The shortest day of the year is shorter in London than it is in Davis, because London is further north and the night-time is subsequently longer. It gets light at about midday and then five minutes later it’s dark again. Well, that might be an exaggeration. It also feels shorter because there is (a) more stuff to do and (b) more people in the way when you are trying to get to those things. While I am adept at navigating London crowds, having worked on Oxford Street when I was younger, ten years in tourist-and-commuter-free Davis have, if not quite dimming my instincts, decreased my tolerance for the slow-moving crowd nature of pre-Christmas London. I still know most of the shortcuts, however, and back when I was a student at King’s College London I would dash through this area to get to my classes, in wind and rain. This is Seven Dials, a junction of seven streets just north of Covent Garden which was deliberately designed to confuse American tourists. It’s always been one of my favourite spots in London and one day I will draw a panorama encompassing 360 degrees and all seven of the Dials, but it was not this day, because this day was very short (refer back to my previous statements), and also rainy.
Although the day was short, I had filled it well, meeting in the morning at the National Portrait Gallery with the lovely folks from Rotovision Books (by the way, a quick plug, my book creative Sketching Workshop which was created by Rotovision Books is available in bookshops and online, you can find our more about the book on my dedicated page CREATIVE SKETCHING WORKSHOP). I then met up with my two cousins, the amazing artists Dawn Painter (http://dawnpainter.co.uk/) and Claire Scully (http://www.thequietrevolution.co.uk/; Claire also published a book recently which you should all get, it’s called The Menagerie and is a colouring-in book filled with her exquisitely detailed and bejewelled drawings of animals), and Claire’s fiance and another amazing artist, Stewart Easton (http://www.stewarteaston.net/), and his little boy Archie. We all went for tea and then wandered Covent Garden, going to Stanfords (Yeah!!) and the London Graphic Centre (Yeah!!). A brief meet-up, but always a pleasure to see them. I wish I were in London more!! I also got to meet, even more briefly, with London urban sketcher James Hobbs (http://www.james-hobbs.co.uk/), who of course wrote chapters in the creative Sketching Workshop book, nice to see him. Hopefully on my next trip I’ll get more time to sketch with London’s urban sketchers (by the way, I am considering organizing another ‘themed’ sketchcrawl in London this summer, perhaps on the weekend before the annual Urban Sketching Symposium which this year is going to be held in Manchester). Anyway, once I left everyone I did a bit of shopping (had to get a football shirt for my old great friend Simon, aka the actor Simon Nader (http://www.simonnader.com/; incidentally he was in Silent Witness on BBC1 earlier this week playing a drug dealer), who I was meeting up with that evening, and then I went back up to Seven Dials to get this sketch in. I stood beneath the awnings of a building and sketched as the sky darkened and the sparkly Christmas lights got brighter, and the rain sprinkled down. It was not heavy. Seven Dials is lovely.