Islington Square

On a shopping expedition in Islington, I made a diversion through the new development: “Islington Square”, opposite St Mary’s Church. It’s not a square, more of a passage, a covered road, very high. Lots of huge empty windows wait like empty stages for the retail theatre to begin. At the end is an open-air space, also not a square, more of a rectangle. Here is a grand kitchen equipment shop, where you can buy a saucepan in copper, or other high-grade metal such as stainless steel. Then looking back towards the passage, I made a sketch:IMG_0493

This was a very quick sketch, about 20 minutes (that’s quick, for me). Drawn and coloured sitting on one of the benches near the kitchen shop.

As I was finishing a man emerged from the passage and announced “We have our first artist!”. He meant me. Other men followed. I asked him if he lived here, as I was interested in the flats I had been drawing. He said no, he was the Manager of the Development. I said I appreciated the fine wooden bench, which was placed in a good position for drawing. He looked at my drawing and said I should come back in different seasons – and put on a show! Good idea.

He was a busy person and walked off. One of the other men came up and very kindly offered to fetch me a cup of tea or coffee. I was just packing up though, and so declined. It was nice of him.

“Islington Square, just an eight-minute walk to Angel Underground Station, offers 263 new homes and 108 serviced apartments at a maximum height of just eight floors, fusing Edwardian grandeur and contemporary style. The build will be complemented by 170,000 square feet of retail, dining and leisure amenities including a luxury Odeon cinema and a premium Third Space gym.” (Olivier Heath, writing in “House Beautiful” April 11th 2019)

The new development is around and about the former postal sorting office, which has been empty for some time. The dates I could see in the brickwork said “1905”. The new buildings are curved, as you see in my sketch, and one group is covered in purple tiles. I thought it looked good. At least they haven’t just imitated the Victorian architecture, but courageously added something decidedly 21st Century.


Alexandra Palace

There was sun. It’s a low, Northern Hemisphere, sun. I know that in the City amongst the high-rise buildings, I will not see the sun at ground level. So the thing to do is to go up. I went to Alexandra Palace, 330ft above sea level. There’s a direct train from Moorgate.

Here’s Alexandra Palace from the South West.

Alexandra Palace, from the South-West

It was sunny, but extremely cold. There was ice on the pond by the fountains. So after this drawing I walked down the road I’d just painted, in search of warmth and coffee.

Ice on the pond by the fountain

The café called “The Phoenix” was closed 2nd to 5th Dec. The café of the Skating Rink was closed because the skating rink was closed. So at the far end, beyond the aerial, I turned left around the building and found the Theatre. Against all expectation, the doors were open. Indoors was a vast, warm, space.  I walked around on the huge floor and found a coffee van which looked like the ones you see at funfairs, or airports. It was empty. The whole place was empty, and weirdly quiet. At a wooden table a knot of teenagers were working silently on what looked like, and may well have been, homework, assisted by laptops, phones and fizzy drinks.

I found someone at a desk. They found someone associated with the van. She rushed up, cheerful and apologetic. She was apologetic that she had kept me waiting. The second apology was that the coffee machine “was not working”. Oh well, tea is nice too.

Back outdoors and further round, the sun lit up the glass domes.

Alexandra Palace, from the North-East

I walked round as far as I could. The place is simply enormous, and all built of bricks. This is the place if you are planning your pop concert. Pink Floyd were here (1967). My neighbour remembers the first Campaign for Real Ale event here (1976)*. He still has the half-pint mug he was given.

Here are the locations where I did the drawings:


Here are some photos of work in progress:


The original building was destroyed by fire shortly after it was built, and then, amazingly, rebuilt.  Here is a photo of a photo that was displayed in the Theatre. It shows the original building, around 1900.  The tower that is prominent in my first sketch originally had a squat spire. This photo is from roughly the North East, as my second sketch. The entrance to the Theatre is on the left, and you can see the glass dome.

You can also see a train, going along the back wall of the Palace, on the lower right hand side of the picture. Evidently there was a train service right up to the door. On my walk around, I saw the former station house, now a community centre.


Here is a map of Alexandra Palace and Park now. The station is now at the bottom of the hill.

Alexandra Palace and Park (from

*CAMRA: First Great British Beer Festival held at Alexandra Palace. 1976

St Bartholomew the Less – etchings (2)

Here is an etching for the City Music Foundation.IMG_0305

Here are photos of work in progress and some more prints:

See this post for earlier sessions on this project: St Bartholomew the Less – etchings(1)


Weavers Fields, and Worship Street

On Wednesday I went for a peregrination around Hackney, north and east of Brick Lane.


I drew this sitting on a bench on Weavers’ Fields. The tower block is Charles Dickens House. The church which you can just see is on the junction of Pollard Row and the Bethnal Green Road. It is a deconsecrated church, and looks as though it’s been converted to residential flats. The building with the roof, straight ahead, is on Derbyshire Road E2. It’s clearly been industrial in its time, now it looks vaguely high-tech. Note the long solar panel on the roof.

It was incredibly cold, about 5 degrees C. But very bright sun, so the solar panel must have been working.

I walked on back to the city. In amongst the office blocks it was warmer. I tucked myself into the angle of a building and drew this:


This is 101 Worship Street, in the beautiful row of workshops designed by Philip Webb. If I were to make the untold millions necessary, I would buy up this row and look after it. I have had my eye on it for a while, ready to campaign if it were threatened. At the far end, sketchily shown behind the cars, is a sort of font or water fountain, with a sharp angled roof. The houses are not in good repair, and evidently listed or they’d have been pulled down by now. They are surrounded by the huge developments of Hoxton and the City of London, as you see behind. This is the “fin tech” area. But these houses survive, against the odds, tribute to the utopian dreams of a previous era.

Sketching in Cambridge

Here’s the view from a café in King Street, Cambridge.

All Saints Church Jesus Lane.  Drawn in Jackson’s Watercolour Sketchbook.

This café used to be called “Clowns”. There were two Italian sisters downstairs. Now it is called “The Locker”, and the staff are different. Much to my relief, they have not messed it up. It is still a tranquil place. The coffee is excellent. There is no intrusive background music. People read books upstairs. I drew this picture looking out of the upstairs window. Behind me, on a low sofa, a man was reading two books alternately and monitoring his laptop screen. Both books were by Jorge Luis Borges.

At an adjacent table three women were making design decisions for the website of a charitable organisation.  This sub-page, that on the main menu, shall we include video? They discussed titles, and the placing of punctuation marks. I was concentrating on my drawing and only heard the odd word. Then one of the women described a conversation she’d had on a previous job, for a college. A fragment drifted over to me. She had quite a loud voice. “I told them it was “Porters’ Lodge”, and not “Porter’s” apostrophe “s”, because there was more than one porter.  But they told me I was American and didn’t know anything. “

Here is a drawing of a chimney on the houses on Mill Road, drawn from a café called “Tom’s Cakes”

Chimney in Mill Road. Drawn in Jackson’s Watercolour Sketchbook.

On the bench by the window, a man was completing the cross word, or engaged in some other puzzle that required his total concentration. This made him a good subject for a quick sketch.

Quick sketch in Vintage Paper Company Katazome Sketchbook, on vintage watercolour paper.



Austin Friars, City of London

The City is quiet on a Saturday. Here is a view along one of the City lanes, Austin Friars. I drew it from the back (east side) of Drapers Gardens, which is a new office block on Copthall Avenue.


I struggled with the sky. This is “cerulean blue chromium”. It granulated, didn’t go on flat.  I think I had the paper too wet – I wetted it before I put the paint on, which was probably a bad idea. The actual sky was a clear and uniform blue, extraordinary in England in November. Don’t be deceived though, it was very cold where I was standing. You can see my hand shaking – look at the phone box.

In the distance you see the Natwest Tower on the left, now called “Tower42”. To the right and high up is the new building “TwentyTwo Bishopsgate”. The NatWest Tower was the highest in London in its day (1980). TwentyTwo will be the highest in the City to date.

Austin Friars, the road, bisects a site formerly occupied by an Augustinian Friary, hence the name. The monastery is long gone, except that the church survives, rebuilt after the Blitz. It is the “Dutch Church” in London, just out of the picture along Austin Friars.

Map showing the sightline in the drawing

I sat on the ground to put the watercolour on. A man came up and asked me if I would like a hot drink, coffee or tea? He called me Ma’am. He told me he worked nearby, in the office block behind me. Very shortly he returned with tea in a takeaway cup, including a lid. Seeing that I was still sitting on the pavement, he offered to fetch me some cardboard to sit on. This was a really nice man. I was about to stand up again though, so I thanked him for the tea and he went back indoors.

He revived my faith in human nature. I was very glad of the tea, and of the warm feeling that even here amongst city skyscrapers, there are human humans.

The drawing took about 1hour30min, drawn and coloured on location. Daniel Smith watercolours, mostly Mars Yellow, Perinone Orange and Prussian Blue, with Cerulean Blue Chromium sky, and a bit of Pyrrol Red for the phone box.



Sketching in the Ashmolean Museum

What is the purpose of a museum? The previous evening, I’d been to a lecture by Tim Reeve, Deputy Director of the V&A. He had described, with great conviction, a new building they plan for East London, in “Here East” on the former Olympic Park. It will open up the V&A storage and logistics centre to public view. People will be able to work there, and be inspired by the objects. The idea is to generate “creative career opportunities in East London”. I could see how the proposed building, its architecture and the way it will be used are oriented firmly towards that clear aim. Well done V&A.

So, sitting in the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology in Oxford, I wondered what was the purpose of this museum. I was in the Randolph Sculpture Gallery, which contains a collection of Greek and Roman marble statues, collected in the 17th century.

The main use of the gallery, at that point in the day, was for people to sit on the upholstered seats, and chat, and use their mobile phones. In my sketch, I drew the three benches I could see, each of which is occupied by someone staring at their mobile phone. In the background, a monumental head of Apollo looks on.

This part of the gallery seemed to be serving as a public living room, which is perhaps as fine a purpose for a museum as any.

On the lower level there is a large Egyptian statue on a tall plinth.


An elderly gentleman chose this place to read his paper. Through the plinth, I could just see a woman chatting to someone via her screen.

There are many ways to enjoy a museum.

I walked about sketching things.

Here is an object from one of my favourite parts of the museum. It is a Yue ware pot, about a thousand years old. It’s small, only about 5 inches tall, and a gleaming green colour. It’s lovely to draw these things, as it in only by looking for a long time that I gradually become aware of the marks of the fingers of the maker, and of the slight irregularities in the shape.