in the state of denmark street

Denmark St panorama sm

This is Denmark Street, just off of Charing Cross Road in Central London. I sketched it over a period of two and a half hours one Wednesday afternoon, having taken the morning off from sketching (I was up in the loft searching for my old collection of Fighting Fantasy books), and added the rest of the colour later on. Denmark Street is famous within British musical history as our very own ‘Tin Pan Alley’, home of music publishers and recording studios, and later of music stores. There are lots of guitar shops, as well as other instruments of course, and is also home to the famous 12 Bar Club. The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, all are associated with this street in some way (the Pistols actually lived here for a bit). Not only music – the comic shop Forbidden Planet was founded at number 23, where that red awning is in the picture now. It’s around the corner on Shaftesbury Avenue now. This place is steeped with history and it’s a street I have always had a lot of love for, being a bit guitar-obsessed when I was younger (it took me years to actually pluck up the courage to enter one of those stores though, very intimidating to a shy teenager!). I actually bought my current acoustic guitar from Macari’s, though it was from their other branch, on Charing Cross Road, back in 1996.

Denmark St panorama sm L Denmark St panorama sm R

So when I heard that Denmark Street was under threat of demolition, all part of the Crossrail redevelopment that has completely destroyed the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, I knew I had to sketch it while it still looked like this. Many of these buildings are ‘listed’, historic buildings of importance. Whether they will be knocked down or just somehow modernised is not clear, what it will mean for the historic character of Tin Pan Alley is also unclear, will the music stores be forced out in favour of latte shops and corporate office space is also not clear, but let’s face it. If Denmark Street loses its character it will be yet another blow to London.
Sketching Denmark St, London

Here’s my sketchbook. I used the watercolour (“art-plus”) Moleskine, with a uni-ball signo um-151 brown-black pen. Oh, and here is a map showing where Denmark Street is.

Denmark St map sm

And finally, I thought you might like this. As you may know, I like drawing fire hydrants, mainly because I find them exotic and foreign, for we don’t have them in the UK. Well, actually we do, but they are underground, with metal coverings on the pavement. Here is one I sketched on Denmark Street. So there you have it!

Fire Hydrant in London

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24 thoughts on “in the state of denmark street

  1. Zoe says:

    Lovely bit of history and terrific rendering. I like the maps, and the underground hydrant. I noticed quite a few of these in Pittsburgh (PA).

  2. papict says:

    I’m impressed that you were able to capture that level of detail in that period of time. Your drawings are so full of energy and character too. Good to know you have a fire hydrant obsession. I think every artist has something they get obsessed with drawing (zombies for me) so I look forward to the recurrence of fire hydrants in your blog.

  3. Kevin Bradberry says:

    I agree with papict, it’s incredible how fast you can sketch so much detail. Overall, beautiful artwork.

    Intensely curious, how do you take your photos of the open moleskine as seen in the featured image?

  4. Carl D'Agostino says:

    I can’t imagine the sketch being done in so short a time. It would take me at least twice that long and certainly be far less artful in quality than this rendition. The destruction of such places of “character” has been going on in America for decades, replaced by departments stores, business offices , strip malls and fast food joints.

    • pete scully says:

      Well I added most of the colouring-in later of course, but all the penwork was done in that two and a half hours, which I consider to be too long actually, especially while standing. Most of the time is really spent looking and thinking.

  5. The Exhibitionologist says:

    Terrific sketch. I love Denmark Street and have many happy memories there (most of them involving purchasing shiny new musical instruments!). I’ll be glad when the Crossrail works are finished, since it’s spoiling the ambience of the place a bit at the moment.

  6. Myra says:

    Stunning and lovely sketch of Denmark St. I am familiar with the size of the moley you use and I am always amazed at your detail in the space available. This sketch is up there with your bar sketches. Cheers! Myra

  7. Tiffany says:

    This is really good. I find it amazing that you could stay and sketch for two hours. I get self conscious of people looking over my shoulder.

    • pete scully says:

      I used to years ago, but I don’t any more. Mostly cos I stand with my sketchbook held so close to me (it’s a weird looking pose!) but I’m just used to it now, and most people are nice.

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