Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Feeling stressed

My second visit to the Timber Yard café
I have been wondering on and off since my one outing with the Urban Sketchers back in January why I had such a negative response to the outing when I had been looking forward to it so much. Yesterday I had some free time in the late afternoon so I returned to the Timber Yard café with my sketch book with the intention of settling down to doing some drawing while drinking my coffee, a sort of solo urban sketching trip if you like.

I realised that over the years I have bought into the idea that visiting a café is a relaxing experience and it dawned on me yesterday that I actually find it really stressful. The Timber Yard café has only recently opened, is in a popular location, is full of comfy seating, has pleasant staff, art on the walls and nice things to eat and drink. What's not to like?

Well here goes: being surrounded by people hunched over their laptops and/or smart phones. Sitting near people having a business meeting or conducting interviews or even worse speed dating. Having to endure a young couple practically having sex at the next table and then glancing up from my sketch book to see a young, very fashion conscious girl posing on the stairs as though she was in a fashion show and we were merely her audience. I managed to draw the sketch above and I think you can see that I was anything but relaxed when I made it.

So this made me think of times when I have made what I think of as much more interesting drawings when I have been relaxed and unaware of the world around me. For example I met another sketcher in London Fields a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time we had met but we spent a convivial couple of hours of chatting and drawing together and this is what I produced.

Union Chapel from Highbury Fields
And on another occasion I drew this sketch of Clapham Common after I had visited the dentist and before I had to be at work. I was relieved the dentist visit was over and was able to enjoy some time to myself and relax while enjoying the view. So now I know I need to avoid situations where I'm going to be full of inner turmoil if I'm going to draw anything worthwhile.
View of Clapham Common

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The joys of walking by the side of a canal

Regent's Canal, Victoria Park ©Heather James

'The Regent’s Canal is one of London’s best-kept secrets - a peaceful haven often hidden by the surrounding buildings, it offers a unique perspective on some of the capital’s urban landscapes.' Canal & River Trust

Sounds delightful doesn't it? We walked along a section of this very canal from Victoria Park to close to City Road just the other Sunday afternoon to go and visit friends of ours and give them a present for their new baby. Why use public transport we thought when walking would be so much healthier.

What started out as a pleasant afternoon stroll ended up feeling more like a slog up a mountain with two way traffic. In the past we have enjoyed an amble along the river Lea stopping for the occasional leisurely chat to someone who lives on a narrow boat about the joys of working in London while living in the countryside and then winding up in a pub.

On this occasion we spent far too much time getting out of the way of runners bent on improving their performance, cyclists who might well knock you into the canal rather slow down (and probably wouldn't notice if they had), fashionistas bellowing on their mobile phones while posing for photographs in the sunshine and parents pushing their small children along in prams built like tanks. This was not a pleasant experience so we decided to get the bus home and confine our walks along the canal to weekdays when everyone else is stressed out at work.