Tuesday, 24 November 2015


I made this drawing at the end of May 2015
I strolled down to the Hertford Union canal this lunchtime on my way to Fish Island Labs. It's the first time I've visited the canal since September when I collected what was left of my 805 steps exhibition.

When I made the drawing above there was an enormous warehouse/factory building behind the blue 1980s style fence. I can remember at the time wondering what kind of industry went on this building. Presumably there was a lot of nothing going on in there because this was the view I saw today just six months later.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Show's over!

The last two exhibits: Monday 19 October 2015
A pattern of thieving has developed since I installed the posters just over three weeks ago. I've been checking the site regularly and I've had some help from friends who've trekked down to the canal to see the exhibition and they have reported how many posters were left. The posters have been removed at the weekends and not during the week so I presume that the new owners have day jobs to go to.

I'm happy that the posters have been removed and I was surprised that they hadn't been defaced by the graffiti artists. I assumed, following the pattern from the last few weeks that the last two posters would have gone by the time I got back to the towpath at lunchtime today, Monday. Surprise, surprise there were still two remaining so I decided that I would take them home with me. Now the wooden doors are available for their next coat of paint and I'll look forward to seeing what they look like when I next visit the canal.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

This waning exhibition

This poster had been removed by the time I visited on Monday 5 October
As a general rule, when you organise an exhibition, you know when the start date and end dates will be. I had chosen the installation date towards the end of September because it marked one year since this project's inception. I had vaguely thought that I would remove the posters about one month later if they were still there.

I had also sort of hoped that passers-by might take them down and maybe display them in their homes. So far six of the posters have been taken away and it's always been around the weekends. Of course I have no idea where they might be: they could have been tossed in a bin, or been sent floating down the canal for all I know.

I visited the exhibition site again last Wednesday, 7 October and the remaining four posters were still all there. I have visited again today Tuesday, 13 October, and the two posters below have gone leaving two left. I would guess that they will have been taken by next weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Poster watch

I installed the eight posters just over a week ago. I walked passed the site a couple of days later and they were still all there and unmarked by spray paint. We walked passed the same spot yesterday, five days later, and lo and behold the following three posters have been removed. It's been done very carefully because there was no sign of any of the panel pins remaining or bits of torn corners so the mystery is where have they gone? And how long will the others remain?

So, those interested people who were planning a bike ride down to the canal to see them had better get there quick.

Reeds and wind

View from the bridge

The White Building

Monday, 28 September 2015

Now for the exhibition

My test poster which someone kindly added graffiti to      Photo: Graham White
While I have been drawing my way along this section of the canal it has always been my intention to exhibit some of the sketches somewhere and somehow. Since I have been responding to the tow path during the spring and summer I realised that I wanted to record something about the canal before it is handed over to the developers and the area changes for ever.

During this time I've got to know some of the people who regularly use the tow path and I thought they might find it interesting if I displayed some of the drawings in the same setting in which they were produced so they could be seen as part of a series. I also liked the idea of sharing one of the spaces that are regularly used by graffiti artists.

This led to a protracted period when I was trying to find out who owned the building I wanted to use so that I might get permission from the owner to display my work. This involved getting in touch with the Canal & River Trust who then, in turn, put me in touch with the National Grid who own the building.

Having been granted permission I then had to decide how to reproduce the images and I chose to have them made as small posters. Then I had to work out how to fix them to the wooden doors of the building. I used my test poster above to experiment with and I discovered that glue wouldn't work as the poster simply slid off the door. My staple gun wasn't working so I had to throw that out and then I found the simplest solution was to hammer panel pins into the doors and they have worked very well.

I chose to install the posters last Saturday, 26 September as this marks a year since I began to work on the idea. We had glorious weather and I was joined by my husband and three friends who all supported me while I put the images up on the doors. I will leave them up for the next few weeks assuming that they haven't been ripped off in the mean time.

Here's a map if you fancy a trip along the canal

There are eight images on display out of a series of 20 drawings

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Merchandising my drawings

Over the last few years I have gradually produced a collection of greetings cards from my artwork. I have just received these samples from my drawing series 805 steps. I'm really happy with them and they are quite different from the bright colours of my other cards.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Here is the final sketch

The site where the abandoned Top o' the Morning pub on Wick Lane used to stand
We've just got home from a month's holiday in Canada and clearly quite a lot has been going on while we've been away. The Top o' the Morning pub is no more and I expect the site will be used for a housing development so maybe this is the beginning of the gentrification on this side of the Hertford Union Canal. Then I walked along the canal for a short distance and I spotted a planning development notice taped to a lamp post. As far as I could tell it concerned an existing property and not the former pub.

The end of the line at White Post Lane
I continued on my way and almost immediately bumped into my 'friend' the motor mechanic who was walking his boss's dog in his lunch hour. I took the opportunity to say goodbye because I had decided this would be my last sketch of this series of drawings. He told me that the business he works for will be moving out by the end of the year. He wished me good luck and we parted company.

Life on the canal is always changing and at the same time seems changeless. The boats continue making their way through the locks and passers-by stand and stare. Runners keep on running and dog walkers keep on yelling at their canine companions.

I've relished recording my responses in the form of sketches, over the spring and summer, to this short length of canal that will probably change out of all recognition over the next few years. I've enjoyed experimenting with my drawing and have been happy to publish the successes and the failures along the way. But now there is a hint of autumn in the air it is time to bring this project to a close.

I leant on the bridge over the canal at White Post Lane to make this drawing

When I began this composition I imagined that I would only use pencil to start with and then I would finish it in pen and ink. Part of the way through this process I realised that it needed to be completed in pencil. From this view you can see the River Lee Navigation ahead and the Hertford Union Canal just on the right hand side.

Although this is the end of the series of drawings it is not the end of the project or the blog and I will be posting developments in the next couple of weeks so please check back later.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Is this the final drawing?

Part of my view before it was interrupted
I had been settled into my pen and ink drawing for some time when my view was interrupted by a small film crew. They walked passed me and were pondering where to film, having exchanged views about the position of the sun, when they decided that the exact point I was concentrating on was going to be their special spot.

They politely apologised for inconveniencing me and promised they wouldn't take long (famous last words) and set up their shoot. They filmed their sequence numerous times so it was just as well that I had managed to complete enough of my composition so that I could easily concentrate on another part of the scene.

Some random clutter on the roof of a boat
I had initially been standing to the side of the towpath so I wouldn't be in other users way but I was getting a bit tired by this point, and since the film crew didn't mind at all about hogging the space, I decided to sit on my wee sketching stool. This means that half of the drawing was made at one angle and the rest of it at a lower angle. I decided this didn't matter too much and pressed on regardless.

The filming was going on to the left of this composition
Before the film crew had rolled up I had been considering this image as the final one in this series of drawings. But the more I worked on it the more I came to realise that there is at least one more to do before I can call it a day and this will have to wait until I get back from holiday.

Monday, 3 August 2015

The White Building

My view of the Hertford Union Canal meeting the River Lee Navigation
You can see in the distance of this photograph on the left of the bridge stands the White Building on White Post Lane which, although it is dwarfed by larger buildings nearby, is a significant arts venue in the area and they brew their own beer and make great pizzas.

The day I chose to make this sketch was very warm and sunny and a plant had bloomed over most of the water thereby changing the colour palette from predominantly grey to an amazing neon green.

I found a bench to sit on this time which was more comfortable than my sketching stool and to my left I was entertained by a running conversation between a father and his young son as they discussed how to fix their boat.

I was happy with the way this composition came together

Monday, 27 July 2015

Rusty staples or nails (I can't decide)

Saturday night's party revealed on Sunday morning
I've returned to my travels along the towpath with renewed enthusiasm now I feel more rested. I usually draw on weekdays but this time I've ventured out on a Sunday morning and look what I found en route to my destination. The party leftovers are not what I had in mind to draw but they are lying on top of the same wall that I planned to concentrate on.

These rusty objects attracted my attention a few days before
I decided I would try using the candle wax resist again to represent the cement between the bricks and then use an Indian ink wash over the top of it. I was in the mood to experiment and see what happened. I could have been more patient and used more wax so there would have been more of a contrast between the ink wash and the white cement, as it is the result is quite subtle. Then I wanted to include the rusty, naily things and some of the foliage. The finished result reminded me of the paving and mud drawing from earlier on in the series.

My finished sketch where I just wanted to experiment
It was on this occasion that I had something of a breakthrough. This part of the towpath doesn't have a grass verge to sit on so I had to stand by the wall which meant that I was very close to all the foot traffic that was passing back and forth. For the first time ever (I think) I was completely relaxed about people watching what I was doing as they went on their way, happy to chat if they wanted to and just as happy to be ignored as well.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Drawing fail

My mobile work station
It was going to happen somewhere along the way. I was going to have at least one drawing disaster, or if not a complete disaster then starting something that I couldn't develop. I wasn't going to publish it but since I've published everything else so far I could hardly leave it out since it is part of the trip. I've been experiencing quite a lot of fatigue recently and thought I could work through it but sometimes you just can't.

My view at the end of the car park
I had previously spotted what I thought was an interesting location at the end of the German Deli car park. I popped into their shop to see if I needed permission to work in their car park overlooking the canal but the young lady behind the counter seemed that I didn't need to even ask. I'm glad I did though because I discovered that as well as having a shop they run a nice looking café too which will be worth a lunch time visit.

I set up my stool, got out my sketchbook and gazed here and there, stared left and right and nothing sparked much interest. I decided I should at least try and do something since I'd made the effort to get there so got my pens out. Often, once I start on a sketch, I forget about everything else and am often pleasantly surprised by the results. The sight of a rodent trap did nothing to improve my mood although the sight of these small figures enjoying the sun did.

More canal art
I wondered if the view of the Olympic stadium might work but it didn't appeal so I settled on a cyclist having a rest on a bench on the other side of the River Lee Navigation. As you can see I didn't pursue this for long so I decided to pack up and head home.

Sketch fail

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Looking back at where I've been

Looking back along the Hertford Union canal
I haven't posted anything new on this blog for the last couple of weeks because I've been suffering from drawing fatigue. I'm not used to drawing several times a week and it took its toll on my stamina. Anyway, I am happy to report that I have recovered and am in the mood for more drawing and more writing.

The view above is more-or-less the view I had when I made this latest sketch. I was sitting at the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and by the side of the River Lee Navigation. This view has given me the chance to look back at the towpath that I've been drawing for the last few months. You can see that on the left hand side the developers have built their architectural dream and there's a good chance that when the right hand side of the canal has been developed it will look fairly similar. 

I took this photo on quite a dull day a few weeks ago. The day I made this sketch the sun was so bright and there was so much glare I couldn't see what I was doing so taking a photograph proved impossible. I've realised that it is as hard work to draw in harsh sunlight as it is to work in rain and wind so I was quite pleased to have been able to continue as long as I did and still produce a recognisable composition.

This is same footbridge linking the canal to Roach Road that I drew a few weeks ago

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Candle wax resist

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the distance
Since my previous drawing ended up being so dark I thought I would try to take this sketch a stage further and make it even more dark. I like the idea of a sketch which is almost entirely black but it would have to make some kind of visual sense. I did this in my previous sketching project and really liked the result.

Some more canal-side art
I had also decided to try using candle wax as a resist to the Indian ink. I didn't take the trouble to try this out at home in my sketchbook before I left the house so I had to experiment as I went along. I found that if the Indian ink was diluted enough the resist worked well and produced some interesting results. If the ink was straight out of the bottle and very black the wax resist was so subtle it was practically invisible.

When I began this series I thought I would be making conventional drawings but as the sketches are stacking up it seems I am venturing into painting. I have been using, amongst other things, a half inch decorating brush which has loosened up my approach. I'm also enjoying using Indian ink which I have learned was being produced in China as early as the middle of the 3rd millennium BC although the source of the materials to make the carbon pigment was later often traded from India, hence its name.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Beyond the bridge

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the distance
The vista beyond the bridge begins to broaden to the left and the right hinting at the wide expanse of water where the Hertford Union canal joins the River Lee Navigation. When I chose this spot to work in I imagined I would be concentrating on the view you can see above but I found it rather dull and it didn't grab me.

So I started looking around and my attention was drawn to this boat on my right. I began this sketch by describing the boat as a line drawing having no idea which direction it was going in. I often find that the emerging drawing seems to know where it wants to go and all I have to do is follow along behind.

My labours were accompanied by the lively sounds of some small children yelling at each other in one of the nearby flats. Sometimes their yelling would abate and then would crank up again until they were yelled at by an adult and meanwhile I just kept adding tones and marks until I had practically covered the paper and then I run out of steam.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The fascination of gabions

The word gabion comes from the Italian word gabbione meaning 'big cage'. Gabions can be cages, cylinders or boxes filled with rocks or concrete and are typically used in large-scale construction projects like civil engineering, road building and landscaping. They are also becoming increasingly popular as structures in domestic gardens.

I could see this ceramic sculpture from
where I was sitting. There are quite a few
of them along dotted along the canal
So I was strolling along the tow path looking this way and that and then these gabions caught my eye. They are supporting the bridge that was the subject of a previous drawing. I had in mind that I would try and draw the rocks, the metal cage as well as the leaves and produce something that would be very representational. I was to discover that I had set myself quite an ambitious task and became sidetracked into something rather more painterly and achievable.

I set up my sketching stool on the grass verge by the side of the wall to avoid being run over by cyclists, joggers and dog walkers and got stuck in. I can confirm that those leaves on the left hand side of the photo above are stinging nettles and it wasn't a great idea to brush my hands over them (I couldn't see any dock leaves nearby to rub on my hands to take the sting away).

It was a breezy day so I had to contend with paper flapping around and art materials flying away. There was regular foot traffic going back and forth over the bridge and I was surprised how clearly people's voices carried. I met my friend the car mechanic walking his boss's dog. He took a good look at what I was doing and was very encouraging. Then he said 'I expect you'll work that up more when you get home' and I realised that I wouldn't do that because once I've left my location I've lost my frame of reference. So I've realised that feeling the sun on my skin, or the breeze that blew my water bottle away and the sounds I'm listening to are as important as the sights I can see while I'm working.

Here's the finished sketch

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Sheltering under a canopy of leaves

The drawing of the canopy with the real branches in shadow adding an extra dimension to the scene
A fairly dull view ahead of me...
 Since I began this series of drawings I have been progressing my way along the tow path from Wick Lane towards White Post Lane. For this drawing I doubled back on myself and sat on the same bench that I used to make my first sketch. This time I faced the canal instead of having my back to it and looked up at the canopy of leaves above me instead of looking straight ahead.

I started in the same spirit as the previous drawing where I tried to let the line wander where it wanted to go. I began the drawing without looking at the paper, only at the view, but discovered I didn't have the confidence to complete the whole drawing doing that because I wanted the finished result to look a bit like the view I had. I might try that approach again later in the series just to see what happens.

... but look what I saw at my feet, a scene full of possibilities

Monday, 15 June 2015

View from under the bridge

My drawing of the bridge photographed on the bridge
I wandered along the canal until I reached the new pedestrian bridge that links Roach Road with the canal. Roach Road is one of the local roads named after freshwater fish and the others are Smeed Road, Dace Road, Monier Road and Bream Street which has led to the area adopting the name Fish Island. This location, which is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, isn't actually an island but is bordered on two sides by canals and the East Cross route borders a third side so the area has a feeling of being an island.

A locked gate revealing
an intriguing view
Apparently it was the artist Paul Klee who said that drawing is like 'taking a line for a walk'. I like the idea of starting a drawing and following where it wants to lead me so I tried to follow this maxim with this sketch of the bridge. I admit that I was tempted to interfere with the route on a number of occasions but then I would take a deep breath (plus a sip of tea always helps) and let the drawing wander where it wanted to. I did feel rather helplessly confused by all the competing lines in the composition but I had to remind myself that that was what had attracted me to the view in the first place.

While I was wrestling with not interfering with my own work I met a nice man who, having crossed the bridge, spotted what I was up to and stopped for a brief chat. It turned out that he too is an artist who, like me (and doubtless countless other artists), is more interested in the apparently mundane aspects of day-to-day life than grand gestures.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Working with soluble pencils

I toyed with this view of the pedestrian bridge which was one view from where I was sitting
I always like to have a selection of materials to work with because I never know in advance what I might want to respond to and how I might want to work. Today's sketch is a good example of this. I've been using pen and ink for the last few drawings but today I started with charcoal and then moved onto soluble pencil.

I liked this view too and might tackle it later
I considered the view of the bridge above and then the weeds under the stairs but neither of those views quite worked. I looked straight ahead and decided that the boats were just right so do you know what, I drew the path to the right of them instead!

I have the clumsy habit of tipping water or ink all over my paper while I'm working. When that happens I just incorporate it into the drawing and keep going. Fortunately it is a warm day today and the paper dried quickly.

The view I thought I was going to draw
There were a lot of dog walkers around today and one young woman was walking with about six dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages so I assumed she was doing this for her job. The Guardian newspaper ran an interesting article on this subject just a few days ago and while the idea sounds appealing I don't think I would have the patience to chivvy my charges along the tow path exhorting them to 'get a move on!', 'this way!' and 'Fido there's nothing wrong with your leg and you can run!' as I heard today. This episode did cause me and a passer-by to share a laugh.

So here's the finished piece using a different approach
I like to try and be experimental with my approach to 'making marks' when I am sketching because that way I can avoid repeating the same technique over and over again. I quite expect to employ a different method for the next sketch but that's a job for next week.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Reeds and wind

The gusts of wind played a part in creating this image
I've been down to the canal often enough now to almost guarantee I'll have a chat with someone before I get to work on the next drawing. I was strolling along the tow path earlier today and bumped into my new friend whose boat I had sketched the week before. He was busy chatting with someone else when I bowled up and I was soon drawn into the conversation. I remarked that I had fully expected him to have left on his travels by now which he agreed he would have done except for a technical hitch which would soon be put right.

I was wondering what might strike me as interesting and almost immediately spied this view above of reeds growing by the side of the canal. I found them very intriguing so decided to concentrate on them and ignore the boat that was moored behind them. I used Indian ink and dip pen again and managed to splatter my paper in an impressive sized blob that I decided to incorporate into the composition. I did this just as my other new friend, the car mechanic, strolled past with his boss's dog, Rizla on a lead. We had a brief chat and he told me the dog had taken himself off on a walk by himself earlier on in the day. He does this when he gets the opportunity but apparently he always finds his way back to the garage eventually.

I sat on my sketching stool and munched on a banana before I put pen to paper and while it was sunny it was also quite windy. The wind decided to get involved with the creation of this image and I quite enjoyed letting the watery ink travel in different directions by holding the paper vertical and letting the ink run. Last weekend I bought a small glass bottle from Muji with a diffuser attached. I don't know if it is meant to be a beauty aid but I filled it with water and enjoyed spraying a fine mist over parts of the paper and watching the ink react to it.

While I was letting the paper dry an elderly gent walked past using sticks to aid his progress. He stopped for a natter and told me that he'd had one hip replacement operation which had been a great success but now needed another one on his other hip. He told me he has in the past walked along a lot of the canal network when building materials were still being hauled around the country. He indicated, by pointing one of his sticks, to where Hackney Dogs Track used to be until they began developing 'that thing' meaning the Olympic Park. I've just read that it was called Hackney Wick Stadium and opened in 1932. It was mainly used for greyhound racing and motorcycle speedway. The company that owned it went out of business in 1997 having invested a lot of money in building a new stand and restaurant just a few years before.

What I found quite poignant was that this elderly gent became nostalgic about the times he used to walk the canals after they had become derelict, which lasted for many years, and he would get to see the birds fledge in spring which he said was lovely.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The adventure continues

You can just see the green boat in the distance where I sat for this drawing
I walked past the wall of graffiti for this sketch and set my stool up near the green boat you can see in the distance. I settled on a view of a boat with lots of interesting stuff stored on the roof that was in front of a warehouse that, in turn, had horizontal and verticals lines on the siding which also took my fancy.

Lunch break
I had barely got started on this task when a nice man engaged me in conversation and we spent quite a long time setting the world to rights. Then I found out he lived on the very boat that was the subject of my drawing. He clearly has a penchant for push bikes because in addition to the ones I could see stored on the roof of the boat he had another one he used when he cycled off on some errand after we had finished our conversation.

As I was wrestling with all the competing stuff on the roof another man stopped by to say hello. We had chatted a few days before and he told me that he's a mechanic and the dog he was walking belongs to his boss. This poor mutt spends his days stuck in the machine shop and only gets to go out when his owner's employee takes him out during his lunch hour so the dog was understandably quite excitable. Earlier on another passer-by showed an interest in my drawing but I didn't have much to show him at that point. I feel I am becoming part of the canal landscape now I'm beginning to get to know people while I am at the same time also responding to it which makes me feel slightly uneasy but I expect I'll get used to it.

Here's the finished drawing leaning against the tree trunk in the foreground