and they sang him a song of times long gone

Angel Inn, Highgate
You would think I draw nothing but pubs. These two yellow-stained sketches are from a month ago in London, both sketched while out with my friends. The top one is the Angel Inn in Highgate, a lovely pub I have been to many times before. I especially like it on a cold wintery day, when you can escape the chill of the Highgate Hill and sit by the warm radiator with a pint and a paper (or in my case, a sketchbook). This was not the case during heatwave-era London, but it was just as fun, catching up with my friend and relaxing in the atmosphere. I drank a couple of English craft ales, though I forget what they were called.
John Snow, Soho

This one was sketched more centrally in Soho, on a Sunday evening which actually saw several pubs. We popped into this one (because one of my favourite pubs, The Ship on Wardour St, was closed for the night): the John Snow on Broadwick St, because it has fairly cheap and good beer and nice wooden interiors, though it was pretty empty. I also remembered after we’d been there for a while that this was the pub that gained notoriety a couple of years back when it threw out a gay couple because they kissed each other. Boo, this pub! I do know the pub is named after a very famous epidemiologist (and not the bastard son of Ned Stark, nor the Channel 4 newsreader whose cousin Peter is the guy with the Swingometer). These were the only London pub sketches I managed on this trip. Next time perhaps I will manage a big panorama!


goodbye piccadilly, farewell leicester square

tipperary pub, fleet street

You’ve got to love the old London pub. Sure, most pubs these days aren’t that old-fashioned, appealing to a younger crowd who need somewhere to spend the weekday hours from 5:30 to 11:00, while high beer prices are making the tradiitonal fans stay at home and watch pubs on the telly. There are still those that look the part, however, and here are a couple that I like. The Tipperary, above, is not somewhere I ever went particualrly often, but I appreciate its history – over three centuries ago it was London’s first Irish pub, and the first place outside Ireland to serve Guinness. It’s on Fleet Street, not far from the Cheshire Cheese. Below, The Ship, a proper Soho pub, one I used to go to many many times. It’s on Wardour Street, near the now-closed (and now reopened as a burger joint, I hear) Intrepid Fox, another beloved former haunt.   

the ship, soho

And you know what folks, these two drawings are available for you to buy on my Etsy store…and these pubs would look very nice side by side on your wall!

the ship has weathered every rack

the ship, soho

This is The Ship, on Wardour Street. Everyone knows The Ship. It’s a small place that never really seems to change, and it’s one of my favourite little pubs in Soho. I used to come here a fair bit in my twenties. Being located right in the middle of soho helps, and I like to stop here whenever I’m back on a sketching trip to Soho, to warm up, and have a beer. I did so this time back, this time sketching it to boot. My pens were protesting so much at the cold that I had to put my pencil case on the radiator, while I ate a jacket potato. I hope this place doesn’t change. It’s a port of refuge of sameness every time I come back, while other old, familiar places are closing down around us. But everyone knows The Ship.

i lift my lamp beside the golden door!

liberty's, london

A second Soho sketching day was called for. One is never enough. This time I chose an even colder, wetter morning. The rain had stopped by the time I reached Oxford Circus station, but nonetheless I found a spot under some awnings and sketched the fabulous mock-tudor building of Liberty’s, the big old department store near Regent Street. I was looking through the archway into Kingly Street, where there are lots of cool bars and pubs. I actually used three pens for this drawing, because in the cold they kept failing me – I had to rotate them, using one for a while, putting in my inside pokcet to warm up, using another – I had quite the system going there. Makes me appreciate California’s warmer climes (though funny enough it was colder here in Davis when we got home).

The London sketchbook continues…
liberty's photo

your golden section

golden square, sohoAnother from the afternoon sketchathon in Soho. We made our way through art shops (I love Cass Arts on Berwick St, and Cowling & Wilcox on Broadwick St) and questionable alleys to the slightly more upscale edge of Soho at Golden Square. I had forgotten how early the Sun goes down in England in November – it was getting dark at half past three – and it was getting colder too, so we sat in the square and drew some architecture, while the Moon shone down upon us (that’s that little white circle up in the sky on that sketch there).

pete, sketching in golden square, soho

There I am, uni-pin fineliner in hand. After this, another old pub, The Old Coffee House on Beak St.

pillars of hercules

manette street, sohoI love sketching in Soho. You can do a sketch of something, and then just pop into an old pub and sketch in there. Sketch, and repeat. There are so many old pubs in soho to choose from. My friend Simon and I sketched down in Manette Street, just by Foyles Books (one of my favourite bookstores in the world), which as you may see I have called Mallet Street. Mallet Street is in fact somewhere else; oh dear, my A to Z London memory is starting to fade. We sat in the cold outside the Borderline club, a regular haunt of mine in the mid to late 90s (those indie nights) and I drew the back of the Pillars of Hercules pub, with the covered alleyway leading into Greek Street. Fingers freezing,  we finished up and went inside for a pint of ale. I must say: though I love old English pubs, I’m not really a fan of the beers here any more. I’ve been rather spoiled by the West Coast micro-brews. Oh I don’t dislike them (in fact give me a Youngs or a Fullers any day), but these Adnams ones, well I would much rather have had a Fat Tire or an Anchor Steam. I think if I had English pubs with West Coast beers, I’d be a very happy man. And probably hung over quite a lot.

pillars of hercules, soho

soho continued

broadwick street, soho

pete sketchingPart 2 of Soho sketching day. This is Broadwick Street, and that is the Blue Posts pub, which I also sketched in ’07. In the distance, Centre Point. There I am, to the left, drawing this very scene.  My nephew and I chatted while I drew, then went to art shops, foreign language bookshops, football shirts shops; I lamented the lameness of anthony asleep on the tubeCarnaby Street, navigated through short-cuts and alleys, reminisced about nights out I can barely remember. I do see Soho as a city with a city, and one with tiny neighbourhoods of its own, and I could draw it endlessly, but the end of the afternoon came quickly, and so we got the tube back up the Northern Line, my tired nephew sleeping much of the way back (and giving me a chance to attempt some tube-train sketching; here is the result…)

A good day was had by all!