Sketching Wren’s London – 2016

wren's city sticker
On Sunday July 24, a lot of us gathered outside St.Paul’s, and then dispersed and sketched Christopher Wren’s London. It’s the second time I have run a Wren-themed sketchcrawl, and the fourth themed ‘crawl I have hosted in London since 2012. I’m already thinking of themes for next year! As in the past, I created special handouts which included a hand-drawn map showing all of the Wren churches (and other buildings) within the City boundaries. There are a couple of Wren’s City churches not showing, only because I didn’t stretch the map far enough north, and of course it shows none that are outside the Square Mile; perhaps we’ll sketch all of those next time! Here is the map:

Sketching Wren's London Booklet MAP

We started at 10:30am outside St. Paul’s, and I gave a little historical introduction (see this photo by James Hobbs!) talking about London leading up to 1666, starting with the beheading of Charles I, which many English people believed had brought a curse upon them, manifesting in the year of the beast, 1666. That was the year of the Great Fire of London; I won’t tell the whole story here, you had to be there. We were joined by a good number of people from around the world who were in England for the Symposium, including my Portland sketcher friend Kalina Wilson (Geminica). I met a lot of great new people that day too, as well as old friends. It was very international – in addition to the UK and the US, we had sketchers from Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Pakistan, Luxembourg, China, This was day two of London’s Urban Sketching pre-Symposium, and it was a little cooler, and a lot calmer than the previous day in Trafalgar Square. I do like the City on a weekend.

Temple Bar

In 2014, I sketched seven Wren buildings in one day, and my ambition was to sketch more. However, you sketch what you can sketch, and I’m pleased to say I at least matched my previous haul. I did use more pencil while sketching than usual, something I am doing more. First off though I sketched the Temple Bar gateway in pen. This was originally down at Fleet Street at the entrance to the City but removed many decades ago, only to sit languishing in Theobolds Park near Cheshunt. It was restored and placed next to St. Paul’s just over a decade ago, forming the entrance to Paternoster Square. It was from that still-shining-new plaza that I sketched St. Paul’s itself. I have always struggled with the great domed cathedral from this angle but that’s ok, you have to draw St. Paul’s.

St Pauls Cathedral

Next up, a couple of neighbours to St. Paul’s. First of all, St. Augustine’s Watling Street, largely destroyed in the Blitz. I sketched this in pencil from the gardens of St. Paul’s churchyard while talking to my old friend from high school, Joan Uloth (check out her Instagram) and Beliza Mendes from Luxembourg. I really want to sketch Luxembourg, I met more Luxembourg sketchers in Manchester.
St Augustines
Then I sketched St. Nicholas Cole Abbey, which is visible across the street (now that the building that was in the way has been demolished, that is).
St Nicholas Cole Abbey

This one was sketched across a busy street, St. Benet’s Paul’s Wharf, the church where they hold the sermons in Welsh.

St Benets Paul's Wharf

Ok this next one was sketched from an angle and with the very loud and quite chaotic bells ringing. St. James Garlickhythe (haunted by “Jimmy Garlick” who sounds like an old washed up musician from the early 70s). I did the old paint splatter thing because the great Tia Boon Sim from Singapore was on the sketchcrawl and I’ve always been inspired by her paint-splatter styles. It seemed appropriate given the noise of the bells!

St James Garlickhythe

My final sketch was of the neighbour to St. James, which is St. Michael Paternoster Royal. What I loved about this crawl was that wherever I went there would always be at least one or two other sketchers there busy plugging away. This by the way is the church where legendary (but historically very real) Mayor Dick Whittington (he of the cat and the pantomime) was buried. Nobody knows where his grave is now though, but while Wren’s tomb says “Look Around You” I presume Whittington’s tomb says “Look Behind You”.
St Michael Paternoster Royal

And then we met up at The Monument, to look at each other’s sketchbooks. Of all the people that made it to the finish (and quite a few did not; I checked the number of maps given out and I think we had around 80 participants total), we got together and I read out the names of each Wren building, asking sketchers to raise hands if they had sketched it.

You’ll never guess – we sketched ALL OF THEM. Every single one! Great job, London sketchers!!!

Here are a few photos from the end. You can see more at Urban Sketchers London (JAmes Hobbs has posted a nice set “In Wren’s Footsteps“) and on this Flickr set “Sketching Wren’s London“.

Afterwards several of us went to a pub near Borough Market for a post-sketchcrawl-pint. I sketched two sketchers, Rachel and Jimmy…

jimmy and rachel

And here is the final group photo at the base of Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire! Can’t wait to sketch with Urban Sketchers London again in the near future. So nice to meet so many new sketching friends.

IMG_0611

Oh, and everyone got a sticker!

sketchcrawl in trafalgar square

Trafalgar Square

On Saturday July 23 I went along to the “Let’s Draw Trafalgar Square” sketchcrawl organized by members of Urban Sketchers London. It was a hot, sweaty day, and the Square was filled with people: tourists, buskers, and people playing Pokemon Go. By the way I love how Pokemon Go is the latest Thing-To-Be-Annoyed-At among the moaning classes, just the mention of the words ‘Pokemon’ and ‘Go’ automatically bring forth  well-rehearsed stories of people walking in front of buses or just not looking up from their phones in the street, neither of which were things that ever happened before people started catching Porygons and Spearows just a few weeks ago. I bet if you had a referendum to ban people playing Pokemon Go you’d get more than half the population saying “Gotta ban em all!” Just let them be, grandad. Anyway, as I sat and sketched the National Gallery and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a man on an unusual bike in front of me beckoned tourists to have a go and try to win ten quid from him. I didn’t sketch him. I did speak to a few tourists, giving directions and talking about the sketchcrawl. The crowds really did start getting a bit much, but I look at this stretch of pedestrianized goodness and I still remember how much of a coughing traffic mess it used to be. That right there is where I would get my Night Bus back to Burnt Oak in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, twenty years ago. It’s so much better now.

Charles I statue, Charing Cross

We met up at half-time by the column of the Grand Old Duke Of York, and the sketchcrawl’s numbers had swelled to include many more of the international sketchers who would soon go up to Manchester, including a large contingent from Singapore. So great to see so many familiar faces, such as Tia Boom Sim (Singapore), Omar Jaramillo (Berlin) and James Oses (London), and also meet many new ones I had only ever known from following online, such as Stephanie Bower (Seattle), Patrick Ng (Singapore) and Emma-Jane Rosenberg (Ely), and many others. Above though is not the Duke of York, rather this is King Charles I. He is holding a European flag, which is either a pro-Europe protest or the opposite, depending on your views of Charles, I guess. Look at all those Boris Buses milling about in the background there. The interior temperature of those buses was on that particular day hot enough to fry an egg (but to do that you needs to brexit first). No, I didn’t get it either. This statue by the way is the middle of London – all distances from London are measured from this spot. Charles was the shortest English king (well, the shortest adult English king). After his head was chopped off, just down the street from here, he was considerably shorter. Ok that is your history lesson done now. I sketched this while squashed against a wall next to Tesco Metro, itself a highly squashed experience, stood with paints balanced on elbow, while a large number of anti-Mugabe protesters from Zimbabwe paraded past, while tourists waved selfie-sticks in front of them, and absolutely nobody was playing Pokemon Go. Samuel Johnson said a couple of centuries ago that the full tide of human existence is at Charing Cross, and he wasn’t wrong. I bet he would have hated Pokemon Go though. Imagine his face when you asked whether Jigglypuff, Blastoise, and Lickitung are in his dictionary! It would have caused him terrible pericombobulations.

palace theatre London

I had to leave the Trafalgar-Squarea (tourists! This is a real term used by actual Londoners by the way so you should definitely say it next time you are there) and escape to the slightly less busy area of Cambridge Circus. Still a busy bustling Bedlam, but I was able to find a spot next to a pub and sketch the Palace Theatre, where currently they are showing the play about Harry Potter, call “The Cursed Child”. I just read the expensive hard-bound script, and I can reveal it is pretty good, and probably makes more a hell of a lot sense watching it on stage. Tickets are sold out for the next century and a half, and it’s in two parts, for some reason (I think the reason rhymes with the words “bunny bunny bunny”). I have wanted to sketch this theatre for ages, so the Potter connection gave me a good reason too (for example if I sell this sketch, then the reason may well rhyme with “honey honey honey”). I remember when Les Mis ran here for about six hundred years, or something. I sketched for an hour and added the colour at home, as I had to run down to St. Martin’s for the final meeting of the sketchcrawl, where everyone puts their books on the ground and looks down at them. It was a fun event and I am glad I went, a good sketching first day back in London, and I spent a good bit of time catching up and chatting with my fellow sketchers afterwards in the cafe in the crypt beneath St. Martin’s. By the way that cafe is the place to go when it is hot outside and you want a lukewarm fizzy drink. I did some sketching of the sketchers…

Sketchcrawl Sketchers sm

And afterwards I met my friend Roshan, and we went for dinner, then out for a nice relaxed beer in Covent Garden, being joined by other friends Lee and Jamie. I sketched them too. A couple siting next to us kooed over eagerly at my book while sketching, it seemed like they thought they might be next in the book, but alas my sketching energy needed conserving for the next day, when I would be sketching Wren’s London. Nice segue there into the next post, huh!

Roshan Jamie Lee

fifth street on a sunday morning

5th St Panorama July 2016 sm

Carrying on the series of street panoramas going from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and now 5th. This is Newman Chapel on Fifth Street, Davis, on the corner of C Street. I have drawn it before, a few times. But it is nice so it is always worth drawing again. If you live in Davis and are at a loss for something to draw, just come and draw Newman Chapel, it’s small and simple but pretty, and the light is usually good. I sat opposite on a nice Sunday morning on Independence Day weekend (it was the 3rd) (by the way I hope you had a fun Independence Day everyone in America! I just want to know, why do you have to have fireworks on a date when the sun goes down so much later than on the rest of the year? Could you not have declared Independence in, I don’t know, mid-October, or some time in April?* Then you can have fireworks at a decent hour and tired kids can get to bed a bit earlier, I’m just saying, it’s just a suggestion America, it’s too late now but any other countries wanting to declare independence should probably consider this. Just think of the children, the sleepy children!) (Actually I bet Jefferson and co did take the daylight thing into consideration, thinking “well, we don’t have electric lights and stuff so let’s have Independence Day on a day when people can celebrate in as much daylight as possible, yes that makes a lot of sense actually, and schools are out so kids can stay up as long as they want, what is a firework anyway,” that’s what Jefferson and co thought. It’s worth pointing out that schools are indeed out over here by this point, unlike in Britain, which I’m sure factored in the whole Independence thing too, “we’ll finish school when we want!” I’m sure the politically powerful Summer Camp Lobby had a say in matters as well, arguing for longer summers. I’m digressing well off topic here but can I just say, summers off school are very long over here and figuring out what to do with the kids all summer can sometimes be a challenge. We watched the fireworks in Davis from the Green Belt with all the other families in our neighbourhood, all the kids running around in the dark with their glow sticks, it was like a rave for very small tired people. The firework display itself was at Community Park, just opposite, but we avoided the throng of people over there who went to listen to live music and a poetry reading by the Davis Poet Laureate before the big firework s went off, staying in our little Green Belt park. It’s a very family atmosphere. Davis is a very family town.

This was sketched in the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook #4, all ink done on site and coloured in later when I got home (after going for food and drink at some friends’ house).

*I just need to point out that in fact Independence Day should have been in April, it was signed 7/4/1776 right, which technically should be the 7th of April (think of Oliver Stone’s famous film ‘Born of the Seventh of April’), meaning you could have had fireworks after dinner and then got the kids to bed and still had time to watch a movie, but for some reason it isn’t. That’s fine, I totally prefer July anyway.

st clement dane

St Clement Dane
The last sketch from London. I was there for two weeks, but I didn’t sketch as much
as usual. Perhaps on my next trip I will get more done – the International Urban Sketching Symposium this year will be held in Manchester and I do hope I can go. Early-bird Registration opens on January 30 ($415 though, may have to sell a few drawings first!) If I do go, I will try to organize another themed sketchcrawl in London on the weekend before, maybe on the Sunday. We will see. London Urban Sketchers are holding one on the Saturday before (they like to set out the year’s “Let’s Draw…” sketchcrawls in advance), so I’ll try not to clash. I do like a themed sketchcrawl, and back in 2014 I did organize one called “Sketching Wren’s City”, which went from the Monument down to St. Paul’s, taking in as many of Christopher Wren’s buildings (mostly churches) as possible. I provided everyone with a hand-drawn map and lots of information; it was immense fun, and we topped it off with a visit to the Old Bell Tavern on Fleet Street – also designed by Wren.You can see the sketches I did, and find out more about the sketchcrawl here.

One Wren church we did not make it to (being just outside the City borders) is this one, St. Clement Dane. I used to pass by here every day when studying at King’s College, and it’s in an amazing location, on a traffic island at the intersection of Strand and Aldwych, just where the traffic turns to down towards Temple Station and the Embankment. Further down Strand behind me is another church on a traffic island, St. Mary-le-Strand, known to taxi-drivers as “Mary-in-the-way”. St. Clement Dane’s is more famous – its bells regularly play out the tune to “Oranges and Lemons”, after the nursery rhyme that mentions St. Clement’s, although it’s possible that the church in the rhyme is actually st. Clement Eastcheap. St. Clement Dane dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, and though the ‘Dane’ part of the name also dates back this far, it’s not exactly certain why, though this church was located at the very edge of the ‘Danelaw’, the large swathe of England ruled by the Danes. The current building, designed by Wren in the 1680s, was gutted by bombs in World War Two and restored in the 1950s. The large statue in front is William Ewart Gladstone, the former Prime Minister. Behind him are two more statues, of prominent Royal Air Force chiefs Hugh Dowding and Arthur “Bomber” Harris (unseen). This church has long had connections to the RAF, and contains many memorials to fallen airmen. Behind the church is a statue of Dr. Samuel Johnson, writer of the first English dictionary, who lived nearby off of Fleet Street. And just visible behind St. Clement’s are the Royal Courts of Justice.

I stood on the edge of the traffic island and sketched, as the day started drifting away. Days are so short in London winter-time, and I had to get back for dinner. Goodbye London, until next time.

final stretch of the year

C St panorama dec31 2013 sm

This was the very last bit of urban sketching I did in 2013. I went down to C Street and sketched this frat house, with the Davis Community Church on the corner of 4th St, in the very clear blue sky weather. Well, I say weather. This is the Land that Weather Forgot. The first New Year’s Eve I ever spent here, there was a massive rainstorm, and whole swathes of the local area were flooded. I remember cycling to the edge of town on New Year’s Day to look at what were effectively new lakes where fields used to be. I was so new to town I just expected it to always be like that. Well, it isn’t. It didn’t rain very much in 2013, barely at all. Lately the weather has just been well, nothing. Not even cloudy. It’s not like I want ice storms and tornadoes or anything, but it feels like whoever is in charge of weather here left it on one setting and then went missing. Anyway… 2013 is over, and here’s the last panorama. This frat house is new, built only recently. It replaces a very similar looking frat house, one much older that was demolished last year. That building was well known among former Davis students, a fairly grotty place by many accounts, but much loved and one of the oldest (perhaps the oldest) building in town. Well this one i here now, overlooking Central Park, and it catches the afternoon shadows in the same way so finally it’s in a Scully sketchbook. I like a panorama. Below are the two halves of it, larger so you can see them better.

C St panorama dec31 2013 LEFT
C St panorama dec31 2013 RIGHT

under dreaming spires

Barcelona Cathedral

This is Barcelona Cathedral. Not the Gaudí one you’ve all heard of (and not the Camp Nou, which is also a kind of cathedral, of sorts), but the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, built between the 13th and 15th centuries in the old town. The neo-Gothic façade wasn’t built until the 19th Century,  so all in all this makes the Sagrada Familia seem like a rush job. These sort of epic buildings take time. It’s all quite stunning. This was on a warm Saturday afternoon, and I was on my way to the final sketchcrawl meeting at the end of the Urban Sketching Symposium. This took me less than an hour of quite rapid sketching, which for all the details I was quite impressed with. I added the colour later on, as I had to get a move on. I do wish I’d had time to go inside, I understand the interior is quite lovely. I sat in the shade to sketch this. I love sketching a cathedral. Cathedrals, pubs and fire hydrants, that’s me.

all good things

newman chapel, davis
Unlike back home, Good Friday is not usually a day off for me here in the United States. Easter Monday continues not to be. But this year it was, because it also fell on Cesar Chavez Day, and for that equally good day, my stressfully busy week is shortened so I can sleep in a bit, pop to the shops to get frustrated at how little decent Easter chocolate there is, get my hair cut really short, and of course take the time to sit on the sidewalk for a couple of hours and draw something. This is Newman Chapel on 5th and C, Davis, which I have sketched before from different angles. I’m not a religious man as you know, but I like having Good Friday off. Any holiday that is on a Friday is good in my book.