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!

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sketching wren’s city…part one

Sketching Wren's CityJust over a month ago I organized a sketchcrawl in London based on a theme I have wanted to sketch for many years. It was titled “Sketching Wren’s City”, and was going to focus on finding and sketching the buildings of the great architect Sir Christopher Wren, that still exist in the City of London today. (Hence Sketching Wren’s City, not Wren’s London – he has some lovely buildings outside the City of London). Christopher Wren, for those of you who may not know, was the man given the task of rebuilding most of London’s churches and many other buildings after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The Great Fire, you say, what’s that? Well in September 1666 a baker called Thomas Faryner in a street called Pudding Lane had the misfortune of having a fire start in his bakery one night, a fire deemed so insignificant that the Lord Mayor, awoken with the news of flames rising above the rooftops, famously said that, well, it could be extinguished by a member of the female persuasion urinating upon the conflagration (he didn’t use those exact words). However, the fire spread, and kept on spreading, and no amount of wee (male or female) was able to make up for the lack of a decent fire-fighting service (if only they had fire hydrants in 1666!). The City of London was destroyed, including the grand old St.Paul’s Cathedral, and a good number of churches. Enter Christopher Wren. He had been redesigning London on a grand scale since, er, before the massive unforeseen and entirely coincidental catastrophe that gave him his big break, and now here was his chance. The people of the City however did not want a grand urban-planned metropolis, they wanted their land in the same place thank you. So London kept its medieval street plan, and Wren got to work on the churches. It was a Wrenaissance, if you will. And that’s where we come in…

Sketching Wren's London Map sm

I decided recently that I would do a sketchcrawl in the City charting a course that could let me sketch as many Wren buildings as possible in one day. Not easy, and it would mean not getting super-detailed (I never got my big panorama), but if I invited other London sketchers, perhaps we could do it, perhaps we could cover them all. I created the map above (click on it for more detail) showing which Wren churches are left – there were more originally, but Father Time and the Luftwaffe trimmed down the numbers somewhat. I gave this map to everyone, as we met up at the Monument, and off we went. I love meeting London’s sketchers!

The Monument sm

We started out at The Monument to the Great Fire. Built by Wren and topped with a blazing golden ball, if it fell over it would rest exactly where the fire started, which must have made the city planners a little nervous (“Likely to fall over is it then, Chris?”). When it was built it was the tallest column in the world. You can walk up the stairs to the top and look out over the ever-changing skyline. I sketched it quickly, with one of the newer skyscrapers in London behind it, I think it’s called the Cheesegrater, because all of London’s new tower blocks have to have some silly name or other. If the Monument were built now it’d probably be called the Bunsen Burner or something.

St Magnus Martyr sm

Here is my very quick sketch of the tower of St. Magnus the Martyr, just downhill from the Monument. I recall telling people on my old tours of London that this was London’s most haunted church, but I don’t recall why (probably something to do with ghosts). The bells were very loud and chimed for the longest time, as traffic belted by. St. Magnus used to be right on the River Thames, right by London Bridge itself, its clock being used by ships and bridge traffic for centuries, but as the embankments were built and bridges widened another building has now blocked its riverside view.

St Clement Eastcheap sm

I crossed over the busy traffic junction at King William Street and Cannon Street, and found the rather unassuming St. Clement’s Eastcheap. St. Clement’s…now where do you know that from, ah yes the famous song, “Oranges and Lemons”. This is the St.Clement’s of the song, not St.Clement Dane (the more famous one, located on Strand), and probably so alluded to because of the fruit cargoes offloaded from the riverboats nearby. Or maybe just because it kind of rhymes with lemons. I sketched in an alleyway. It’s not one of the more interesting pieces of Wren architecture. In fact it’s almost as though he couldn’t be bothered at all. “Oranges and lemons, do me a favour, I’ve got fifty-odd churches and a bunsen burner to build,” he was reported to have said, before designing the more handsome and dashing St. Clement Dane. This one is the forgotten little brother.

St Edmunds sm

Further down that same alleyway I found the church of St.Edmund, King and Martyr. A lot of Martyrs around here. I have a joke for you, what is King Edmund’s favourite sauce? Martyr Ketchup!     …   Anyway, as you can see I attempted to draw the reflection in one of the shiny buildings, so I hope that’s obvious somehow. Standing on Lombard Street, in the shadow of mightier structures, St. Edmund’s is no longer a practicing parish church but is home to the London Centre for Spirituality.

St Stephen Walbrook sm

I met my good friend Simon (seen below sketching in messy charcoal), the actor and TV Tsar (no really, watch Houdini on the History Channel this week, he plays the Russian Tsar) and my friend Tamara (herself a stage director and playwright), out sketching with her family, and we sketched the wonderful domed church of St. Stephen Walbrook, one of Wren’s most beautiful churches. Oh, on the inside that is. It was closed this day (doh!) so we made do with sketching its wonderful exterior, Starbucks and all. Still, it was very nice to catch up with old friends and do some sketching. St. Stephen Walbrook by the way was Wren’s dummy-run for St. Paul’s (spoiler alert for part two, St. Paul’s is domed as well) and the inside truly is a delight to behold, ok it’s not the Aya Sophia or anything but it’s still lovely. You’ll have to just imagine it I’m afraid, or maybe I will just sketch it next time.

Sketching Wren's City, Aug 2 2014

Please join me tomorrow for more urban sketches in Part Two: Wren’s Wrevenge…