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How to make the best of a day out painting and sketching by the river

Noel recently spend a day sketching and painting on and around the River Thames in central London. Here he shares his video diary of the day and passes on some tips on how to make the most of a day out sketching by the river
Posted: Thursday 22nd December 2011

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Let me introduce the video diary of my winter's day out on, and alongside the River Thames in London. It was my birthday! And my son and wife said they would take me out for a meal in London. And during the day the choice was mine! If the forecast had been bad, then a few galleries would have been on the cards. But it looked like good weather so I opted for painting and sketching on and alongside the Thames in central London. So first, here's what went into my preparation for the day; you might find a few useful tips here:
  1. If it's cold, wrap up really well. Painting involves a lot of standing still and cold feet and head can spoil your enjoyment of the day. For the painter, fingerless gloves are a must, and a hat too.
  2. Take something to drink and eat.  Drinking your watercolour water is not a great idea, if only because you can't paint watercolour then!
  3. Comfy shoulder bag to carry your gear. A day of walking, sketching and getting on and off boats means the bag has to be fairly small. I have a small Brady bag which is really tough, and has a nice wide canvas shoulder strap. And it has only a few pockets. I dumped the one which had at least 73 pockets because I had forgotten what it was I was looking for after the first 17.....
  4. Following 3. above, be ruthless with what you take  A general rule when I'm on foot and on the move is to have a small Moleskine and pencil very much to hand. And a compact watercolour kit because at some point I'm definitely going to want to use colour. Or watercolour pencils. On this trip I used watercolours.
  5. Take a compact camera. Don't forget to use it!!
  6. Small collapsible stool is a good idea too.....
  7. ....as is a rag or small hand towel. Spillage or mess of some kind is normal (well, for me anyway - on this occasion picking my way along the staithes at Piper's Wharf left my coat well and truly covered in mud.)
  8. Plan ahead and get on location as early as you can. We left Cambridge at 8.30am and was by the river at 11am at Greenwich, which was pretty good going really.
  9.  Plan ahead with your route. For this trip I checked the tide times for central London. So I  knew with low tide at 3pm it would be possible to get right down to the water's edge in many places later on in the afternoon, and before it got dark.  I scoured the river for interesting painting spots using Google maps. (Give those Google people a medal!)
  10. Don't be overambitious with your programme. Allow for slippage. As you will know, when you are painting, an hour slips  by in what seems a moment. I had 12 distinct locations I wanted to get to on this trip. I made it to 4. Ah well.... there's a next time.
After a great day we met up at Giovanni's (great, very small, Italian just off St. Martin's Lane) where my daughter (who, to my surprise, was also there with my son in law) decided she would wield the camcorder, as you will see. Here's the video (don't forget to log in if you are a member):



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