frame thy fearful cemetery

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images

(T.S Elliot, ‘The Waste Land’)

highgate cemetery

I love Highgate Cemetery. They used to say there were vampires here, many years ago, but surely they would all have book deals by now. I haven’t been into the famous boneyard in a long time but really wanted to come and catch some sketches here. Or one at least, while the sunlight was still good. I didn’t bother with the main paved routes but dove straight into the thick overgrown muddy paths, where not a single grave is standing straight, and ivy covers the moss-green stone tombstones of someone possibly famous who you’ve never heard of. Everyone is here to see Marx, of course, the tourists from China who all had to study his works at college, snapping a photo next to the bearded tomb; I tried to sketch it but it looked like Santa. I took photos of the cemetery myself – who couldn’t? – and one of them is below. As for sketching, I enjoyed hiding among the dead and drawing the above. I was out of the way. There was one other person I think who appeared from time to time, stealing photos between the stones, but otherwise all I could hear were the crows. I was eager to include the entrance ticket (four quid to get in, by the way) on the page but forgot to account for the red writing contrasting with the greens and greys. It didn’t stop me.

Highgate Cemetery

4 thoughts on “frame thy fearful cemetery

  1. Eileen says:

    Really like your work – seen on urban sketchers. Love the cemetery “ticket” of admission! If you have a chance, rent the DVD “Forever” – a BEAUTIFUL documentary about the Pere-Lachaise cemetary in Paris by Heddy Honigmann. Looking forward to more of your wonderful sketches. Happy New Year.

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