Month: January 2016

Sticks in the Smoke 2: Colville Square Gardens

(Thursday 28 January 2016 )

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Just a few paces from the scurrying energy of Portobello road with its miscellaneous junk and vintage, Colville Square Gardens is a narrow rectangle of almost ½ acre, enclosed by dark green railings and overlooked by four and five-storey Victorian terraces with elegant window pediments and wrought- iron balconies. Anonymous 60’s blocks at either end of the square mark out the bombsites of buildings destroyed in the Blitz. This area has revived dramatically since the dismal slum decades of 40 and 50 years ago. The garden Pat-McDonald-Gatewas redesigned with new beds, an ornamental urn and replanted with evergreen shrubs, yuccas, monsteras and box hedges. It is an intimate breathing space for the many families living here. A busy playground occupies the middle section of the gardens. Most of the southern third of the gardens are now exclusive to the shelters and play area for Colville Nursery Centre. This has a separate arched entrance with a sturdy leaf design gate (left) in memory of Pat McDonald, with an accompanying plaque reading: “Working Class Heroine. Lived and worked in North Kensington from the 1960s until her death in 1986. She was the driving force behind the campaigns for better housing, more play space and new nurseries. May her fighting spirit live on.”

I found a spot close to an arbour frame with climbing clematis tangling. Looking across the circular planting bed towards the northern garden entrance and on to a side street opposite which reaches up and frames a zigzaggy portion of steel grey sky. I draw between laurel bush and clipped yew, a box hedge close by as support for my drawing things and paint box. Lively toddlers squeal and giggle on the play equipment just behind, accompanied by regular squeak and clash of the playground gate. One or two occupants of the park benches huddle in the chill breeze and read newspapers in the fleeting sunshine.

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A posse of four community police officers enter, chatting together. Three go anti- clockwise around the bed, one clockwise and eyes me suspiciously as she passes. Street pigeons perch in tall plane trees then all swoop down together onto the circular bed to strut about and peck amongst sparse winter planting under the box- planted stone urn, only to flap away when another mum pushes her buggy into the park.


In his ‘Sticks in the Smoke’ project, Nick Andrew has been regularly visiting, researching and drawing different publicly accessible parks or gardens in London since January 2016, exploring the theme of city green spaces from the perspective of a rural landscape painter. The first two sketchbooks will be published as a book in late 2018.  www.nickandrew.co.uk . Nick is grateful to London Parks & Gardens Trust for their support www.londongardenstrust.org.


Colville Sqare Gardens, Notting Hill, London W11 2BQ
Colville Community Forum www.colvillecom.com

Google earth view here

Photo of Pat McDonald gate by Jim Linwood
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Sticks in the Smoke 1: St Paul’s Cathedral Gardens

(Thursday 21 January 2016 )

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Behind railings and ornate ironwork gates off the bustle of Paternoster Row, a few paces from the route of the ancient Watling street, just over 1.5 acres of gardens wrap around the end of St Paul’s Cathedral. Overgrown beds of shrubs and mature planes, limes and walnut trees border a series of informal lawns.  Laid stone slabs in earthy grass in the damp 001acathedral shadow on the north side feels something like an old country graveyard. But tall old plane trees and pines frame the surrounding glass and concrete office blocks of Paternoster and lead the eye up to a gleaming gold St. Paul standing high on his column.

The churchyard was opened as a public garden in the 1880s. Office workers lunch and chat on benches skirting the cathedral’s east end. Skateboarders and rucksacked tourists pass by in the winter sunshine. Excited playtime shrieks from St Paul’s schoolyard just below St Augustine’s Tower. A weeping pear tree leans towards the curved stonework. It seems to glow purple from inside its complexity of tortured winter twigs while uppermost branches glitter in the sunlight.
001bI draw the tree through a bed of fiery dogwood stems against a dark yew, a translucent plastic safety sheet covering a new office block build across Cannon St and und
erlined by the dark park railings. Squirrels scuttle close to my feet and eye my bright paintbox while a pied wagtail shivers close by. Drawing finished (see image at top), I leave into a sharply cold wind through the bright south garden, past rose beds and Bainbridge Copnall‘s sharp- chinned Beckett sprawling back across the grass.


In his ‘Sticks in the Smoke’ project, Nick Andrew has been regularly visiting, researching and drawing different publicly accessible parks or gardens in London since January 2016, exploring the theme of city green spaces from the perspective of a rural landscape painter. The first two sketchbooks will be published as a book in late 2018.  www.nickandrew.co.uk . Nick is grateful to London Parks & Gardens Trust for their support www.londongardenstrust.org.


St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
www.stpauls.co.uk
Google earth view here

Sticks in the Smoke project

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Beginning with the week starting 18 January 2016, I’m starting my ‘Sticks in the Smoke’ project: visiting, researching and drawing a different, randomly selected, public garden or park in Central London each week (from the City of London, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and the city of Westminster). This research will lead to a collection of paintings exploring the theme of city green spaces from the perspective of a rural landscape painter. I will be working towards an exhibition in London in 2017.

Every week I plan to post info about my visit on this blog along with images from my sketchbook. Find out more about my work at: www.nickandrew.co.uk and facebook.com/nickandrewart

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I love the idea of following a theme through the weeks, months and seasons of the year. I’ve just completed a year of weekly drawings and studies (see images above and top) at Stourhead lake and gardens in South Wiltshire, which will form the content for my Stourhead 52 / 12 / 4 exhibition from 15 April – 5 May 2016.

Read more here: stourhead 52 12 4 News Release