and be inspired by Mackintosh's talents and skills in drawing.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Enrique Flores' Algeria sketchbook on YouTube

I always look forward to getting an email to say that Enrique Flores (acuarelista) has got a new YouTube video of a new sketchbook.

This is his Moleskine Sketchbook completed during one week in Oran, Algeria.

Here's some things to note about Enrique's approach to sketching:
  • Lots and lots of sketches - he's sketching all the time and/or sketches very fast and so he fills a sketchbook in a week.
  • He's not trying to be a camera (ie photographic); he's focusing on impressions and what interests him
  • His sketches are simple, clear and have a lot of impact
  • It's mainly a graphic approach to sketching - line and flat colour
  • Flat watercolour goes on faster than gradated washes - and he makes good use of lots of areas of flat colour.  
  • He typically has sketches which have good composition - he always finds the big shapes and works with them
  • He draws lots of people - which make a place come alive.  
  • He focuses more of proportion than accurate drawing of individuals
  • He never overworks 
  • He comments on his blog that he has a 'redraw obsession' - but drawing again things you have drawn before is never a bad idea in my book!
See also my post back in 2007 - Enrique Flores sketches everywhere! which includes an interview with Enrique.

You can:

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Lunch at the Academy Restaurant at the RA

    After the Press View for Sargent and the Sea, which opens today at the Royal Academy of Arts (see my review Sargent and the Beach on Making A Mark), I went for lunch in the Academy Restaurant on the ground floor of the RA.

     Lunch in the Academy Restaurant at the RA
    pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils, 8.5" x 11.5"
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    Of course I drew the inevitable sketch of people talking over a meal to add to my collection of similar sketches - see:
    The Academy Restaurant has some rather wonderful murals and some recent restoration work now illuminates them much better than I've ever seen them before
    Academy restaurant
    Designed by Norman Shaw in 1885 and recently renovated by London-based architects MUMA. The Academy Restaurant is an ideal setting for art lovers to relax and enjoy a delicious buffet menu amid celebrated murals by Fred Appleyard, Harold Speed, Gilbert Spencer and Leonard Rosoman. The Murals have been illuminated for the first time, fulfilling the original intentions of the artists.
    Royal Academy of Arts - Restaurant and Café
    I've uploaded some photos of the murals to Flickr and you can see a slideshow of the Academy Restaurant Murals here.

    Thursday, July 08, 2010

    Sketching Sargent at the RA

    Sketch of John Singer Sargent's 'En Route pour la pêche (Setting Out to Fish)', 1878
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    I managed to get a sketch done at the end of the Press View of Sargent and the Sea at the RA on Tuesday.  My sketch is of the feature painting in the exhibition 'En Route pour la pêche (Setting Out to Fish)' which is on loan from the Corcoran Museum in Washington.

    You can read my review of the exhibition on Making A Mark later today - see [to be inserted]

    This sketch took about 30 minutes. My focus was on trying to understand the composition, the values and the colour relationships

    I do enjoy sketching paintings by artists as it I learn such a huge amount about a painting as I attempt to make my own version of it.  Here are some of the things that I do:
    • In plotting the key verticals and horizontals on the page I attempt to work out how the canvas might be divided roughly into squares.  In essence it's an attempt to work out the ratio of the height to the width - which is always useful to know before you start to plot key marks.
    • I then mark on key horizontals and verticals such as the horizon line, the four main figures and the lighthouse
    • I use a pen which makes me focus on trying to get it right first time!
    • However I use lots of little light feathery strokes so that it's easier to lose them if I do in fact get anything badly wrong
    • In drawing the figures I'm measuring off relative heights and distances between heads.  The negative space between the figures is just as important as the shape of the figure
    • In this particular composition, the placing of the figures partly against the sky makes it a lot easier to see them as figures.  Earlier studies showed figures portrayed against the foreshore and their clothes became lost in the colour of the foreshore and forms were much less distinct.  By putting dark upper torsos against the light sky and the legs of the key figures (left of centre) against the lighter sand it's much easier to see the figures and what sort of people they are - ladies setting out the gather the fruits of the sea.
    • The figures are all 'contre jour' so there's absolutely no need to focus on the faces - especially as Sargent pretty much ignored them as well!  It's not a portrait of individuals as much as a figurative painting.
    • I try to get something of the relative values down.  This is an aspect which very often cannot be done to the full extent in a short amount of time of sketching. My figures in fact need to be even darker.  Using a very soft pencil would have allowed me to get a better range of values - but then I wouldn't have been able to capture the colour in quite the same way.
    • When using the coloured pencils I quickly became aware of how much of this work is coloured greys and darks.  There are slivers of pure colour but much of it is "mouse" colours.
    • The overall palette is a "mooch" around the extremes of two complementary colours - a light orange and a dark (Prussian? Cobalt?) blue.  I suspect much of the sand and foreshore relates to a mix of those two colours with dans of white and black added.
    There are lots of pencil sketches in the exhibition - and quite a few sketchy paintings done plein air.  One also sees the process of building from sketches and studies through to a complete painting.

    One curious aspect of the RA's website is that it lists Objects eligible for protection under Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.  If you then click a link and then take a look at the pdf files listed on that page you get a very good view of sketches by Sargent - mostly in pencil - which belong to various museums in the USA.

    Sargent and the Sea is on display to the public in the Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts from Saturday 10th July 2010.  The exhibition continues until 26th September.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Sketching Antibes in the Courtauld

    Sketch of "Antibes" 
    by Claude Monet at the Courtauld Galley
    11.5" x 8" in Large Moleskine Sketchbook, pencil and coloured pencils
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    In order to avoid the rush hour after my recent sketching trip to Robert Street and the Embankment, I finished the afternoon with a visit - with my sketchbook - to the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House.

    I really enjoy sketching paintings in galleries.  If you get the time right it can be a nice peaceful activity and the guards are generally very interested and supportive of your appreciation of the art they spend their working lives looking after.  The big bonus about using dry media (eg pencils and coloured pencils) is that I never present the galleries with a problem as I'm not going to make a mess or cause a problem.

    Sketching and painting in the Gallery

    You may use these materials in The Courtauld Gallery:
    Fine-tipped pens; all pencils; wood or plastic encased pastels/charcoal or crayons.

    These materials are not permitted in th Gallery:
    Paint or other wet materials; charcoal; permanent markers; fixative spray; oil pastels not encased in wood or plastic.
    Courtauld Gallery: Visitor Information - Photographing and Painting
    My sketch is of a very famous painting of a tree at Antibes in the south of France.  It's one of my favourite paintings and I used to have a postcard of it on the wall of my college room in Cambridge.  Antibes was painted by Monet in 1888 and the Courtauld acquired it in 1948. 

    It's really nice to be able to sketch it from "life" as it were!

    Cortauld Gallery - Tips
    • There is very precise guidance as to what art materials you can bring into the gallery and use (see above)
    • The Courtauld Gallery does have sketching stools available if you ask which means you don't need to take your own.
    • You can also take photographs of the paintings in the Gallery   although you can't use a tripod or flash and you are not permitted to video
    • If you belong to the Art Fund, entrance is free.
    • Further details for visitors

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    St Mary Axe: The Gherkin and St Andrew Undershaft

    This is 'hot from my sketchbook' having been completed while I sat this morning on the stone steps of the old facade fronting the Lloyds Building (home of Lloyds of London - the insurers).

    The Gherkin and St Andrew Undershaft from Lloyds
    10" x 8". pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    I was in the City to pick up the one drawing which remained after two of my drawings sold at my drawing group's exhibition at the Brokers Wine Bar which is a hop, skip and a jump away.

    This is where I was sat at  Lloyds old home at 12 Leadenhall Street - looking northeast over to St Mary Axe (a street) and St Andrew Undershaft - the very old chuch bottom right located on the corner of St Mary Axe and Leadenhall Street.

    I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the old and new and the changes in scale over time for important buildings (which you see everywhere in the City of London).  Plus I really loved the reflection of the clouds in the plate glass of the building on the left.

    When they build on the site behind the hoardings in the foreground you won't be able to see this view any more..........

    The Gherkin

    30 St Mary Axe is known as The Gherkin due to its shape.  It's 180 metres tall and, currently, is the second tallest building in the City of London.  It was designed by Sir Norman Foster and is the first ecological tall building in London.  It opened in May 2004.

    On the Norman Foster website there is a slideshow about the building

    The Gherkin stands on the site of the former Baltic Exchange which was very badly damaged by a Provisional IRA bomb in 1992.  I well remember the streets around and about after the bombing.  Masses and masses of paper absolutely everywhere and lots and lots of broken windows in all the tall buildings nearby.  I was working not far away at the time and suddenly began to see the point of the 'clear desk' policy and putting your paperwork away at night.

    St Andrew Undershaft

    The church located on the corner of St Mary Axe, right opposite the Lloyds Building, is St Andrew Undershaft.   It is one of those very rare churches in the City of London.  It escaped damage by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was also undamaged by the bombing during the London Blitz of 1940-41.  The first church on the site was built in 1147 and the present church was bult in 1532.  It was designated a Grade I listed building in 1950.  It was fully restored after the bomb attacjed in 1992 and 1993.

    A couple of rather special people are associated with the church.
    • Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543) - King's Painter to King Henry VIII - was a parishioner of the church during the time he lived in London
    • John Stow author of the Survey of London was buried here in 1605.  His Survey was published in 1598 and documents the buildings, social condition and customs of London in the time of Queen Elizabeth I.  I've got some engravings of his survey and he's always been one of my heroes!
    The John Stow monument in the parish church of St. Andrew Undershaft

    Notes and Links: