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).
Another 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).
There I am, uni-pin fineliner in hand. After this, another old pub, The Old Coffee House on Beak St.
I 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.
Part 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 Carnaby 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!
Still not finished with these sketches from London! A few weeks ago, I went out early on the Saturday morning before Christmas with my nephew anthony for a sketchcrawl around the narrow and interesting streets of Soho. It was perfect sketching weather, not too cold; did I mention that it never rained the entire time I was back in London? The entire time? In December?
It’s true. Back when I visited in Summer, it rained on every single day. I was actually preparing for rain-soaked sketching. “On a rainy night in Soho,” that might have been the title. It wasn’t even cold. So we began in Soho Square, and I did the picture above. Weekend before Christmas, steps away from the busiest shopping street in Britain, and it was calm, not busy. I grew to love Soho years ago, I learnt all its alleys and short cuts, appreciated all its quirks. In the mid-nineties, the post-club 4am stop was Bar Italia, on Frith Street (it was Italians who brought me there), the only time I ever drank a cappucinno (I am not a coffee drinker), and it hasn’t changed. Pulp sang a song about it once. There it is below, sketched as we sat in Caffe Nero (I always thought it said Caffe Nerd) opposite having soup (I know, I should have gone to Bar Italia rather than a chain cafe, but I wanted to draw the cool place; besides, going there in daylight hours without the echo of heavy music still ringing in my ears just seemed kinda wrong).
That clock is wrong by the way. And John Logie Baird used to live there. He probably couldn’t hear the telly for all the noise outside.
Part 2 to come…