Tuesday, 16 August 2016

In the colours of Italy


We travelled out to Siena to meet up with elder daughter, who has been inter-railing through Europe. It's a relaxing few days in the sun, swimming in rivers, reading, sitting in town squares, missing the Olympics and wishing our stay was longer. The bottles of ink I had carefully wrapped so they wouldn't spill in the suitcase have been overlooked and left at home so I devote myself to the range of Posca water-based colour pens I have managed not to forget.

The pens encourage experimentation, and because they contain what is in effect acrylic paint, it's possible to layer the colours over each other in ways I haven't tried before. It's a bit hit and miss in places, but it's enjoyable trying them out. As well as the 0.9-1.3mm version, I took the thicker 1.8-2.5mm range, which I've yet to really test.


If the pens dry, as is possible in the Tuscan heat, they can be primed by shaking and pressing them on to rough paper to restore the flow. This means I create rather looser marks at times than I intended but I rather like this effect. In fact, I'd rather like to try out a broader range of their colours.

There are more of my drawings using the pens on Instagram.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

A Ford Cortina for Florian Afflerbach

I've had my eye on this 1970 Ford Cortina, which is parked outside a house around the corner, for a while since I heard the dreadful news about Florian Afflerbach. Florian was a German architect involved with the Urban Sketchers movement who was killed in a traffic accident in May aged 35. He made sensitive pencil and watercolour works of cars, among other things. A tribute to him can be found on the Urban Sketchers blog. There's going to be an exhibition of car drawings by Urban Sketchers around the world as a tribute to him at next week's USk symposium in Manchester, and I'm taking this one.

I never met Florian, and didn't know him, but I feel that I got a bit closer to him by sitting on the kerb to draw this. My parents had a Cortina in the 1970s, and just to look closely at this crumbling example took me back. I admire Florian's drawings even more now too; this doesn't look anything like a Ford Cortina.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The house of the Brexiteer

Boris Johnson's house in Islington is on one of my regular cycle routes into the city, and in the brutal political atmosphere of the past few weeks since the dismal vote to leave the European Union, it had often appeared as a backdrop on the news, surrounded by the media, as its Eurosceptic occupant set about his business. By the time I drew it, the circus had moved on, and a last few cameras were disappearing into the back of a van.
Johnson, having betrayed Cameron, was in turn stabbed in the back by his mate Gove, who was stabbed in the front by practically every other Conservative MP, leaving the field open, eventually, for Theresa May to become prime minister. It's been a turbulent time in UK politics, in which all the leading Leave campaigners, having got their way, have left the field.
This is all true as I write, but could be out of date by the end of the day.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

New routes

Victoria Embankment Gardens, London

My regular 12-mile daily commute on my bike from Stoke Newington to Vauxhall has adapted over time. Safety rather than speed has always been uppermost in refining my route. I like the backroads and old lanes through the city – with names like Back Hill, Shoe Lane and Tudor Street, and on past the London Eye and Houses of Parliament. The city seems a different kind of place just a street or two off the main routes.

Waterloo Bridge

The biggest change to my route came a few weeks ago with the opening of a new 1.5 mile stretch of segregated cycle lane along the north bank of the Thames from St Paul's to the foot of Big Ben. It meant I could say goodbye to the hazardous crossing of Blackfriars Bridge and having to thread my way past construction work towards the National Theatre and Westminster Bridge. London is hardly a cycling-friendly city even now, but things are improving.

County Hall, St Thomas' Hospital, Waterloo Bridge

The new north bank route meant different views: these drawings show the south side of the river that I used to cycle along until a few weeks ago. My journey was suddenly quicker, and I found I had the chance to stop and draw the views up and down the river in the time I'd saved: the cluster of towers on the South Bank downstream, and the old County Hall, St Thomas' Hospital and Lambeth Palace upstream. In Victoria Embankment Gardens, just across the river from the London Eye, people lingered in the sun after work before going home or heading out for the evening.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Who is in Pen and Ink?

Pen and Ink is, I am happy to say, published now in the UK by Frances Lincoln. It features the work of 34 artists. They are an international lot, from 10 countries, but they all use pen and ink, although often in very different ways.

These are the artists whose works it contains:

Phoebe Atkey, UK www.phoma.co.uk
Cachetejack, Spain www.cachetejack.com
Cynthia Barlow Marrs, UK www.cbarlowmarrs.com
Michelle Cioccoloni, UK www.cioccoloni.blogspot.com
Caroline Didou, France www.cdidou.tumblr.com
Nicholas Di Genova, Canada www.nicholasdigenova.com
Jedidiah Dore, USA inkandsword.com
Rohan Eason, UK www.rohaneason.com
Joan Ramon Farré Burzuri, Spain www.flickr.com/photos/42114709@N05/
Pamela Grace, UK www.pamelagrace.co.uk
Marina Grechanik, Israel www.marinagrechanik.blogspot.co.il
Tyga Helme, UK www.tygahelme.com
Amer Ismail, UK www.tendtotravel.com
Sabine Israel, Germany www.sabine-israel-illustration.com
Nina Johansson, Sweden www.ninajohansson.se
Loui Jover, Australia www.saatchiart.com/louijover
Oscar Julve, Spain www.oscarjulve.com
Eleni Kalorkoti, UK www.elenikalorkoti.com
Fred Kennett, UK www.fredkennett.co.uk
Olivia Kemp, UK www.oliviakemp.co.uk
Ch’ng Kiah Kiean, Malaysia www.kiahkiean.com
Chris Lee, UK www.chrisleedrawing.co.uk
Dalit Leon, UK www.dalitleon.com
Michael Lukyniuk, Canada www.michaelsscroll.blogspot.ca
Fred Lynch, USA www.fredlynch.com
Joe Munro, UK www.joemunro.com
Fraser Scarfe, UK www.fraserscarfe.co.uk
Rolf Schroeter, Germany skizzenblog.rolfschroeter.com
Suhita Shirodkar, USA sketchaway.wordpress.com
Mike Slaton, USA mikeslaton.culturalspot.org/home
Swasky, Spain www.swasky.es
Susan Toplitz, USA www.flickr.com/photos/52358552@N06/
Patrick Vale, USA/UK www.patrickvale.co.uk
Wendy Winfield, UK www.wendywinfield.com
And there are some by me.

We were all saddened to hear the news that Fred Kennett died in May, shortly before the book's publication in English.

Pen and Ink is already available in French and German, and further international editions are planned. The UK edition is available from all the usual places, in your local bookshop and online, and worldwide from here.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Around Westminster

Home Office, Marsham Street

Two drawings from around Westminster, which were done on a recent gathering of London's Urban Sketchers. Close to the Palace of Westminster there was the usual tourist throng and road closures in preparation for the State Opening of Parliament. A couple of streets back, though, and you could have a street almost to yourself. 

Victoria Tower from Great Peter Street, Westminster

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Woodberry Wetlands opens


It's not often a nature reserve opens up near where you live, especially when you live in inner London. The new Woodberry Wetlands – opened last week by the naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough – has been created on a reservoir fed by the New River, which was opened in 1613 to bring fresh water to the growing city from the chalk streams of Hertfordshire. (F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have boated here while staying nearby.) While new housing rises abruptly on the reservoir's north banks, the view south is low-level and misleadingly rural, although there are glimpses of the Shard, Canary Wharf and the Post Office Tower in the distance. It's hardly the countryside – the sound of planes and sirens put a stop to that – but it's a restoring urban escape to greenness, nature and a slower pace.


The reservoir, which is still supplying water to us London's inhabitants, is home to kingfishers, buntings, grebes, snipe, herons, terns and more, as well as dragonflies, butterflies and bats. Some birds migrate thousands of miles to spend the summer here in Hackney, the guide tells his cosmopolitan audience, to murmurs of appreciation. The reservoir was off limits to the public for nearly 200 years: clean water was such a precious commodity at the time it was built, it was fenced off. Now we can follow the volunteer-built trail around its perimeter and stop in its Coalhouse cafe, train the binoculars on the reeds, and enjoy the warmth of summer that has suddenly arrived. And it's just a 17-minute tube journey away from Leicester Square.

Follow me on Instagram: @jameshobbsart