Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Interruption to the service: 21 December 2010

I'd had plans to press on with the drawing project throughout December. I hadn't counted on the weather being too cold to draw in, then having an accident as I was walking on a pavement and breaking a bone in my foot (which is healing very nicely) and the train line being closed over the Christmas period.

Oh well! I will return to the sketchbook as soon as I reasonably can in the New Year and so all I can say is 'Seasons Greetings'.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Keats Garden, Hampstead: 26 November 2010

I was very excited at the prospect of drawing in the garden of Keats House. Until today I really knew nothing about him other than he was a poet who died young. I had the idea that he had drowned in the Bay of Naples but it was Shelley who drowned.

Initially I strolled around the garden while I was deciding where to work and thought this is the house of someone extremely well off. Well for a start Keats didn't own it and it turns out that he came from a humble background and had a very turbulent life with almost his entire family, including himself, dying of tuberculosis. Frankly it's amazing he managed to produce any poetry at all.

Since it was so cold today I thought I would be doing well to complete any drawing at all so for an hour I worked away with a dip pen and ink pausing occasionally to have a cup of tea from my flask. I chose to sit under an awning that provided a bit of shelter and some visual interest and here is the result.

Hampstead Heath Station: 26 November 2010

This morning I enjoyed the train ride from Homerton, my nearest station, to Hampstead and it only took about 20 minutes. It was fun looking out of the window and remembering the sketches I have made so far and reflecting on how interesting the journey has been.

Today has been lovely and sunny and very cold. Quite a lot of the country has got snow which is most unusual at this time of year for the UK. London has escaped it so far but we can still expect very cold weather for the next couple of weeks. So my aim was to draw quickly and still produce something worthwhile and for once I managed to get some people in it. The ink in my pen was reluctant to get on the paper so the result is very sketchy (that could mean the pen is either running out of ink or it was just too cold).

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Hampstead Heath: 18 November 2010

I had no idea when I got off at Gospel Oak how close I was to Hampstead Heath. According to the local map I just had to turn left out of the station and then take the first left, and there it was in front of me.

Even though I have lived in London for 30 years I've only visited the heath a couple of times so I really felt I was exploring somewhere unknown.

I walked up to the top of the heath to Parliament Hill Fields where the authorities have thoughtfully placed a number of park benches. From this vantage you can enjoy a very famous view of London's skyline. This sketch really does not do the view justice but, for what it's worth, I managed to get Canary Wharf in on the left hand side and St Paul's Cathedral on the right hand side.

Since it's November and there is not much day light around I was lucky that the sky was a lovely combination of soft billowy greys and some of the buildings on the skyline appeared ghostly and insubstantial. The air smelled lovely and clean and I could hear birdsong too. Eventually the cold drove me to search out a café.

I never did find out where the tumulus was that I'd seen indicated on the park map. Maybe that can wait for another visit.

Gospel Oak: 18 November 2010

My journey around London came to an unexpected halt a couple of weeks ago due to me catching a heavy cold. Now I have recovered I was raring to get back to my travels and continue exploring.

I gather from our friend Wikipedia that the name Gospel Oak derives from an oak tree under which parishioners gathered to hear an annual gospel when the area was still rural so that must date back at least 150 years.

This sketch, begun in the rain and completed at home, shows Gospel Oak's twin railway bridges. One leads to Richmond and other such places and the other takes you to Barking.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Kentish Town West: 28 October 2010


When I got off the train at Kentish Town West the first thing I could see in the distance was the BT Tower formerly the Post Office Tower, one of London's landmarks. It used to have a revolving restaurant so diners could get a 360 degree view of London. It was closed about 30 years ago because of fears about IRA terrorism but is going to reopen in 2011 and I'm sure it is going to be way out of my price range.

I still thought it merited a quick sketch even though I'm not going to dine there so I did this pen drawing of it in the distance. I've included a bit of wobbly hand-held video with this posting because this station more-or-less marks the half way point on my route.

Camden Road: 28 October 210

I found this pencil drawing particularly difficult to do. The perspective was all over the place and I wanted to try and draw some of the Victorian cast iron work that is a feature of this station. Camden Road, close to the famous Camden Markets, is unlike any of the other stations I have visited so far. You can clearly see that it is still a Victorian Station even though it is being painted the same colour as all the other stations on this route which have been refurbished beyond recognition.

Friday, 22 October 2010

La Primera Café: 22 October 2010

I felt a bit lost when I came out of the station so was peering around for a minute or two in search of a café. Initially I saw a bespoke kitchen shop, didn't want that. Next door there was a bathroom shop, didn't want that either. I cast around and then saw what I was after and headed towards La Primera Café - finest Italian coffee.

I've no idea how good the coffee was because I had tea and a slice of cake. It seemed to be the kind of place that doesn't bother with plates but I did get a cup for the tea and I chose a window seat so I could draw the view.

I decided that since the previous sketch had been so tightly drawn I would go for a loose pencil approach for a change and I quite like the result.

Caledonian Road and Barnsbury: 22 October 2010

I can't get used to the stations on this line appearing so new and clean - but I do like it. It's much more pleasant as a paying passenger than the old grit and grime we've been used to.

The only trouble is (from the point of view of an artist) that each station is looking much like the one I was at before. Even so I am managing to find interesting views to draw at each station.

Now it's getting into late October it is getting quite chilly to work outside. I'm putting more layers on now and soon I'll be wearing a hat. Since I was getting cold having sat for long enough I decided to get out of the station and go and look for a café preferably close by. Which leads me to my next drawing.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Highbury Fields: 15 October 2010

This is a view of Highbury Fields which the description on the notice board states is the largest public park in the borough of Islington and pre Victorian times used to be full of dairy farms. I thought it was a bit pokey compared with our local parks and felt a bit sorry for the residents.

Anyway, it was quite cold and I wanted to draw something quickly. I liked this avenue of trees and wanted to try and describe the quantity of leaves against the stark trunks and branches.

Highbury & Islington: 14 October 2010

I was sitting on the west bound platform and looking up at buildings overlooking Highbury & Islington station just after dusk. The days are getting shorter now and chillier.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The old ticket office: 2 October 2010

I approve of the refurbishment of Canonbury station but the ticket office looks like a concrete shed thrown up in the 1950s. I was wondering where the original ticket office had been because the present one clearly isn't it. Anyway it was obvious which building it had been when I left the station and turned to my left.

Here's a somewhat wonky line drawing of it. I think it's a rather handsome building - the three large windows on the ground floor could have been where you bought your train ticket from. And I wondered if there was a waiting room behind the door on the left? Well I can only speculate about its previous use because it's now been turned into a small block of flats (that's handy for the station).

There's birdsong and rain in the air: 2 October 2010

So now I've left Hackney behind and have reached Canonbury in the borough of Islington.

Like the other stations that were part of the North London line Canonbury is being extensively renewed. It was built during the 1860s when London was expanding rapidly but very soon any remaining Victorian features here will have been obliterated and all you will see is a brand new station. It will be much more comfortable to use and there is this wonderful addition of a lift, or elevator, if you prefer.

This drawing shows the old wall backing on to gardens overlooking the railway and I used mostly water soluble pencils plus black pen.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Ridley Road market: 25 September 2010

 Ridley Road market from the point of view of my feet

Since I was in Dalston I decided to do some food shopping before going home. I could have bought some stuff in Ridley Road market but didn't feel up to choosing which stalls to patronise and which to ignore so I took the easy option and headed to the supermarket instead.

Here's a drawing I made last year of my impressions of Ridley Road market. I was commissioned to do it as a Christmas card which was sent out to 45,000 people in north Hackney. Hackney is multi racial and multi religious so I was keen to avoid any obvious Christian references and focused on the celebration of food instead. I like it but I've no idea what the 45,000 recipients thought of it.

View of the City of London: 25 September 2010

Having left Dalston Kingsland station (to give its full name) I strolled down the road to a noodle bar for some lunch and saw this view of the City of London from Kingsland Road. It is a common mistake, and one I make routinely, of thinking of London as being completely flat. From where I was standing this view was distinctly looking down hill.

Dalston Kingsland: 25 September 2010

Moving on to Dalston now and I didn't expect to go through a small tunnel like structure when everything became quite dark. This is illogical because the station is underneath a road and so I should expect it to get darker. I've been wanting for a while to do a drawing that was mostly black ink. I did this using Parker Quink black ink. When I applied it to the paper it appeared to be blue/black and then dried a rusty brown. I've been assured it will go darker in time.

This is a very busy station and just as I was getting up to leave a young man sat next to me wearing regulation headphones and, lo and behold, opened a sketchbook which is exactly like one I own and began doing a quick drawing of a man sitting on a bench on the opposite platform. I would have engaged him in a chat if he hadn't made it very clear that conversation wasn't an option. I must admit that's exactly what I do so I can't complain when others do it too. Anyway I enjoyed seeing someone else doing the same as me because it made me feel I'm part of some underground movement.

Friday, 17 September 2010

A brief pause in Hackney: 17 September 2010

I decided it would be nice to pause in Hackney briefly before moving on to Dalston. I enjoyed lunch at a noodle bar in Morning Lane and then sauntered over to the Town Hall in the afternoon sunshine and this view is part of its small, formal front garden.

I thought I would have a go at the dip pen again this time and, being very daring, used two nibs of different widths and  a Chinese caligraphy brush to paint the grass.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Arriving in Hackney Central: 11 September 2010

This is what took my fancy when I arrived at Hackney Central. I seemed to have the station entirely to myself.

Looking back: 11 September 2010

I returned to Homerton today and before I got on the train to travel one stop to Hackney Central I took the opportunity to look back towards Hackney Wick.

From where I was sitting the view looked oddly rural which is an illusion since London is entirely man-made and generally very built up. But then again London is just a very large collection of towns and villages that have merged over the years so it's not really that suprising when a glimpse of a rural scene pops up. I wonder how many more I will see on this journey.

I chose to use a dip pen for this drawing. I haven't used one of these for years and I really love the wonky lines, scratches in the paper and the very prominent blob of ink in the foreground. It's tricky working out how much ink to leave in the reservoir and this is what can happen when there's too much!

The last time I was at Homerton I had to work with the thumping noise of a construction site going on in the background. This time, being the weekend, it was blessedly quiet and all I could hear were ordinary domestic sounds overlaid with some jazz music coming from one of the flats near the station. Lovely.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Homerton Station: 3 September 2010

I travelled one stop from Hackney Wick to Homerton station on a beautiful sunny morning and then drew this picture. I left the train, stepped on to the platform and there was a seat right in front of me so I chose to work from that one.

By following my rule of drawing whatever I can see in front of me I ended up with this view facing north. There is a lot of building work going on immediately around the station so my time there was accompanied by some spectacular noise and in addition I was surprised by the number of freight trains that were thundering through the station.

This station is the closest one to where I live so from here on I will be moving further away from the safety of familiar territory. Incidentally, the photo at the top of this blog is of Homerton station.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Rail replacement bus service: 28 August 2010

Now we are back from our summer holiday spent travelling around the West Country catching up with friends and exploring a tiny bit of Cornwall I was ready to work on my next drawing.

I walked through Victoria Park, over the bridge spanning the A12 and towards Hackney Wick station when it occurred to me that there might be engineering works this weekend and, blow me, there is.

I could have got on the rail replacement bus service to go one stop to Homerton but since this project is as much about travelling by train as it is about drawing I decided to wait until the service resumes.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The bridge over the A12: 16 July 2010

I could see this bridge beckoning to me from Hackney Wick station. Once across it I could quickly walk into Victoria Park and then I was nearly back home.

This bridge offers people on foot a way of crossing the A12 without getting run over. Although the A12 is not a motorway is certainly looks and sounds like one with traffic using it constantly 24 hours of the day.

I believe I read in the Guardian once that Philip Pullman*, the novelist, regards the A12 trunk road as having mystical properties. I find that hard to credit but perhaps it's something to do with the route it follows rather than anything else. Anyway this memory reminded me that I had painted a picture from the Victoria Park side of the road looking over to the waste land that was Hackney Wick. The pale paint at the bottom of the picture represent exhaust fumes! Enjoy.

* It has been suggested to me that it is more likely to be Iain Sinclair the author who writes about psychogeography amongst other things.

Stratford to Hackney Wick: 16 July 2010

 So now I've reached Hackney Wick and I wanted to try and draw some of the passengers who use the station. Of course they would keep moving around so that is why some of them are only partially there!

If you fancy taking a look at the link below you'll see my video of the entire train ride from Stratford to Hackney Wick. I found it interesting because it shows how the Olympic site is coming on. The train stops for a while next to the swimming pool then, when it starts moving again, you can see the stadium in the background.


Friday, 25 June 2010

Waiting at Stratford Station: 24 June 2010

Sitting on platform one underneath a bridge beyond which is the building site which will be the new Westfield shopping centre.

The joys of Stratford Bus Station: 24 June 2010

Over the years I have probably spent hours waiting at Stratford Bus Station. My parents used to live in Suffolk in a town called Bury St. Edmunds and you can catch the coach from here. Although the bus station is fairly new it smells of stale fast food and, being tunnel shaped, the wind whips through it. If you have to wait for more than 15 minutes you can end up feeling like a frozen block.

Friday, 18 June 2010

I've arrived at Stratford: 17 June 2010

In my opinion Stratford is an odd place. When we first moved to Hackney, which was only six years ago, Stratford was a junction that you went to in order to travel to somewhere else - it wasn't a destination as such. A lot of buildings were boarded up, there was a collapsed air about the place and deprivation was clear all around. The only signs of life might be a street fight outside a café.

Then five years ago the 2012 Olympic games were awarded to London with Stratford being at its heart. One of the blessings of this decision is that millions of pounds are being pumped into the area to regenerate it. So yesterday I went there by train, enjoying the fancy new rolling stock, and arrived at a very clean and new platform that suggested efficiency and purpose. This felt very odd and nothing like the Stratford I'm familiar with.

I decided that this was not what I wanted to record on paper, well not yet anyway. I wanted a reminder of the faded, down-at-heel Victorian architecture, pollution and too much traffic. So I ended up in the centre of the town in St John's churchyard where I found a place to sit underneath a memorial. It was a warm day, I had the place to myself and as I looked about I thought 'this is a fairly dismal sort of churchyard but it'll do'. Then I spied a bottle and decided I must be sitting where the drunks normally hang out but there was no sign of any. So I sat and drew the picture you see above - I was facing the Broadway which runs from East to West. I combined water soluble pencil and ink on this one.

It wasn't until I got home that I looked up some of the history of Stratford which I got from Wikipedia. Like much of London Stratford was open countryside until the advent of the railways in 1839 so that didn't surprised me. What did surprise me was that there had been an abbey called St Mary's which dominated the area from 1135 when it was founded, until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. That's 400 years and there is now no sign above ground of it ever having existed!

So that's made me ponder the future of all this new building of sports stadia and the development of an enormous shopping centre that is now dominating the landscape. I can't imagine for one moment that there will be any of it left to see in another 400 years time - maybe by then London will have returned to open countryside.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Manor Road, West Ham: 4 June 2010

I decided to go back to West Ham a couple of weeks later because I'd spotted a view right outside the station that looked worth a go at.

It was a rare day of sunshine and even though I was sitting in some shade I had to stop drawing because I was too hot.

Memorial Park, West Ham: 21 May 2010

For this sketch I decided to try out some water soluble pencils that I'd been given as a present.

Behind that row of trees in the background is the East London cemetery which I had roamed around before settling on this view in Memorial Park.

West Ham is a big improvement on Canning Town in my view.

Barking Road, Canning Town: 30 March 2009

Since I'd found West Sivertown so dispiriting I took the train one stop to Canning Town, and rather than make a drawing inside the station I set off on foot to see what Canning Town has to offer.

And it wasn't a lot to be honest. After a cup of coffee in Macdonald's I settled on drawing the only building that looked in any way substantial and that was the Victorian library on Barking Road.

West Silvertown: 30 March 2009

I had only put the book away for 11 months this time and then found the time to pick up from where I had left off.

I took the DLR to West Silvertown and the caption on this drawing says: This station is so devoid of interest I can't find anything to hold my attention.

Thames Barrier Park: 23 April 2008

I had foolishly sat in the smokers' corner just outside London City airport and felt driven away by the smell. So I got back on the DLR and headed one stop to Pontoon Dock - this is a vast modern station with almost no-one using it.

This stop had the attraction of a park with a pleasant café and a view of the Thames Barrier which is responsible for keeping London from flooding. I had never seen it before other than in a photograph.

London City Airport: 23 April 2008

So it was roughly 2.5 years before I picked up this sketch book again. I caught the Silverlink train from Hackney Central at 13:06 to Stratford and then expected to pick up a train from Stratford to Silvertown only to discover that the trains don't run that far any more!

I then decided to try and stick as closely as possible to the original route and caught the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to London City airport - this was before the authorities got funny about people taking photos and painting sensitive locations. This was drawn using dip pen and ink (Quink ink for fountain pens).

North Woolwich: 1 August 2005

This really marked the start of my journey. It was nearly a month after the 7 July bombings in London and I remember the tension where ever you went - there was a police presence at every station. This is a sketch of the North Woolwich Railway Museum and you can see where my pen is running out.

Woolwich Ferry: 1 August 2005

This is the one and only time I've visited Woolwich Ferry. I had a great time watching the ferries load up and cross the river Thames from the north side of the river to the south side. There was a constant stream of lorries, cars and foot passengers - I had no idea how many people use that service daily.