Durham Cathedral

Here is Durham Cathedral, drawn from the shelter of the cloisters.


It was raining, on and off, in between periods of bright sunshine. This took about 1½ hours, in the Jackson’s watercolour sketchbook.

Durham Cathedral was built in 1093AD, and is a shrine to St Cuthbert. The extraordinary stonework is all original. Even more impressive is the roof.  There is a stone roof which is up there and has been up there for nearly 1000 years. The engineering! The artistry! The courage! The organisation!

The place is active. Evensong is sung. Flowers are arranged. The shrine is venerated. Around the simple tomb of St Cuthbert, people sit, in awe, at the age of the place, at the stillness, at the soaring architecture, at the thought of the simple monk whose remains lie here.

I too sat on the polished wood seat. Flowers stems were scattered on the floor, a pick-a-stick of blossoming stalks, in the process of being placed into the vase, one by one, by a careful woman. The snapped flower stems smelt of woodland. Or perhaps that was the furniture polish.  A loudspeaker announced….something, the sound echoing and incomprehensible. And because it’s Durham, suddenly I was in conversation with the woman arranging the flowers. The modern stained glass window, just visible from the shrine, is in memory of a student. It looks towards the university, which is to the North. Even though it’s North facing, the glass gleams.

Here is work in progress on the outdoor picture:

Here’s where I was:


The indoor pictures are in my new “Traveler’s Company” watercolour sketchbook.

The Durham University website has an article on the window dedicated to Sara Pilkington.







Penzance and Newlyn, Cornwall


Here in the view from the windows of “Lovetts” in Newlyn. They served me avocado on IMG_2433toast, and a good strong coffee in a pottery cup. This place opposite is labelled “Barclay and Son”, the name cut in stone in 1916. Now it is labelled “The Strand” in less durable lettering painted above the door. It sells a compendium of miscellaneous objects, furniture, crockery, badges, old ship bouys. Also outside are some flower pots. The coffee shop proprietor walked across the road to buy one for a small plant. She just left the coffee shop door open, me drawing at the window, while she did so. This is Cornwall.

The next day I was to swim 10 kilometres. So I was pacing myself, and not embarking on epic walks. The next drawing I did was from the small courtyard at the back of the hotel in Penzance.


Here you see the roofs of the hotel and adjacent houses. The walls are hung with slates, like scales. The style of covering is called “shingles”, as in “a slate shingled wall”. You see one in the top left corner of the picture.

The two highest chimneys are splendid examples of the chimney-pot maker’s art. The one on the right has two downward pointing holes, and must have been hard to form in terracotta. Maybe I am the first person for decades to appreciate these chimneys and admire the workmanship.

The swim was an event organised by Tom and Jo of “Sea Swim Cornwall“. Forty assorted people swam in 4 different bays, around an island, and up and down a river, “The Gannel”. It was well organised, friendly and fun. And totally exhausting.

So the next day I strolled around Penzance and drew pictures. Here’s a view from St Mary’s Churchyard in Penzance.IMG_2495

Above the arch the stone tablet reads:


I work this out as: “This stone was placed here by Phillip Hedgeland, Master of Arts, a cleric (Prebend) of Exeter, who was the first vicar of this Church, St Mary’s.” If anyone’s Latin can offer a better translation, please let me know. On the side of the arch facing the sea was the date: 1883.

The picture, though, is really about the lamp-post. This looks like the one in the Narnia Stories. It is numbered 164AZ with a tag round its middle. After I drew it, I went to check it was a real cast-iron lamp-post and not a fibreglass replica. It was indeed a reassuring cold cast iron, and the maker had put their name in capitals in two places: HOLMAN & SONS PENZANCE”.

By the door of the church I encountered a beautifully engraved tombstone, with Art Nouveau flourishes. It told a sad story though:

In memory of HENRY M FUDGE,
who departed this life Oct 2nd 1822 aged 2 years and 5 months
also S S.F. EDDY daughter of Richard Sally Eddy of this town who died 23 June 1835 aged 1 month.

I drew this picture entirely in three colours: Prussian blue, Alizarin Red, and Indian yellow, from Watercolour box 1. 



Coal Drops Yard N1C from the Skip Garden

Here is the view from high up in the marvellous Skip Garden at Kings Cross. Coal Drops Yard roofs are in the background, behind the crane.


I did this picture with just three colours: cobalt blue, yellow ochre, and alizarin crimson. The yellow ochre and cobalt blue refused to make green. They made grey.

Here is the picture under construction.

IMG_2060On the way to Kings Cross I passed through Duncan Terrace Gardens, in Islington, where there is an extraordinary “bird hotel” in one of the gigantic trees. It was made by “London Field Works” and consists of 300 specially made bird boxes, all different sizes, fitted round the tree.

A nearby notice assured me: “The method of installation has been designed in close consultation with the Forestry Commission and the borough’s ecology dept to enable the tree to continue to grow and expand.”

99 Leman Street E1 – Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS)

This huge redbrick building in Leman Street stands proudly amongst the 21st century steel and glass. Inscribed round its windows and above its door in letters a foot high are the words “Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited”. The words are spelled out in full, and written in stone. Oh, those confident and visionary Victorians!

The Co-operative Wholesale Society’s  London Branch headquarters were built to designs by J. F. Goodey of 1885. At the formal opening on 2 November 1887, the CWS announced that it should ‘be their aim to make this beautiful building a common home for all the various movements having for their object the interest and advancement of the working people. They had with them their friend, the Rev. S. A. Barnett, and they hoped to work hand in hand with him and the residents of Toynbee Hall, in giving a message of hope to the people of the neighbourhood’

from the “Survey of London” [https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/1264/detail/]


A thin plastic sign by the street door says “Sugar House”. It is now apartments.

This drawing done very quickly, in about 10-15 minutes, as the sun was setting and I was tired and cold. From the junction of Chamber St and Leman St.

Tower 42 from Undershaft

This is looking West from “Undershaft”, which is the small road going west from the Gherkin. Appropriately enough, perhaps, it now disappears down into an underground car-park.

Tower 42 (formerly the “NatWest Tower”) is in the back centre, and the new tower “TwentyTwo”, 62 storeys, at 22 Bishopsgate, is on the left.

In the foreground is Great St Helen’s Church. The roof really was at this wonky angle. The East window has plain glass. All the medieval stained glass was shattered in an IRA bombs in 1992 and 1993.


Old Street Roundabout: Adeyfield House

I saw this redbrick building on the Old Street Roundabout.

Above it are the huge developments on City Road. From left to right they are Eagle Point, M by Montcalm, and the Atlas Building.

Adeyfield House is residential, part of the Sutton Estate, managed by Islington Council.


The Old Street roundabout was sometimes called “silicon roundabout” because of the high-tech start-ups in the surrounding area. I haven’t heard that term used for a while though. There are certainly many incubator-type office blocks. One is called “White Collar Factory” and was near to where I was standing outside Inmarsat. Inmarsat is a satellite data company.


Old Street roundabout is about to be re-configured to make it more agreeable for pedestrians and cyclists. At the moment it is noisy, polluted, dangerous to cyclists and difficult to navigate on foot.

Huge numbers of pedestrians passed by me on the pavement, talking of investments, employment opportunities, stock options, and where to go for lunch.



The Eastern Cluster from the Barbican Podium

From the Barbican Podium underneath Willoughby House you can look East across the Crossrail site. Soon this view will be obliterated by the tall building on top of the Moorgate Crossrail station. But just now, this is what you can see:

IMG_1970 (1)

I drew this picture with just three colours:

  • IMG_1990Cadmium Red (Rembrandt)
  • Cobalt Blue (Jacksons)
  • Indian Yellow (Jacksons)

This was following the advice of Teoh Yi Chie of Parkablogs, in one of his Youtube posts, called “How I choose which colours to use”. He advises limiting the number of colours, and choosing just one red, one yellow and one blue for a picture. As you see, it is possible to create a wide range of colours from just three, including all the greys you see in the picture.

I was particularly pleased with the sheen on The Gherkin, which happened as the colours granulated and dried out.

The Towers in the picture are part of the emerging “Eastern Cluster”. This is a region of skyscrapers in the City of London. More will be added, according to the Eastern Cluster Strategy (try this link: City of London Eastern Cluster Strategy).

Here are the ones I could identify:


Here are photos of the picture being drawn:


About 1½ hours, drawn and coloured standing on the podium, leaning the sketchbook on the concrete of the podium. Warm breeze. Sun. I needed the sunhat.