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Sketch Crawl

Yesterday was the first British SCBWI Sketch Crawl event in London.

A group of ardent children’s book scribblers descended on the Natural History Museum, and later moved on to the Victoria & Albert Museum. A report will be on the SCBWI Illustrator’s blog shortly, but here are all the drawings I came up with.

sketching materials

As the organiser I was prepared for people turning up without drawing equipment, so I lugged a lot more materials than I would normally have needed. Here’s what I carried for my own use.

Loaded with tools of the trade I set off during the rush hour on a cold but sunny morning, warming-up with a couple of sketches of tube commuters. Standing room only! These and several other drawings were made with a Pilot Hi-Tec C 0.4 pen, a very handy fine point nib, though not completely water proof. I use it for most of my pocket sketching in black and white, but it tends to bleed a little when wetted, especially when freshly applied, so I largely avoid colour work with it. 

Buildings on Cromwell Road, French & UN flags

While I waited for others to arrive there was time outside the Museum to try out some new ink and a different pen on the buildings across the road – Noodlers ink from the US is waterproof and supposed to be usable in ordinary fountain pens. However I found the flow to pen-nib a little too slow, and by the end of the afternoon the fountain pen nib had clogged up completely.

The event was publicised outside of SCBWI and was open to anyone to join in, not just our members. However as it turned out only members turned up on the day. And so, having assembled the company, we “officially” began the sketch crawl and dispersed within the Natural History Museum. I was particularly interested in the relationship between the exhibits, the visitors and the architecture of the building, so first up was a pencil panorama.

Giant Ground Sloth

The small child on the left was frightened of the giant sloth and had to be whisked off to less intimidating areas by his parents. But not before I’d grabbed the moment on paper. As an illustrator I’m always looking for a visual story!


The birds, the birds! Time to get out the watercolours. 

Griffon Vulture

… and gigantic plastic scorpions. Battling for Survival read the caption. The scorpion? Or the people it loomed over?

Battling for Survival


In the mammals section was this incredible creature, a full scale model of an extinct Moeritherium, one of the earliest known relatives of the elephant. How could I not draw this. Fantastic!

European Bison

Distant Relatives

The Natural History Museum is a very funny place. Visual humour is everywhere, incongruous juxtapositions between what lies on either side of the glass displays. This girl made me smile, she stood for a good few minutes blandly staring into the gaping jaws of the bear while jabbering away on her phone. Distant relations, connected by the moment!

Cafe people

And so to lunch in South Kensington, where I grabbed these two on adjoining tables.

In the afternoon we then headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. rather than rush into the galleries I was mightily impressed by the shadows and subtle lighting of the entrance hall.

Entrance, Victoria & Albert Museum

I planted myself on a bench and switched materials to a Gillot 303, dip pen and bottle of ink, with a splash of watercolour to finish. My trusty companions!


gilt statue

Again seeking the visitor/exhibit contrast, I finished off our visit hanging out in the sculpture department, looking for more “stories” to record.

But at the end time ran out…

statue gazing

Finally  the event was over. Flushed with the euphoria of creative energy, the participants got together at the end and shared our collective productivity.

Some of the attendees. L to R: Sue Eves, Amber Hsu, Anne-Marie Perks, Claire Tovey, and yours truely.

Evening rush hour and I’m on the train home, but still scribbling!

evening rush-hour on the Circle Line

Almost home

Phew! 18 sketches in a day, busy work.  It was a very satisfying event which we certainly plan to repeat. If any readers are interested in participating let me know, anyone can join in, you don’t need to be an SCBWI member, or a professional artist.

The idea for Sketch Crawls was started in the US a few years ago by Enrico Casarosa and soon spread over the world. For SCBWI I’ve kept the London version a separate event, however more information on the original concept is on the Sketchcrawl website.

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