Thursday, 26 April 2018

London's squares: Tavistock and Cavendish

With the onset of spring, I've found myself lazing in London's squares more than once. These two drawings show Cavendish Square (above), handily placed behind John Lewis on Oxford Street for post-consumerist recovery, and Tavistock Square (below), which is one of many lovely Bloomsbury squares close to where I have been working at the UCL Institute of Education.

I've written a longer post about five of London's squares on the Urban Sketchers blog.

You can follow me on Instagram and even Flickr.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Stephen Lawrence's memorial, London SE9

Bus stop H on Well Hall Road, Eltham, in south-east London, isn't hard to find. It's by a roundabout on a busy residential road where the two teenagers Stephen Lawrence and his friend Duwayne Brooks were waiting for a bus when they were attacked by racist thugs 25 years ago this weekend.

A memorial to Lawrence, which is set into the pavement, is harder to find. I have to ask four people before they can tell me where it is, several hundred metres along the opposite side of the road next to a large London plane tree and a letter box. The distance somehow communicates their fear that night, the effort Lawrence went to escape the attack before he collapsed and died from knife wounds while the police stood over him offering no medical assistance. Three bunches of fading flowers and a bottle of non-alcoholic malt drink have been left by the stone.

The murder led to an inquiry into the way the Metropolitan police responded to the case, resulting in the force being branded institutionally racist, exposing a botched investigation and corrupt police, and leading to a change in the double jeopardy law, a revolution in UK police practice in relation to race, and eventually to the conviction, 18 years later, of two of the five suspects.

There's a low bench across the road from the memorial where I sit to draw. The view is eventually obscured by a hearse and people arriving for a funeral service at a nearby church. It seems a respectable street, with people out gardening and decorating in the spring sunshine, but extreme right wing BNP candidates are standing in next month's local elections here, and will get support. I draw in the square sketchbook with its detachable pages (top image), and then in the A5 hardback across a double page (above).

Back down the road, before I cycle home, I draw the bus stop where it all started, and, for Lawrence, ended.

I don't know why this feels important, but Lawrence liked to draw, and hoped to be an architect.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Outside Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

It is only a five-minute walk between the Cambridge Analytica HQ in New Oxford Street (above) and the newly opened Facebook offices in Rathbone Square (below). Following reports in the Guardian that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of 50 million Facebook users without their permission to build a system that could target US voters in the presidential election, and had links to Leave groups in the Brexit referendum, the press had descended.

There is a handily placed cafe across the street from the Cambridge Analytica HQ: from it there's a good view (buses permitting) of the media scrum waiting for a warrant to be served so the premises could be searched by data watchdogs. I drew from the cafe window alongside two weary trainee journalists – out of place among the tourists and the shoppers – who had been sent to watch and wait.

By the time I got to draw the Facebook offices a few days later, the warrant had been granted, and Cambridge Analytica's offices had been searched. There is a pristine newness about the Facebook complex, and the surrounding retails units are still being fitted out. While the company's share price fell, there was no media presence here and nothing to suggest it was anything other than business as usual.

I've always had an uneasy relationship with Facebook, and although I have deleted my account before, I'm currently still on it. Interacting through Facebook involves sharing your data with what is, in effect, an advertising company, and that will always involve give and take. Except with the arrival of Trump and Brexit, it seems to me that there has been too much take.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Inside one unfinished sketchbook

I'm back from a visit to Elisa Alaluusua's exhibition at the Art Space Gallery, not far down the road in Islington. The show features videos of four artists talking about their sketchbooks undertaken as part of her PhD research into sketchbooks. The camera is generally trained on the books as the pages are turned and the artist talks about what each contains and their working processes. (In the circular way that these things can work, I interviewed Alaluusua for my own research into sketchbooks.)

Some artists, as we know, discard their sketchbooks when they are filled: by that point they are considered to have fulfilled their purpose. I'm not one of those people. I have shoe boxes stuffed with sketchbooks on the top of book shelves in a way that would cause sleepless nights for the health and safety executive. Closer at hand and on a lower, safer level are more recently completed and current sketchbooks.

My current A5 sketchbook (shown above) is nearly full: a few empty double pages remain at the end. Seeing Alaluusua's videos makes me wonder what I would say about it, should her camera be peering over my shoulder. The book covers the months following the end of October 2017: drawings done wherever I find myself with time to draw, but also some done on a few gatherings meeting up to draw with other artists, and some done for an NBC News report. There's nothing very special about the sketchbook: it's usual in that some drawings work and some don't, some surprised me in how they turned out, and some disappoint, some I immediately disliked and am now keener on, and some are declining in my estimation. As if that matters.

What makes it stand out, for me, anyway, is that it is one of four made by my younger daughter and given to me as a Christmas present. There's a note from her inside the front cover to mark this. It's what helps me to mark this one out from all the others I have done over 30-odd years.

Usually I show an image or two from a sketchbook, but here I've scanned and shared the lot. I've included scans of the blank pages. I found in my research that digitised sketchbooks that missed out the apparently untouched folios seemed to be keeping secrets. Even the blank pages give something away. The dates can be a giveaway too: why the chronological gaps? What was going on then that stopped me drawing more?

The caption for each is on the reverse of the drawing, ie, on the following double page.



Sunday, 21 January 2018

When NBC Nightly News visited

It came out of the blue, but an NBC news team visited a couple of weeks ago to interview and film me as part of a story they were working on about Urban Sketchers. The focus of the story was on the group working at Syracuse, New York, but they were also interested in reflecting the international angle, and somehow alighted on me, as one of those who helped set up the London group in 2012. After interviewing me in front of a couple of my prints at home, we went up the road to the park so they could film me drawing (above).

You can see the full report on NBC Nightly News (broadcast on 20 January 2018), complete with me whooshing by midway through. Don't blink.

Interested in finding out more about Urban Sketchers? Follow these links to find out more about us internationally or in London. (That's us above on a recent visit to Tate Modern.) Here's a link to the Syracuse chapter – thanks to Bill Elkins for setting this all in motion.

You can see more of my work on Instagram, Flickr and Twitter.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Drawing resources guide pt4: drawing schools, prizes, suppliers

Here's the fourth and final part of the drawing resources guide. Here are links to previous instalments.
Part one: introduction, online resources, electronic resources,
Part two: drawing organisations, museums, galleries and libraries
Part three: books, journals and magazines, TV, radio and video.

This post covers:
Drawing schools
Prizes and awards

Drawing schools

Royal Drawing School
19-22 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3SG
This educational organisation and registered charity, founded in Hackney, London, by the Prince of Wales in 2000, aims to raise the profile and standard of drawing through teaching and practice. Now with five London campuses, it runs about 250 different courses each year, from classes for 10-18 year olds to an MA-level postgraduate programme, and international artists' residencies. It also runs events, lectures and free drop-in drawing sessions.

Ruskin School of Art
74 High Street, Oxford OX1 4BG and 128 Bullingdon Road, Oxford OX4 1QP
What is now the fine art department of the University of Oxford was set up by the writer and artist John Ruskin as the School of Drawing in 1871. While drawing still remains at the core of the degrees and shorter courses it now offers, these also embrace painting, sculpture, printmaking and other disciplines. (See Ruskin Library.)


These awards and competitions are open to anyone: subsequent touring exhibitions of selected and winning drawings can be an insight into current approaches. Selection is an excellent way to make contacts and network.

Jerwood Visual Arts Drawing Prize
Jerwood Visual Arts is a national programme that offers a range of resources to visual artists through commissions, events, exhibitions, and lectures around the UK. Among its annual open exhibitions is the Jerwood Drawing Prize, considered the leading drawing exhibition for UK artists, although the competition loses its Jerwood funding from 2018. Image: Solveig Settemsdal, the winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016. © Hydal Dewachi.

John Ruskin Prize
This relatively new prize (the 2017 edition was its the fourth) is organised by the Big Draw with the Guild of St George, upholding the artist and writer John Ruskin's belief that drawing helps people to see and understand the world more clearly. It is open to emerging and established artists over the age of 18, with an exhibition of shortlisted artists' work.

Pastel Society Annual Competition
The society was formed in 1898, and now has a membership of around 50 professional artists. It organises workshops, exhibitions, demonstrations and lectures. Its annual exhibition, through which members are selected, includes works in pastel, oil pastel, pencil, chalk and charcoal.

Sketch Open
A biennial international competition of sketchbooks organised by the Rabley Drawing Centre (see page 9), with the aim of generating an impetus for creative activity, and reflecting the experimental aspect of drawing as well as the ordinary and observed. Selected works feature in a touring exhibition.

Society of Graphic Fine Art
The SGFA was formed in 1919 to promote drawing, and remains the only national society in the UK dedicated to it. While retaining a bias towards traditional, monochrome work, the society does accept more experimental work and that using colour. With more than 100 elected members, the SGFA has an open exhibition, regional exhibitions across the UK and publishes an online journal. 


There is still a wide range of independent art materials stores on high streets, despite the shift to online shopping. Drawing materials tend to be small and light, and ideally suited to postal delivery. This short list focuses on stores with online and high street presence.

16-28 Tabernacle Street, London EC2A 4DD
As the UK's largest art materials store, Atlantis has a wide range of materials aimed at the professional artist, of which there is a large but falling population in east London. The store's noticeboard is an excellent source of contacts and items on sale.

Cass Art
Cass Art has 12 shops across the UK, and an online next-day delivery service. Stores host events and workshops, and a blog features the works of established artists and illustrators. The drawing section of the website carries a wide range of media and surfaces.

Great Art
41-49 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AG
Predominantly an online store, but with a large, recently opened retail outlet in east London, Great Art stocks around 50,000 products, including an extensive range of drawing materials.

An online store, with a print catalogue and three stores – two in London, and one in Gloucester – Jackson's drawing materials are searchable by medium and manufacturer. Its blog features artist interviews.

Follow me on Twitter @jameshobbsart.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Books, magazines, TV: drawing resources guide pt3

This is the third part of a drawing resources guide I created as an assignment as part of my postgraduate study at City, University of London. It doesn't claim to be fully inclusive, and it has a UK focus. There's a link to other parts of the guide at the bottom of this post, and an introduction to the guide here.

This post features:
Journals and magazines
Television, video and radio


There is a huge range of books about drawing on sale, from the most elementary "how-to" publications to monographs and critical discourse. The selection here focuses mainly on contemporary themes that explore the changing nature and great diversity of drawing through the eyes of writers who are also artists, art tutors, curators and gallerists.

Contemporary drawing: from the 1960s to now (2014), by Katharine Stout, Tate Publishing, London, 169pp, ISBN 978 1854379702
Written by a co-founder of the Drawing Room, London, this book charts the rise of drawing from a preparatory sketch for the main work, to a discipline at the forefront of contemporary art. Stout explores the many routes drawing can take, and its role as externalising thought, and as a means of expression rather than a means to an end, which can involve drawing without paper, perhaps as performance or temporal works. Artists featured extend beyond the Western canon.

Drawing projects: an exploration of the language of drawing (2011), by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern, Black Dog Publishing, London, 240pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 907317255
This book has a practical element of projects with an art school feel – the authors have experience of teaching at foundation and degree level – but insight and advice is included through 19 interviews with leading artists who draw, including Julie Mehretu, William Kentridge, Charles Avery and Jeff Koons.

The drawing book (2005) by Sarah Simblet, Dorling Kindersley, London, 264pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 1405341233
A book of part practical advice and part inspiration and art history, it encompasses information about the materials and techniques that can be employed and insights into the working methods of artists such as Rembrandt, Goya, Blake, Beuys and Basquiat.

The drawing book: a survey of drawing (2007), edited by Tania Kovats, Black Dog Publishing, London, 316pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 1904772330
Based on the Renaissance literary model of the commonplace book (in which noteworthy comments were written), this title explores the place of contemporary drawing through a compilation of works by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Rachel Whiteread, Tracey Emin, Sol LeWitt, Paul MacCarthy and Paul Noble that explore five themes: measurement, nature, the city, dreams and the body. It includes essays by curators and art writers.

Drawing now: between the lines of contemporary art (2007), edited by Simon Downs, Russell Marshall, Phil Sawdon, Andrew Selby and Jane Tormey, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 128pp, illustrated, ISBN 978 1845115333
Drawings by 43 artists, including Tracey Emin, Paul Noble, Cornelia Parker, David Shrigley and Erwin Wurm, whose works typically are manifested through the practice of drawing.

Line let loose: scribbling, doodling and automatic drawing (2013), by David MacLagan, Reaktion Books, London, 176pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 1780230825
MacLagan traces the history and evolution of the three marginal forms of drawing – scribbling, doodling and automatic drawing – which embrace Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Psychedelic art and works by artists including Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee and Sol LeWitt as well as the less familiar and anonymous.

The primacy of drawing: histories and theories of practice (2010), by Deana Petherbridge, Yale University Press, 352pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 0300126464
Petherbridge, an artist whose work focuses on drawing, explores its role as "visual thinking" from the 15th century to the present day, and drawing's primal importance in generating ideas and problem solving. She argues that drawing has its own discrete place in artistic practice, its own codes, systems, materials and economy.

Vitamin D: new perspectives in drawing (2005), by Emma Dexter, 352pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 0714857138
Vitamin D2: new perspectives in drawing (2013), by Christian Rattemeyer, 352pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 0714865287
Vitamin D features the work of 109 contemporary artists selected by leading critics and curators, with work that reflects the current state of drawing as a medium. Vitamin D2, published 12 years later, did the same again, featuring 115 new artists from 40 countries who had become established during that interlude. Between them, the books are an excellent survey of contemporary drawing practice.

Walk the line: the art of drawing (2013), by Marc Valli and Ana Ibarra, Laurence King Publishing, London, 320pp, illustrations, ISBN 978 1780671109
Drawings by – and interviews with – 84 international artists who don't see drawing as a preparatory work or route on the way to another piece of work, but as a finished medium in its own right, and who often work on a large or even monumental scale.

Journals and magazines

The Drawer: revue de dessin
First published 2011
The Drawer, a French publication that takes its homonymous name from a person who draws and a place to store drawings, is published every six months. It features drawings in its widest sense, from artists, designers, architects and illustrators, to singers, musicians, choreographers and authors, who also answer a brief series of questions. Each issue takes as its theme the title of a book, film or piece of music with creative potential.

Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice (DRTP)
First published 2016
This peer-reviewed journal focuses on contemporary practice and its theoretical context, and aims to re-establish the "materiality" of drawing during an age of electronic media. Topics include papers as well as visual contributions.

First published 1990
This is a quarterly international review of graphic design and visual culture. As well as colour images, it features in-depth articles on illustration, design and visual culture.

First published 1999
Fact (see image) is an annual magazine for contemporary drawing that was founded in Norway in 1991 and based in Berlin since 2001. It focuses on artists' drawings with occasional interviews and essays. Each issue comes in a different design and format.

First published 2016
A quarterly independent print magazine about concept drawing, urban sketching and illustration that brings together well-illustrated interviews and information about the techniques used, which despite the title, is not restricted to pencil.

First published 2013
HB presents contemporary drawing practices as a "kind of exhibition on paper", and features emerging, marginalised and established artists from Quebec, Canada, where it is based. It gives precedence to imagery made using graphite, ink and coloured pencil rather than text. The initiative is run by five Canadian artist-run centres and a commercial gallery.

Open Arts Journal
First published 2013
Published by the Open University, this peer-reviewed open access journal for arts scholarship spans practitioners in such communities as art, architecture and design, curators and arts policy makers, and researchers in the arts and heritage sectors. Each contribution is published under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 3.0) licence. Five issues have been published since its first in 2013, each taking on a theme.

First published 1999
An online, open access, peer-reviewed journal hosted by Loughborough University School of Art and Design that is an arena for discussion and debate and research on contemporary drawing and visualisation.

Television, video and radio
Learning on Screen TV programmes were accessible through education institutions (UK only) on Box of Broadcasts (subscribers only) on 25 April 2017.

The Big Draw YouTube channel [Accessed 25 April 2017]
A selection of videos by the organisers of the annual Big Draw Festival (see page 6) that feature conversations with prominent drawers, and visits to artist-led drawing events.

Inside the Life Drawing Class
14 December 2010, BBC Radio 4, 30 mins
The re-emergence in popularity of drawing the naked human figure is explored and encouraged by the art graduate and TV presenter Anneka Rice.

Life Class: Today's Nude
2012, Channel 4, 30 mins
A series that gives viewers the chance to draw life models with a different well-known artist tutor for each task, including Gary Hume, Maggi Hambling and Humphrey Ocean.

Reportager Vimeo channel [Accessed 25 April 2017]
A series of short films that focus on the work of documentary artists that give an insight into working practices and inspirations.

The Secret of Drawing
2005, BBC2, 60 mins
A four-part series in which Andrew Graham Dixon explores the history of drawing and how it has been used by designers and architects.

Urban Sketchers YouTube channel [Accessed 21 December 2017]
The official YouTube channel of the Urban Sketchers organisation features videos about its workshops, symposiums, sketchcrawls, news and events, shares videos of its regional groups, and educates viewers about the practice of drawing on location.

Ways of Seeing
2008, BBC4, 30 mins
The seminal four-part TV series presented by the writer John Berger originally shown in 1972, and which was adapted as a book of the same name, raises questions about how we look at works of art, and therefore how we make them.

What Do Artists Do All Day?
2013-15, BBC4, 30 mins
A documentary series that traces the everyday routines and working processes of prominent artists, including Cornelia Parker, Michael Craig-Martin and Peter Blake. The three series consist of 22 episodes in total.

Missed the others in this series? 
Here is the first one (introduction, online resources, electronic resources),
here is the second (drawing organisations, museums, galleries and libraries),
and here's part four (drawing schools, prizes and awards, and suppliers).