Urban Scribbles

I stumbled over this story about “Urban Sketchers”. It took me a moment to recognise that these pen and ink style drawings where not all of the same place, as there is something rather “same-y” about all of them. And I’m not sure what those splodges of colour are all about.

Urban Sketcher


I was initially intrigued by the concept of them sketching “urban clutter”. I somewhat expected a focus on the urban mess; graffiti, recycling, waste, the “night-time economy”, the building’s structural elements. But their definition of this seems to stretch to the elements (buses, trams, shops, houses, buildings) that actually define an urban environment – The infrastructure.

It seems there is a small gathering of these “USK’s” around the globe. With the social media we have available today it has seemingly translated what would once have been isolated local groups into a global forum and a movement.

Urban Sketcher


Perhaps there is an equivalent “Rural Sketchers” movement? Or maybe they just call themselves artists.


Port of Antwerp

Port of Antwerp

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, has been announced as The Design Museum’s  design of the year 2017, from a huge selection of that year’s best designs.

There are six broad categories to accommodate such a wide inclusion. Which range from the almost ludicrous, such as the Premier League on-air branding, to the now outdated Pokémon GO. There are the contemporaneous cultural curios like the “Pussyhat Project” and “Professional Women Emoji”. Then there are the potentially practical and useful such as the “Avy Search and Rescue Drone” and “The Pilot translating earpiece”.  The latter sounds inspired from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and I thought the Babel Fish had been around since the 1970’s?

Avy  Search and Rescue Drone

While I do appreciate there are more humanistic and beneficial designs, such as the Warka Water concept,  I do like a dash of big bold architecture. But rather than the actual winner, for me it’s the Port of Antwerp.


I love the striking soaring skyline, and somehow the bold structure fits the skyline, or should that be the waterline. It would be fascinating to take the tour and discover what the inside is like, a great posthumous homage to the imaginative designer Zaha Hadid.


Getting William the Conquered again…

Bayeux Tapestry

The truly fabulous Bayeux Tapestry is not just a remarkable work of art but also a wonderfully detailed account of the conquest of England in 1066. The tapestry is a monumental work, over 70m long, and 50cm tall. Within that space they tell a remarkable story, not just of the blood and fury of the decisive Battle of Hastings, but a rich human re-telling of civil life at that time, with detailed work in the top and bottom margins, and Latin text emphasising some of the action.

Over 900 years old, this work has been available to view in France at the Bayeux Museum, but now President Macron of France has announced the intention to allow the Bayeux Tapestry to be transported to a museum in England. But don’t rush, they yet need to work out how to package and transport the object, and so it will be around 2020 or even 2022 before the tapestry makes its way across the English channel. And despite its name, it is actually an embroidery, being stitched together rather than woven. But oh what detail, what humour, how evocative that work is, and when you see the teeming human life being recounted in blazing colour and detail it can almost seem touchingly contemporary.

Detail of Bayeux tapestry
Detail of Bayeux tapestry

For those who believe understanding our past helps to understand the here and now, the Bayeux Tapestry not only reveals intimate details of the conquest of Britain, but the enormity of trade and warfare during the medieval period. The Normans beat the English who never had an English King again, yet it could well be we defeated ourselves. The Vikings had already invaded England and much later the Vikings invaded France, to get rid of them they were given land well away from Paris, In Normandy. They became Normans who then with William the Conqueror of France invaded England. Historians might quibble that there is no exact evidence of that being true but go and visit this remarkable work, in France or England and see for yourself.

Bayeux tapestry – The Normans Clobbering us!



Art of Building

There are some wonderful images in the CIOB Art of Building 2017 competition.

Probably of all of them I prefer the “Eye of the Tower”. It’s a curious and alternative view on something that has probably been photo-processed many times. Something you would normally expect to look up at, and Ascend is transformed and appears you are looking down on this enormous bell. I love the hard-edged brickwork and strong vibrant colours and textures. While the image is still, somehow there seems to be movement and power captured there.

Eye Tower
Eye of the Tower

The short list  is full of fascinating images, from the “Cemetery of 21st Century” (don’t worry it’s not an actual cemetery.) which is eerie and evocative, almost Chernobyl-like, but it hardly seems to qualify as an actual building.

21 Century
Cemetery of 21st Century

The “Bicycle Rider” is so stark and lifeless it looks more like an artist’s illustration or a page from a graphic novel rather than a photograph. Reminds me a bit of David Hockney’s work such as “A Bigger Splash” with its flat child-like colours.

Bicycle Rider
Bicycle Rider

The “Cross Bridge Waltz” shot from the air is mesmerising and joyful, almost a photographic version of naive art.

Cross Bridge Waltz

So your chance to vote is available until the 8th of January 2018, and of course you can always think about entering next year. You can see previous winners and my view on last year’s.

If you’ve read this far why not add a comment  and tell which one is your favourite and why.

Hastings Pier

So once you get over the shock that the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture was awarded to a Pier rather than a more conventional building (sic) it’s refreshing that something so English, so old-fashioned with its seaside connotations, should be rewarded for re-invigorating and modernising the concept.

Hastings Pier

So what can a modern re-working of a pier do? There seems to be limitations to the actual potential of such a building. Really what can you do with a long line of wooden planks facing over the roiling sea?

Well they seemed to have created a rather large space, that is multi-functional. So they can hold various events and activities there. And there is the deck building which provides the ocean vista. Another plus factor for awarding this building is that we like the idea of restoring something. Hastings pier had been destroyed by fire in 2010 and the resulting re-build process, including lottery funding and a crowd-sourced campaign ensured the modern pier re-opened in April 2016.


Mind you the other 5 buildings seemed to offer little in the way of competition. Monolithic concrete blocks, with Glasgow’s audition for a Russian Kremlin building, and a photographic studio you would want to shoot yourself to get out off, and buildings that seemed to just shuffle into designated spaces but not really occupy their own space. So a pier it is.

Don’t drop your ice-cream on it, it’s an award winner!


New Themes

I’ve been so focused on writing my blogs that its only now that I have reviewed how it actually looks. I have used EDIN as my blog template, which I initially selected as I liked its clean lines and text. I took some time to learn, Gingerly , how to customise the sidebar and footers to fit my theme. There were a few things I wanted to look at improving, modifying the header image, having my blog title visible on the actual header if possible, while keeping features like displaying the sidebars, the about me page, and showing images in the blogs.

Original EDIN theme

My approach was to use the facility in “WP admin” to select a new theme and make it active, changing my blog theme, which immediately shows the main features on the existing content. This way it was easy to visually see themes that didn’t look “right”. This excludes templates that only show blog excerpts, those “read more” types , or didn’t show an image. This still left quite a few templates that seemed OK. It would have been nice at this stage to be able to see blogs that had used these templates, but with the rare exception that doesn’t seem to be available, not surprising as I don’t know how to show what template I’m using on my own blog!.

So it was back to ploughing through a short list of templates, and finally reducing these to two options, Dara and Independent Publisher. They seemed to do all that I wanted, so I saved the Dara theme and started to review what the website looked like.

DARA theme

With “Dara” I seemed to have border edges which I hadn’t noticed on the template, and the “about me” seemed a bit less clear. I also thought that while the text looked fine for short text, taken for the entire blog it didn’t look that pleasing.

So I loaded “Independent Publisher”. Because in all of these themes you can customise them, its sometimes hard to work out what is the best template for your blog and what will be the best-looking one once you have done a lot of editing and customising. So far I am happy with this one and looking forward to making some further changes and seeing how that goes.

What’s your favourite blog and blog theme?

Landscapes II

So this is just a follow-up to Landscapes where I mentioned we had artwork that resembled the photographic image of Josh Cooper’s “Meandering Mawddach”, (Gwynedd, NW Wales).

Mawddach Estuary
Josh Cooper’s “Meandering Mawddach”,

Our artwork is an etching by Pauline Meade, “Torridon Hills” with similar light, and striking monochrome features:

Pauline Meade, “Torridon Hills” etching

Of course this might have been far more impressive artwork if I could have captured a good image. Our picture had been professionally framed, and I thought they used non-reflective glass but it seems it isn’t. So I spent a happy (sic) few minutes walking around the house trying to find somewhere to take a clean image, without glare and reflections (TIP: Not outside in the sunshine). This is my best attempt, apologies to everyone. Ironic really, given that it was a photographic competition that generated the original article!