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.