London Art Spot: Lis Watkins

The Great Croydon BakeOff-3392 photo for twitterPhoto by Nikolay Voronkov, @NVoronkov

Instead of using a camera, Lis explores London with a moleskine notebook and a pen. Sharing illustrations in a daily blog called Line and Wash she has created an ongoing storyboard of London life through this art form. Below, Lis talks about the day her blog became a reality, some of her favourite smells, sounds, tastes and textures in this city and a few tempting recommendations of food and drink that I’ll be adding to my long list of places to explore!

Awaiting delivery 1Awaiting delivery

LLO: If not London, where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here? Give us a brief history of your artistic background.
LW: Originally from Brighton on the South Coast, I came to London to go to art college and ended up staying for work. I started my blog, a kind of daily drawing diary, originally as a personal challenge to get myself drawing more, wanting to return to work as a full-time illustrator after a period focusing on family life.  I knew I needed to brush up my artistic skills and regular drawing seemed like a good idea.

crystal palace food market 1 colourCrystal Palace food market

LLO: You’ve been keeping your sketch blog, Line and Wash, for about two years now. Tell us a bit about the blog, why you decided to set it up, what we’ll find there and what you hope to accomplish with your site.
LW: The catalyst for making the blog a reality rather than a dream was a reunion with old art college friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon outside the Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank.  Stepping back in time and being with lots of creative people again reignited my appetite for drawing, so my online sketchbook, ‘Line and Wash’ was born.  One of the surprises of making the blog is the interest I’ve had from other people and I’ve been bowled over by all the comments I’ve received.

Olympic rings at St PancrasOlympic rings at St Pancras

LLO: How often do you sketch? Is it a hobby or a full time pursuit?
LW: It really depends on how much illustration work I have on but I usually manage something every day. I see life now as a series of drawing opportunities!

shelf stacking at Alexandra NurseriesShelf stacking at Alexandra Nurseries

LLO: Give us a short introduction to your technique, the materials you prefer to work with and your method of approach to an idea.
LW: I carry a small sketchbook and fine liner pen around with me all the time in case I see a good subject to draw. Using a pen focuses my mind as to what marks to make. I also have a large Moleskine watercolour sketchbook and a set of pocket watercolours for larger drawings.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with using water soluble pencils and a water brush as it’s easier to use these when there’s nowhere to sit.

Skateboarding at the south bankSkateboarding at the south bank

LLO: You’re heading out the door with your sketchbook. Do you usually have a set destination and subject in mind or do you prefer to wander? If the latter, how you you decide when you stop and sketch?
LW: Most of my sketches are of everyday life in my part of Southeast London and Croydon – travelling on public transport, shopping, family life, what’s happening in the back garden – but I do try to go out at least every couple of weeks to sketch special events or buildings in London.  It doesn’t always work out as planned though – I went to draw in Soho at the time of the Chinese New Year, but couldn’t find anywhere to perch to make a drawing but then stumbled upon the preparations for the BAFTAs outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

getting ready for the BAFTASGetting ready for the BAFTAs

LLO: As an artist you’re obviously inspired visually by London, but what is it about the city that most appeals to you in each of the following categories:
As well as sketching in London I’ve also sketched in Paris but when funds don’t allow for that, it’s always nice to go and draw at St. Pancras station, watching all the travellers and listening to the French announcements on the tannoy and pretend I could be waiting for the next Eurostar!

Smell: A visit to Kew Gardens is always a great treat for all the senses, with all its fabulous fragrant plants and flowers.

Touch: I spent several weekends sketching the Sydenham Arts Festival, where it was great to visit lots of places on the Artists Trail, getting the chance to see and touch lots of beautiful hand crafted pieces of jewellery and ceramics.

Taste: The Crystal Palace Food Market is a great place to shop with lots of interesting stalls selling tasty fresh food and also Alexandra Nurseries in Penge is a gem of a garden centre with a café serving delicious tea and cake in vintage china.

Sydenham Community LibrarySydenham Community Library

LLO: Which image, project or moment of your artistic career are you most proud of so far and why?
LW: I was one of the many people hanging around St. Mary’s Hospital when the Duchess of Cambridge was due to give birth in July. It was a great thrill when one of my sketches from the day was used by Urban Sketchers founder Gabriel Campanario on his ‘The Week in Sketches’ website.  As well as posting on the blog, I ‘tweet’ my drawings daily and had a great moment when the author of ‘The Little Paris Kitchen,’ Rachel Khoo, saw some sketches I had made while queuing at one of her book signings and gave me a big plug by sharing them on her Facebook page.

the queue for KhooThe queue for Khoo

LLO: What are you working on now? Any big projects or shows coming up? Any news to share?
LW: I’m going to be exhibiting with ‘SE20 Art’ at their 8th Annual Exhibition at the end of this month,  and am hoping to set up an online shop selling prints of my sketchbook drawings as well as having a stall with some other local artists in Penge Market in September.

tools of the tradeTools of the trade

LLO: Give us your best London food and drink recommendations.
LW: There’s a lovely little café and chocolate shop called ‘Mélange’ at 184 Bellenden Road, Peckham and great ice cream at Chin Chin Labs at Camden Market, 49 – 50 Camden Lock Place.

Tower BridgeTower Bridge

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
LW: One of the things about doing my blog is that I’m always discovering bits of London I’ve never visited before and it was only a few weeks ago that I finally got to the beautiful area of Little Venice.  Sketching has made me look at London afresh and  I’ve fallen back in love with the place and I feel as enthusiastic as I did when I got my first A-Z many years ago.

Thanks Lis!

Find Lis on Twitter and Line and Wash.

One comment on “London Art Spot: Lis Watkins

  1. Brilliant. I spent my life in SE 20. My wife was born in SE 20. We met in Frank and Peggy Spencers’ ball room in SE20 on 1.4.61. Got married in SE 20. I look forward to seeing you at the Beckenham Business Association meeting on 3rd December. I have yet to buy my wife a Christmas present.

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