This is Hertford, which is (conveniently) in Hertfordshire, England. Despite being only up the road from where I grew up in north London, I had never been there, and it is very nice. It sits on the river Lea (or Lee, depending on the map you read; mine always called it ‘Lea (or Lee)’), and has an old brewery there called McMullen’s, whose name is everywhere (and whose beer is very nice). We were going up to visit Knebworth House, not too far away from here, but we got all the way there and discovered that it was closed during the week. So instead, we drove down to Hertford, and walked about a little while. there is a castle, but not a big one, with a nice little park. There were, we noticed, a lot of pubs and a lot of barber shops. I really liked the orange building below, and so I sketched it, its timber frames giving me an opportunity to practice for my upcoming trip to Strasbourg. The scene above though is of the River Lea (or Lee), with a row of lovely terraced houses on its banks and an old pub called the Old Barge. I just had to stop and sketch. I added the colour when I got home. It was very peaceful. I always forget about the River Lea (or Lee), which actually runs through north London before meeting up with the Thames at Bow Creek.
Here is a map of where it is. After this, we were going to drive to the village of Ware, but we decided to drive home and relax on the couch with a cup of tea, watching Countdown. So a pretty ideal day if you ask me!
After an evening in the company of pirates, a lazy Sunday in downtown Portland. I didn’t go anywhere new or explore too much, just did what I enjoy – eating en plein air, going to Powell’s books, lining up for doughnuts and sketching a bridge. Many of the food carts weren’t open, including the delicious Thai one I ate from last year (“I Like Thai Food”, and I really do), but I grabbed a curry lunch from one (it was so-so, but really filling) before pottering off to Powell’s. I love Powell’s Books, you could get lost in there forever, and in fact you should. The bookstore covers an entire block. I love the smell of bookstores. After getting a t-shirt and a pint glass (I am such a tourist) I did another touristy thing and went to line up at Voodoo Doughnuts.
Well, naturally I sketched it first – the linework anyhow, I added the colour later. I stood across the street and tried to guess how long it would take me to queue up for doughnuts by figuring out each person’s position, but after fifteen minutes I realised that line was actually two lines, doubling up on each other. Ah, so longer than I though. I lined up anyway (it too about twenty minutes or so; I had to endure the touristy family in front of me being all touristy, unlike me huh) and eventually got to choose my doughnuts. Despite all that time in line I still couldn’t quite make my mind up so just spent down what little cash I had left and carried away a big pink box to take back to Davis. As I got myself together outside a man passing beamed, “ooh did you get a dozen?” I was confused (stranger in street starting conversation, does not compute) and replied, “er, dunno, I just said words and they gave me a box of things,” which made a lot of sense I’m sure. I was tired. So I headed to the river, always a good place to start or finish a trip, and sketched a bridge.
I have been using a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook I bought in London, it was cheap and the paper is smoother. But there has been something about it which is just not quite right, sure the watercolours don’t take the same way as with my watercolour Moleskines, but I don’t know, something’s been feeling a bit off. Anyway I brought with me a new sketchbook, a brand new landscape-size Alpha book from Stillman and Birn. I love the Alpha paper, but have been waiting for the right moment to start this one, so I used it to draw the Burnside Bridge (see below). It was a joy t use! Even though I didn’t add any paint to this one, it’s lovely paper to sketch on, though not smooth like the other book I was using it’s more to what I am used to.
And that’s it! Until the next time, Portland, until the next time.
You may have noticed before that I like to sketch by the river. Apologies for the shameless Alan Partridge reference in the title there; nobody throw a dead cow at me. This was on my last day in Portland (though there are several more PDX posts to come, I still haven’t finished scanning, there’s a couple of bars, some food carts and a whole bunch of pirates yet…). The rain had stopped and the sunshine opened up my paintbox up. I was planning to wander the Pearl District, where the USk Symposium had been in 2010, but, oooh, that river. I found a quiet spot on the banks, amid the rocks, between Steel Bridge and Broadway Bridge, and drew the latter. Though it is very industrial down this stretch of river, there is an inherent beauty in such architecture – not for me the grand sweeps of baroque opulence, give me a factory and a couple of big metal bridges and I’m happy as a, er, um, insert ‘happy’ simile here.
Hey guess what, I have put together a Flickr set with all of my sketches of bridges and riverbanks in it, it is called “Bridges, Riverbanks…”
When the rain comes, I don’t run and hide my head. I do however stroll about and look for a little bit of cover so I can do some drawing. I love sketching bridges – no trip to Portland is complete without at least one bridge sketch. I like drawing bridges more than fire hydrants. Partly it is because I like being beside the river (as opposed to crouched just off the kerb hoping cars don’t hit me), but also because bridges represent that great connectivity of humankind, our ability to create cities and urban landscapes in tandem with the forces of nature, those big powerful (and very much alive) rivers. London exists because of the Thames, and prospered because it had a bridge (which admittedly kept falling down but that is another story). So when it rains, as it did in Portland (and occasionally in London too, I’m told), surely bridge sketching is a perfect sport?
Not exactly. For one thing to get out of the rain you often have to go beneath the bridge, which makes drawing the thing a bit trickier. Thankfully decent covered vantagepoints do exist for the more intrepid urban sketcher. On Sunday lunchtime, with a modest hangover from the previous night’s PDX craft beer samplings, I made my way down the southeast waterfront to the Hawthorne Bridge (above). The rain was coming down in bouquets (Portland rain is sweeter, as I’ve said before) and there were lots of people milling about the water’s edge. Boating crews lined the river, and were one-by-one taking to the water, cheered on by colourful umbrellas dotted along the bank. The road that comes off the bridge is high and curving, and I found a spot far beneath where the driving rain could not touch me. Joggers and other happy, soggy people jogged and plodded about the path in front of me, so I stood slightly back on a slope of grass and sketched away as best as I could. I think my slightly swaying demeanour comes across in the sketch, and that’s why I like this one at the top so much. After about forty minutes or so it was time to move on, and walk through the rain.
I had another rainy bridge experience the day before, at the end of a Saturday afternoon. I had spent the morning sketchcrawling (well, sketching, not so much crawling) with the fabulous Portland Urban Sketchers in two indoor locations in Old Town (that post is yet to come), and afterwards went to the Saturday Market. I drew Steel Bridge on my previous visit, but it’s a lovely structure and deserves to be sketched many times. This one, below, took a lot less time than the 2010 one, partly because I was sketching in almost direct rain. It wasn’t heavy rain, just a light sprinkling really, but there really wasn’t a good location beneath Burnside Bridge to sketch the view I wanted, so I took my chances. Still, once the pen started to protest at this treatment, I wrapped it up, but I was happy with it.
If I could spend my days drawing bridges by the river I would be one very happy fellow. Incidentally here is a set on my Flickr stream called “Bridges, Riverbanks…”
Everybody needs a weekend away every now and then. This past weekend, I flew up to Portland, Oregon, a city I had first visited two years ago for the first Urban Sketching Symposium. I wanted to come back and see some places I had previously missed, catch up with some local urban sketchers I know, eat from food carts, sample local beer, and spend time by the river. I like it down by the river. This was the first sketch I did after arriving at the hotel and light-railing it downtown, a big boat on the Willamette. The bridge in the background is the Burnside Bridge; those spiky towers belong to the Convention Center. As I sketched, cyclists cycled by, joggers jogged on, and gaggles of geese giggled at my goggles.
You can expect the next week or so of posts to be about my trip to Portland, either in a linear or nonlinear or scrawled comic or urban dance form. I got rained on rather a lot, but that was ok, it’s Portland rain which is sweeter than other rain, and contains beer and voodoo donuts.
More sketches from Belem, on the day before the Symposium. This is the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, or Monument to the Discoveries. Portugal was a big big player in the Age of Discovery, paving the way for other European nation states to sail across the sea and stake their claims, trade or otherwise, across the world. This huge monument juts out into the Tagus, looking towards the Atlantic, headed by a statue of Prince Henry the Navigator. Sure, the monument was built by the dicator Salazar but, you know. It’s still pretty impressive.
Portugal’s maritime past is celebrated everywhere in Belem, and in front of the Padrao dos Descobrimentos is a large mosaic map, decorated with images of Portuguese ships (such as the one drawn to the left). It’s quite an incredible story, how this very small nation managed to somehow span itself across the globe, and ultimately gave birth to the large and politically important nation of Brazil.
As Portuguese interests expanded and riches brought back, cities such as Lisbon grew in global importance and buildings were constructed to consolidate this. The Torre Belem, seen below with my sketch of it, is one of the most famous symbols of this time. A fortification built on a small island in the Tagus River, it was completed in 1519 and served to protect Lisbon and act as a gateway to the city.
And so, with the sketches of ‘day zero’ over, now to talk about the Symposium…
The Captain Kidd pub in Wapping. My friend and fellow sketcher Simon has been telling me about it for a long time, but we’d never been because it’s, you know, in Wapping. Still, with Wapping and it’s less salubrious denizens Murdoch and pals being very much in the news that week it seemed like a good idea to pop down there. We took the London Overground (the old orange East London line, now revamped and extended with swanky new trains and a new name) and went down by the river. The old pub literally backs onto the thames, and we grabbed a pint each and sat on a bench looking across the water. The rain would eventually force us inside, but not after a quick sketch of the scenery, and another attempt at sketching my friend (who really should be very easy to capture, but I always get him just wrong, it’s almost become a running theme; next time, I promise, I’ll practise more!). After some catching up and quite a bit of laughing, we sketched inside and I drew the scene above, before I had to head back home. Such a brief trip to London this time, not long enough with my good friends!