Here are some tiny sketches I made as a result of local walks. I have a small sketchbook, about 3½ inches by 5½ inches, the size of a big mobile phone. On my walks, I pause for a minute or so to notice a view, a detail. I make a few marks in the sketchbook, to remind me. Then when I get home, I make the sketch in watercolour, using the marks, and memory. I am trying to train my memory.
Here is the sketchbook:
It is from The Vintage Paper Company of Orkney. It was bound by Heather Dewick, @heatherthebookbinder on instagram. The paper is Saunders Waterford 200gsm Cold Pressed.
A nice small size for all occasions:
Colours are all Daniel Smith Watercolours. Pen is Sailor Reglus fountain pen with De Atramentis Black document ink (waterproof).
I enjoyed the way the pub is slotted into that corner space, amongst the taller buildings. The building behind it looks as though it might be older than the pub. The arched window-alcove to the left, above the car, has been partly obscured by the wall of the pub. The purpose of this alcove is unclear. It isn’t an ordinary window, and can’t let much light into the building as it is so recessed. It looks as though it might have had some industrial purpose.
And much is happening at roof level. On the right of the pub, high up, someone has made a roof garden. They have a glasshouse, and a weathervane in the shape of a whale. Behind that, even higher up, is a huge bridge-like construction, with arched supports, which looks as though it is a roof on top of a courtyard, behind the buildings I could see. Notice also the formidable collection of communications equipment: a satellite dish and three aerials near the whale, and on the building in the background there were at least two mobile phone masts, with antennae like loudspeakers, pointing in different directions.
The pub itself has a roof garden, with brightly coloured bunting and many flowerpots. I drew this picture yesterday, during Lockdown 2, so sadly it is closed. However it is going on my “After Lockdown” list.
Here are maps:
Here are sketches of work in progress, and some snapshots of the location. I did a preliminary sketch on brown paper, as you see. It was cold, 6 degrees C. I didn’t manage to finish the colour outdoors, but scuttled home to complete the detail in the warm.
This picture took about 1 hour 45 minutes on location, including a chat with a friend who passed by on his afternoon stroll. Then another half hour at home working on the colour detail. The colours are: Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Burnt Umber (DS), Mars Yellow (DS), Green Apatite Genuine (DS), Fired Red Ochre (DS), with some Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue to get the greys, and a few dots of Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Hansa Yellow Mid, and Green Gold (all DS). The picture is size 7 inches by 10 inches on Arches Aquarelle 300gsm watercolour paper, in a Wyvern sketchbook (Sketchbook 9)
This is one of an emerging series of drawings of pubs in the Clerkenwell area. Here are some others in the series:
I sketched The Sekforde, sitting on a step on the other side of the road. The pub was closed today. It looked like a good pub. While I was sketching I received confirmation of this. Two portly men strolled past, paused, and asked me if I was waiting for the pub to open. I said … Continue reading “The Sekforde, Clerkenwell”
Here is a sketch of The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St, Clerkenwell, made as the light faded. I find this a particularly lovely building. The curves over the windows are semicircles and there is a pleasing symmetry to the upper floors. The semicircle over St John’s Passage exactly matches the door to its left, on another … Continue reading “Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St”
Here is The Eagle. This is a very old pub, located at a significant junction on City Road. In the picture above, the alley on the right of the pub is called “Shepherdess Place”. It leads to a police car park, and several office blocks. I went down there to draw a picture of The … Continue reading “The Eagle, 2 Shepherdess Walk”
This is at the junction of Shepherdess Walk and the City Road.
Just off the picture to the left is the Eagle pub. Both the Eagle pub and the narrow building I’ve drawn are remarkably dilapidated, given their location in a trendy part of town, right near Old Street Roundabout. I feel their existences are somewhat precarious. See the huge shiny towers, only a few hundred metres away.
But that building above the café has its dignity, for all that it is cracked, and its walls are leaning several degrees off the vertical. Its windows are surrounded by scrollwork and stucco. It is much used, and much modified. There is a spectacular network of pipes and conduits at the back of the building, and an impressive array of TV aerials and satellite dishes on the front.
The alley on the left of my drawing is Shepherdess Place.
The white stone in the brickwork tells us that this small street marks a parish boundary. It says “The Boundary of the Parish of St Luke Middlesex, Ths B Johnson, Rd Phillips, Church Wardens, 1864“, with an additional figure “1” whose meaning is obscure to me. Can we assume “Ths” is “Thomas” and “Rd” is Rudyard? The black notice confirms this boundary “St L-S 1893“, 29 years later.
See how lovely the brickwork is! All those pinks and browns!
Here is work in progress on the drawing and some maps.
Five different buses pass the spot where I was drawing. They all head North up Shepherdess Walk:
21 to Newington Green
271 to Highgate Village
394 to Homerton Hospital
141 to Palmers Green
76 to Tottenham Hale
There is a police station next to the Eagle pub, offices and housing all around. Moorfields Eye Hospital is just across the City Road. It’s a busy corner. The Shepherdess Café was closed because of lockdown.
There are many colours in this picture, all Daniel Smith colours: Lunar Earth, Buff Titanium, Burnt Umber and Prussian Blue for the brickwork, Perylene Maroon is in there too, for the grey and black, and Mars Yellow and Transparent Pyrrol Orange for the street signs. This is in Sketchbook 9 on Arches Aquarelle 300g NOT paper. The picture is 10″ x 7″ and took 1hr30min approx.
Here is a sketch of The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St, Clerkenwell, made as the light faded.
I find this a particularly lovely building. The curves over the windows are semicircles and there is a pleasing symmetry to the upper floors. The semicircle over St John’s Passage exactly matches the door to its left, on another lovely house which has amazing tall windows on the first floor.
Britton Street was surprisingly lively on that Monday afternoon. There are offices along the street and people rushed in and out of doors, or came and stood on the pavement smoking. Delivery drivers were the main traffic, both vans and bicycles. They all seemed to know each other. A package was delivered to the office next to me. A woman came out to receive it. It was evidently expected. The driver returned to his van, and sorted more packages inside.
Here are some work in progress pictures and a map. I have just finished reading “Troubled Blood” by Robert Galbraith. If you’ve read the book you’ll know that much of the action takes place in these streets in Clerkenwell. As far as I can work out, all the streets mentioned in the book exist, and the routes described are realistic.
This drawing took about an hour. The colours are: for the walls – Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Mars Yellow (DS) and Phthalo Turquoise (W&N) , for the light in the windows Hansa Yellow Mid (DS). The drawing is 7″ x 10″, done in a sketchbook on 300gsm Arches Aquarelle Paper.
While I was drawing, I detected a movement in my peripheral vision. A spider of alarming size was climbing the wall against which I was leaning. It was making little spurts across each brick, then secreting itself into the mortar, trying to become invisible, before making its next jump. As I watched, it turned around meaningfully, and started heading down towards my rucksack, which was upright on the pavement, open, leaning against the brickwork like a spider-catching bucket. I moved the rucksack, and closed its flap. I was more-than-usually disconcerted, because we had been watching “Dr No” the previous night. I could recall rather too vividly that scene of the poisonous spider which crawls on James Bond while he is sleeping. I stood away from the wall, and monitored the spider’s progress. I did not have long to wait. It reached pavement level, no doubt disappointed that the bright yellow rucksack had somehow disappeared. Then it went into a pavement-level crack to decide what to do next. I decided to stop worrying about it.
To see the spider, scroll down – if you dare. Trigger warning: SPIDER.
Some time ago, I was given a Japanese sketchbook, which was in the form of a concertina of doubled paper. In the last few days I drew the world outside, as seen from the windows of this flat. It’s about a 270 degree view, mostly over West and North London.
During these days of indoor confinement, the weather outside has been beautiful. Stunning blue skies. So I put that in using Phthalocyanine Turquoise watercolour.
Then I made a videos. The first one, with the pointer, has an audio commentary. It’s quite quiet, you may need to turn the sound up. The second one is silent. This is the first time I’ve put videos on this site. Let me know if it works.
I added written captions also, as you see in the second video.
Here are still pictures from the panorama with captions.
Here is the view from Graham St Garden, Finsbury, on the way to Kings Cross.
I sat on a bench dedicated to the memory of someone called Rick Clarke. It was a new bench, in a lovely position. May Rick Clarke rest in peace. I am grateful to those who knew him for putting the bench there.
Graham St is the extension of Central St northwards, and I was on my way north to Kings Cross to meet someone at the Skip Garden. But the Skip Garden was closed on Mondays, and my friend was waiting outside. We adjourned to the marvellous new development “Coal Drops Yard”. This is a 21st century adaptation of old coal sheds. The old sheds are turned into two levels of shops and restaurants, but in the modern way, old brickwork and chunks of Victorian cast iron are retained. Most spectacular is the roof.
The architects were Heatherwick Studio. On the right of the drawing people were experimenting with strange rotating chairs, also designed by Heatherwick Studio, and other people were watching them.
You see Galway Street on the crease of the map, in the centre about a quarter of the way down. Below it, to the right is the “Bank Printing Works”.
In 1959 the London County Council sought to purchase the Printing Works site and use it as an annexe to Covent Garden. This was opposed by Michael Cliffe, MP for Finsbury and Shoreditch, on the grounds that it would create unacceptable traffic congestion, especially at the Old Street Roundabout.
Mr Cliffe is quoted in Hansard:
“…London County Council (General Powers) Bill, …. The Council, through the Bill, sought powers to acquire and redevelop St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe of Covent Garden Market….. I would ask the Minister what is the point of spending millions of pounds in trying to solve the problem of congestion in Central London if we are to convert the St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe to Covent Garden in an area where we know it must inevitably cause the kind of congestion that we are trying to avoid and which we are discussing every day. As the number of vehicles increases, further problems will have to be solved. Surely we do not want to create further difficulties after our experience gained in the past?” [Hansard: HC Deb 17 December 1959 vol 615 cc1738-47]
Mr Cliffe must have prevailed. I feel an affinity with him because earlier this week I drew Michael Cliffe House.
The Printing Works building was demolished in 1963. At around that time Finsbury Council was building council houses, including the 4 tower blocks in the area: Gambier House, Grayson House, Godfrey House and Galway House. So somehow the Council must have acquired the Print Works site. I can’t find the history online so I’m going to visit the London Metropolitan Archives and the Islington Museum.
The Towers also were allocated to different Estates: Galway is in the “St Luke’s Estate” which includes the Printing works Site, Gambier is in the City Road Estate and Grayson and Galway are in the Pleydell Estate.
From “Streets with a story, The book of Islington” (1986) by Eric A Willats FLA I learn that: “Messrs. Emberton, Franck & Tardrew were the architects of Galway House (Pleydell Estate)”.
Here is Michael Cliffe House, in the Finsbury Estate, from Tysoe Street.
The lower level block in the low centre of the picture is Joseph Trotter Close, also part of the Finsbury Estate.
While I was drawing the picture a man came and told me that he had seen the original architect’s drawing of this low level block. In the architect’s vision it was “sleek and wonderful”. But the man said the reality was very different. The concrete had worn badly and the building had not succeeded, in his opinion.
Earlier a woman came when I was at the pen-and-ink stage. She said that her 11 year old grandson had started painting, which pleased her very much. She bought paints for him. I asked if she painted too. She said no, but she was inspired by her grandson and might now have a go herself. “After all,” she said, ” he just paints anything, and I could do that too!”. I agreed.
The drawing took two hours. After I finished I went to have a look at Joseph Trotter Close. I saw a low-level set of bungalows, all very much inhabited, with children’s play things and outdoor chairs on the lawn. It may not be sleek, but it looked as though people enjoyed living there.
The entrance to Michael Cliffe House was cramped and congested, with cars manoeuvring awkwardly and a dark, obscured, entrance. Lovely typeface though.
The real surprise was inside the entrance. There, uncelebrated in the underpass, were some amazing mosaics of dancers.
Michael Cliffe (1903-1964) was a Labour councillor for Finsbury, Mayor of Finsbury (1956-7), and an active Labour MP (1958-64).
The Finsbury Estate was built by Finsbury Borough Council in 1965. The architects were Emberton, Franck & Tardrew. Finsbury Borough council was absorbed by Islington.
Later note (7th Feb 2019): There is detailed information on the Finsbury Estate on “British History online” – try this link, which starts with a history of Spa Green, and goes on to describe the Finsbury Estate.
On the right is Godfrey House, Bath Street, Islington, part of the St Luke’s Estate managed by the London Borough of Islington. It’s former “council housing” built in 1965. Today many of the flats are privately owned, as is evident from the number listed for sale.
On the left is the Atlas Building, on City Road, nearing completion. Atlas is taller than Godfrey House, but further away. Atlas Building is 52 floors, of which 38 are residential, Godfrey House is 21 floors.
“Atlas epitomises luxury-living in an exciting and vibrant urban landscape. Standing tall with 38 residential floors of exquisite apartments, Atlas stretches across London’s prominent skyline” (from the Atlas Building website)
In the foreground is the roof of Saint Luke’s Church of England School.
I drew this picture sitting on a stone in Radnor Street Gardens, off Lizard Street. After a while I noticed that the place smelt of dog excrement. It has rained recently, after a dry spell.
At 6pm a personal training session started behind me. A large man was training a slim woman. They were doing kick-boxing. Between rounds, she told him about government procedures to find out about your earned income, and thus check your tax payments. They can access your bank accounts, she warned him. He laughed and said, “Hey, that’s not making me feel good. I thought you’d have some good news for me.”
“Tower Block UKis a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, bringing together public engagement and an openly-licensed image archive in an attempt to emphasise the social and architectural importance of tower blocks, and to frame multi-storey social housing as a coherent and accessible nationwide heritage.”
Here is a link to a Freedom of Information request which gives a very detailed map of the estates in Islington (2010): FOI request from Mr I Agar
I discover from the amazing “Streets with a story, The book of Islington” by Eric A Willats FLA, that “Grayson House (1961)” was ” named after Frederick George Grayson, a superintendent of Radnor Street Sunday Schools and Mission, formerly in Radnor Street.”
Mr Willats’ book lists streets and some buildings in Islington, including as he says “what has come to my notice up to the early summer of 1986.” It is in the Islington Museum.