Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The new 'Urban Sketchers London' blog

I've been a member of Urban Sketchers from the very beginning - having joined in October 2008.  I'm very pleased to say that I'm now also a founder member of the new Urban Sketchers London blog - which you can find at

Banner for the new Urban Sketchers London blog
The other founder members of Urban Sketchers London who are participating in this new blog are:
Once, we've got settled into the new blog (and I've sketched a cup of tea on location somewhere in London!), more London sketchers will be joining us.

We'll be telling people interested in joining the London Urban Sketchers how they can do this in due course - in a post on the new blog!

It's worth noting that all the sketches you will see on this new blog will always be drawn in freehand, on location in front of the subject.  They will always be real places - and we'll always tell you the location of the scene which has been sketched.

Any new members will need to sign up to sticking to the Urban Sketchers Manifesto - see below.
Urban Sketchers Manifesto
  • We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation. 
  • Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  • Our drawings are a record of time and place. 
  • We are truthful to the scenes we witness. 
  • We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles. 
  • We support each other and draw together. We share our drawings online. 
  • We show the world, one drawing at a time.
Why not subscribe now to make sure you don't miss a post.  The subscription links are in the right hand column of the blog - just below the Urban Sketchers Manifesto.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Victoria Park: The Chinese Pagoda and the new Island

The Chinese Pagoda and the new Island
165mm x 240mm, pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils on Mountboard
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I've forgotten to post one of my Postcard from my Walk sketches.  I posted earlier news of A new Chinese Pagoda for Victoria Park - which tells of the history behind the old and the new pagodas and Victoria Park on the Tower Hamlets/Hackney border in East London.

This postcard - which is now in Germany - shows it off within its context of the new island created when they dug a new channel.  The channel has incredibly steep sides - I can see quite a few children rolling down that and into the water!

In reality there was still scaffolding up when I did the sketch and there were very large barrier fences between me and what is still in effect a building site

However we've having a lot of sunny crisp days this winter.  That helped me to be able to draw the green and red colours of the new pagoda on a sunny day within the context of the acidic yellow as the sun shines on the new turf and the warm brown apricot shades of some of the trees.

I forgot to sign my postcard - but Albrecht said he knew immediately who it was from!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Wallace Collection: Sketching Venice by Canaletto

After limbering up with Mr Bonington (see Wallace Collection: Sketching Venice by Bonington), I moved to the next gallery at the Wallace Collection and got to grips with a big painting of Venice by Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, (1697 - 1768).

I had a lot to choose from!

Sketch of Venice: the Bacino di San Marco from San Giorgio Maggiore by Canaletto
11" x 16", pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
Canaletto is one of those painters who I find is liable to induce blind panic due to the sheer size of some of his paintings and the amount of perspective involved.  I picked one of the less complicated ones!  The sketch is of Canaletto's painting Venice: the Bacino di San Marco from San Giorgio Maggiore and it can be found in the West Gallery on the first floor.

These are some of the other paintings in the West Gallery.  Besides works by Canaletto, it also includes a few paintings by Francesco Guardi (1712 - 1793) and some imitators of Canaletto.

Why sketch paintings in art galleries

One of the reasons I like sketching paintings in art museums and galleries is that it's one of the best ways I know of learning how a composition works, the real colours involved in the palette and the real tonal values of seemingly light or dark parts of a painting.

So with this one:
  • the horizon includes all the iconic buildings on that side of the basin and is below the centre line - although interestingly NOT on a third
  • the apex of the triangular quayside in the foreground is however on "a third"
  • the masts on the vessel in the centre of painting (and those of other ships) echo the strong vertical of the campanile on the right and are also echoed by the even taller mast on the left side (not included in my sketch - I ran out of time) which acts as a block and stops the eye straying out of the picture
  • the water and sky are both a lot darker than first appears.  The darker tonal values sit either side of sunlit buildings on the horizon
  • the boat coming in from the right persuades my eye to return to the centre of the painting
  • there's a few little touches of red around the painting which enliven and energise the green/blue of the water and the ochre/sienna of the ground
  • there's a lot more cream in the sky than I first realised - which warms the painting up.
  • the figures in the foreground represent different aspects of Venetian life
This is what the Wallace Collection website has to say about this painting.
One of a pair of unusually large views, depicting the Bacino di San Marco from opposing vantage points. Here the viewer is placed on the steps of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore looking across the Bacino di San Marco towards the Canale della Giudecca on the left, with the opening of the Grand Canal in the centre of the canvas, and the Campanile (bell-tower), the Piazzetta and the Doge’s palace on the right. It is an attractive, clearly identifiable view of a type calculated to appeal to the Grand Tourist, with picturesque elements of local colour reinforcing the idea of Venice as an exciting cosmopolitan centre.
Paintings from the past are also a jolly good way of finding "views" of a place or what I call places to paint in The Art of the Landscape.  This particular one is a classic and quite possibly overdone view of Venice - but it's certainly one which presents a challenge.

This is the location of the view in Venice.  The painting is of the view from the island of San Giorgio Maggiore - looking northwest to the buildings either side of the Grand Canal - from Santa Maria della Salute in the west to the waterfront buildings of the SanMarco Sestieri in the middle and the east.

Wallace Collection:

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Wallace Collection: Sketching Venice by Bonington

This is the first sketch I did before the Cornish Cream Tea. It's a sketch of the painting of Venice: the Piazza San Marco by Richard Parkes Bonington(1802 - 1828) in one of the galleries of the Wallace Collection

Sketch of Venice: the Piazza San Marco (1828)
an oil painting by Richard Parkes Bonington
11" x 8", pen and ink and coloured pencil in Moleskine Sketchbook
I chose it because I turned a corner and this painting just grabbed me and insisted I sketch it. I never demur when this happens.

Maybe it was something to do with the fact that it looked unfinished.  Maybe it was the composition.  It's usually about the colour when this happens and I suspect it was in this case. The web version on the Wallace Collection website definitely does not do it justice.

The context of the complementary colours of purple walls against old gold certainly got my retinal receptors zinging.

I learned that the Wallace Collection has one of the best collections of oil paintings and watercolours by Richard Parkes Bonington who died age 26 from consumption.  This painting was started in the year he died.
The Wallace Collection is fortunate to own probably the finest collection in the world of paintings by Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828) - ten oils and twenty-five watercolours. They represent most of his major areas of interest, ranging from richly costumed historical scenes to views in France and northern Italy, particularly Venice.
Everything I've ever seen of Bonington's work suggests he's an artist who's worth studying.  Below are some links to biographies of and work by Bonington

Wallace Collection:


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Cornish Cream Tea at the Wallace Restaurant

Cornish Cream Tea at the Wallace Restaurant, Wallace Collection
11" x 16", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Last Friday I was totally clueless. I trotted off to meet up with the Drawing London Group without checking the location, taking the print-out of the email or taking my mobile with me!

Which is how come I came to draw paintings of Venice by Bonington and Canaletto in the Wallace Collection (to follow in the next post) - while everybody else was sketching at the Museum of London.


Anyway, I had a great time followed by a visit to the Wallace Restaurant (run by the omnipresent Peyton & Byrne) for a very late lunch which turned into a Cornish Cream Tea instead as they'd run out of the dish I wanted for lunch.

I'll get verbally shot if "he who must not be bored while I sketch" sees this!  Cream teas are banned - we're both on a diet!

The details are:
  • on the left finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off (naturally!) - egg mayonnaise, tomato and cucumber, ham and smoked salmon
  • a very nice scone and Cornish clotted cream and preserves (very nice!)
  • Jasmine tea
As always I got some funny looks from the waiters while drawing this before eating.  I then progressively ate my way through it very slowly while getting the colours right.

It's a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon sketching........