Monday, 11 May 2015

Silvertown's dereliction


London's Urban Sketchers were recently invited to draw Silvertown, a major £3.5 billion regeneration project in east London that will turn the derelict post-industrial wasteland into what aims to be the city's "new creative capital", with 3,000 new homes and 21,000 new jobs. Named after its 19th-century founder Samuel Winkworth Silver, it handled much of the old Empire's exports and imports until the 1960s when containerisation and new docks downstream took over. What remains - monumental, crumbling, windswept, beautiful – is Millennium Mills, once home to Rank Hovis MacDougall and Spillers, and a surviving grain silo. Set by the Thames in a wealth of concrete, graffiti, aircraft noise and wildlife-rich greenery, the site is one of the most exciting places I have ever drawn.



Because work is underway at the 62-acre site – our high visability jackets bore the logo of a asbestos removal company – numbers were limited to eight. Security is tight, and there are dogs on the site. We will be returning as it develops over the years so more regular urban sketchers in London may get a chance to visit it to draw.



Silvertown has been a popular backdrop for films (such as Derek Jarman's The Last of England), music videos (The Smiths, Arctic Monkeys) and TV (Ashes to Ashes). Yet quite why something grim in so many ways is so moving I'm struggling to understand. What is so alluring about urban desolation? London's sights are visible in the distance: Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Dome, Canary Wharf and the cable car. But Silvertown is still the twinkle in the developer's eye. Whatever it becomes, it can never be more lovely than it is now.

Sue Pownall, Evelyn Rowland, Lis Watkins, James Hobbs, Julie Bolus,
Isabelle Laliberté, Olha Pryymak and Nathan Brenville



Our thanks to the Silvertown Partnership for inviting us. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Across London's rooftops

Towards the Barbican
Here are two drawings from the recent London Urban Sketchers sketchcrawl around St Paul's Cathedral. They are both from the roof terrace of the hideous One New Change shopping centre, right across the road from the cathedral. The complex's redeeming feature, as the developers must have known when they were trying to get permission to build it, is the spacious terrace on the top floor, which has great views across the city. When it costs more than £100 to get a family of four to the top of the Shard, this is an excellent, free but much much lower alternative. The dome of St Paul's seems so close you could touch it.


Towards Tate Modern



Friday, 24 April 2015

From Blackfriars Bridge




My cycling commute homeward takes me north over Blackfriars Bridge, close to Tate Modern. Looking east, Blackfriars railway station has recently been extended to stretch from bank to bank; its solar roof provides half of the station's energy. What I have always enjoyed about this view, from the safely of the cycle lane or during windswept interludes halfway across, is the way just a handful of London's most recognisable buildings poke up from behind the station. From the left come the Barbican towers, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower 42 (the old NatWest tower), the Cheesegrater with the Gherkin almost hidden behind…



…then the curvy lines of the new Walkie Talkie, before a gap for the river Thames beneath us (and the spine of the book), and then the pointy Shard, the brick tower of Tate Modern and finally its ziggurat-esque extension, due to open next year.

Look west, and this bridge is one of the best places to view sunsets in London (weather permitting, terms and conditions apply) – but somehow I like these views to the east just as much.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Millbank: the campaign commences


So the general election campaign is underway, something that was very apparent as I cycled through Westminster yesterday, with helicopters overhead, the prime minister heading off to the palace, and TV crews putting up temporary studios on the green across the road from the Houses of Parliament, one for the BBC, and the other for Sky. Allegra Stratton from BBC2's Newsnight was being filmed at a desk behind me as I drew this. My enthusiasm to keep out of shot meant Big Ben remains barely visible on the right hand side of the drawing.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

100 postcards in a box

Gabriel Campanario's hugely successful book The Art of Urban Sketching was published in 2012, and I was lucky enough to have my drawings included in it. Now comes a boxed set of 100 postcards of different images from the book – again including something by me – on sale in the UK from 2 April 2015 (Quarry, £12.99), and already out in the US. It's a great collection of scenes from every continent and 30 countries drawn on location by many of my favourite urban sketchers.
It's a tricky one: are they too good to post to people, or so good that they shouldn't be kept in a box but shared through the post? 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The 1967 Ford Mustang comes fifth


When did I start drawing cars? The 1967 Ford Mustang, above, has just come fifth in a poll of Britain's favourite classic cars – my drawing of it is featured on the website of the survey's findings, which was commissioned by The Car Buying Service. Number one, not surprisingly, went to the Jaguar E-Type (below). My great aunt Nelly lived on Brown's Lane, Coventry, where E-Types were made and test driven, and my brothers and I would sit on her gate and watch them go by when we went to visit her.
Did I vow then to have one when I grew up? No I didn't. Bikes and buses are much more up my street.


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Around the Victoria and Albert Museum


London's Urban Sketchers met up to draw in and around the Victoria and Albert Museum on Saturday. It was a great turn-out, helped by springlike weather. I stayed outside to draw for most of it, around South Kensington tube station (above), and across the road from the museum in Thurloe Square (below). The museum's first director, Henry Cole, lived in the house on its corner. It would have been an easy commute for him in the 19th century – easier than now, when crossing four lanes of speeding, outsized 4x4s and tour buses is required.