for there is in london all that life can afford

dr johnson's house, gough square

While back in London I was fortunate enough to sketch at the house of Dr. Samuel Johnson, in Gough Square (off Fleet Street). The doctor himself wasn’t home, having died a couple of centuries ago or so, but the very nice curator Stephanie gave me a cup of tea and a tour of the house. I love this area and all its history and Johnson’s House is a jewel. He was the archetypal Londoner (well, he was from Staffordshire) from whom we get many famous quiz-night quotations, his most well-known being that one about being tired of London (let’s not forget he said it before the invention of the Northern Line). Beyond his famous dictionary and his appearance in Blackadder as Robbie Coltrane, many people don’t actually know much about him. I certainly learned a lot more about Johnson, and he was a very interesting man, and quite ahead of his time. I enjoyed being brought back into the eighteenth century learning the stories behind regular household objects. For example, his very thin chair (sketched above) – Dr Johnson was a pretty portly man, but apparently he would sit on it backwards and lean his arms on the back while watching cock fights down at his local pub (as you did).

gough square

i sketched this - johnson's cat hodges with the house in the background - a couple of years ago

That’s the dictionary up there on the left, first edition print. Not the original manuscript, but still pretty cool to be in the vicinity of this famous (if Scot-mocking) book, so I had to sketch that too.

If you happen to be in London, head down to the Fleet Street area, and visit Dr Johnson’s House in Gough Square. You’ll really like it. and then, go and explore the narrow lanes and old pubs of the area. As Johnson himself said,  “Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts.” And he was right an’ all.

Website of Dr. Johnson’s House

sketching rita

Rita Hosking and her band

So here are the sketches I did at last week’s Friday ArtAbout, during Rita Hosking’s performance at Armadillo in Davis. I was amazed at her music, it reminded me how much I love country/folk music. She is a singer-songwriter from northern California, who lives in Davis. She plays all over, though, and in fact toured the UK last summer. After a very busy week, I found it really relaxing listening to her and her band, Cousin Jack, while sketching (and as you know I’m trying to practise sketching musicians, as I’ve always found it tricky). People were coming up to watch me sketch as well, and because some of the younger audience couldn’t see what I was sketching, I sat on the floor. From that angle I was able to sketch looking up at the fiddler, Andy (see below).

Andy the fiddlerRita Hosking at Armadillo

Check out Rita’s website and Facebook page. Her music’s great!

By the way, my prints are still on display at Armadillo Music for the next few weeks, so pop down and have a look at them.