Art School

Art School Sketchbook 1955

At St Martins School of Art keeping a sketch book was actively encouraged and was in fact an exam requirement for the National Diploma in Design.

When I was a student there in the fifties, the Art School was located in Charing Cross Road, a central thoroughfare in the heart of London running from Oxford Street to Trafalgar Square. I only had to step into the street to find plenty to sketch: shop fronts, ornamental street lamps, wrought iron railings and red telephone boxes - all were full of London character and a challenge to draw.

I drew on building sites, in barbers shops, in parks and squares. I stood on street corners and outside tube stations recording the life of the street. Sometimes I went in close to make character studies. If people were on the move I had to work fast. Looking up from a drawing, I would often find my subject had shifted their position or moved on so drawing them could be as much a test of memory as of observation.

Now and again I took the sketchbook with me on weekend visits to the family in Surrey. I drew them sitting indoors or pottering about in the garden and occasionally, accompanied them to more distant locations such as the beach at Swanage.

Back at the Art School, I sometimes took the sketch book to life class and drew not only the models but also my fellow students at work. I also took it to Reference Libraries and Museums when gathering information for any book illustrations I was planning to do. (Two books I hoped to provide illustrations for were HMS Ulysses, Alistair Maclean’s World War II naval saga, and Death to the French, C.S. Forester’s Peninsular War adventure).

The tiger stalking his terrified prey was a book jacket idea I had for a collection of jungle tales by my uncle George. After retiring from an exciting life as a game warden in Malaya, he recounted his tales on BBC Radio to great effect. Alas, he failed to get around to making a book out of them so, in the end, my book jacket idea was never realised.

The Market Scene in ink and watercolour was composed entirely out of sketch book material. It combined sketches of the stalls and stall holders of London’s Berwick Market with characters drawn from the photo-essays in Picture Post, a popular magazine of the day.