Stik in E8

Since everyone adores Stik, here’s another bit of work featuring our favourite androgynous street character. Alex Ellison captured Stik having a little mid-Winter snooze in Eastern Curve Garden, Dalston Lane, London E8.

Stik

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London Art Spot: Martin Hoare

Some people love to capture London on film, others in photographs, a few just in memory. Welsh illustrator Martin Hoare takes his sketch book out to the streets. Later, some of these sketches are transformed into more elaborate drawings or paintings. For a while, his pens & pencils sat in a drawer while he concentrated on his day job as a graphic designer, but now he’s set up a blog to revive them. It’s called Martin’s Doodles. If you enjoy his unique catalogue of London life below, pop over and have a look.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Martin tells us a story of frustration as a prospective art student, talks through the process of creating a new piece of work and about the satisfaction he’s recently discovered in a completely unrelated hobby that fills his spare time.

Piccadilly Line

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
MH:
London is an amazing place to live and work. I’ve lived here now for 12 years and there are still always new places to discover. I love the way that each area has its own unique feel, the way you can travel just a short distance and feel like you’ve gone somewhere completely different. It’s always been drawing people and the way the people of London interact with each other and the urban environment. That’s what really interests me. Someone once said: “There’s 8 million stories all playing out at the same time.”  That’s what I’m trying to capture.

Green Park

LLO: Graphic designer by trade, and here you are with a blog full of “doodles”, of sketches and drawings. What’s your artistic background?
MH:
I have always been a compulsive drawer. As a kid, I don’t think I was happy unless I had a pencil and a stack of paper. I left school at sixteen and took a training scheme at the local Ford Motor plant. I think it soon became apparent that I had no interest in producing axles and, fair dues to them, they set me up with an interview at the local art college. But without formal qualifications, they weren’t interested in taking me on, and at the end of the interview they showed me a perfectly airbrushed illustration of a motorbike and told me not to come back until I could produce work of that standard. This really discouraged me from perusing any kind of career in art. It wasn’t until years later that I found out the illustration was from a student’s final degree show.

I did a fanzine for a bit around this time, designed a few record sleeves, t-shirts and gig posters for local bands. Then when the need to get a proper job came along, I became a painter and decorator. So I was working as a painter, but just the wrong type. I still kept on drawing but didn’t think of doing anything with it until I started taking a life drawing class. There were a lot of art students there from the college that had turned me down a few years back and I was surprised to find that I was drawing at a better level than practically all of them. So I thought, what the hell, gave up my job and started a foundation course. I intended to go on to study fine art or illustration, but having discovered the wonders of what could be done on a Mac, did a degree in Graphic Design and have been sitting in front of a screen ever since. The down-side of this being that for a long time I put down my pencils and brushes and it has taken me quite a while to pick them back up again.

Brewer Street

LLO: Where did the initiative to start “Martin’s Doodles” come from and what do you hope to achieve by keeping the blog?
MH:
I had drawings all over the place, in numerous sketchbooks, on bits of paper, and it was hard to keep track of everything. I really needed to get everything scanned in, just to pull everything together. So the main reasons for setting up the blog were getting organised, getting my work out there and moving it forward. After all, what’s the point of producing a load of artwork if it’s just going to sit in a drawer in the spare room?

LLO: Best place in London to shop for art supplies?
MH:
Cass Art in Islington. I spend a lot more there than I need to, I have a thing for buying new sketch books, whether I need a new one or not. I also visit the London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden quite a bit.

North Lanes

LLO: Favourite place in London to sit with a sketch pad?
MH:
Probably somewhere on the South Bank, especially when the sun is out. There’s usually a chilled atmosphere and noone is in a rush to get anywhere, which is helpful when sketching.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of so far and why?
MH:
It’s usually what I’ve just finished or am working on at that time. I’ve just finished a painting ‘Leaving Las Vegas’, which is Soho street scene. The thing that started me off on this image was the signage, which I just had to work into a painting. And being Soho it just had to be a night scene.

Leaving Las Vegas

LLO: Describe the process of how your artwork comes to life from the moment you conceive an idea to the finished product.
MH:
I’ll spend a lot of time wandering around just looking for somewhere that will work as a drawing or painting. I’ve basically always got an eye on the next piece of work. Once I’ve chosen a location I’ll do a few rough sketches and take as many pictures as I can. I’ll then put all these together in Photoshop, and usually work up a composite image, putting all the elements together. Print this out and make a rough pencil drawing sketch placing all the main elements on the page. Once that’s done I’ll start working up the drawing, with either a fine liner, or ink and pen. Once I’m happy the drawing is done, I’ll either add shading with marker pens, or I might scan the drawing and colour it in Photoshop.

The next stage is to determine which drawings may have the potential to be worked up as paintings. The whole painting process is a lot more involved and time consuming. Unlike drawing where the work can be finished in one sitting, a painting can be very much a stop-start affair, gradually taking shape, depending on the free time I have available. But it’s really rewarding when you finish with something that you’re pleased with.

Oceanic Leather Wear

LLO: What do you get up to when you’re not drawing/doodling/sketching/painting?
MH:
Aside from work which takes up a large part of my time, I have recently started gardening. For the first time since moving to London I have a garden, and have really gotten into growing my own vegetables; there’s something really pleasing about eating food you’ve grown yourself. I tend to go to a lot of galleries. One of the great things about London is that there is just so much art going on; wherever I happen to be, I can usually take a bit of time to check out whatever galleries are around. Being Welsh, I also often end up in the pub watching a bit of rugby.

LLO: Is there a place in the capital you’d love to sit for a day with a sketch pad but haven’t had the chance yet?
MH: Actually having the luxury of a day to sit sketching is not something I’m used to. Maybe it’s being a Graphic Designer, where everything is driven by deadlines, but there never seems to be enough time to fit everything in. I’ve never done any drawings on the tube; maybe I could sit on the Circle Line going round and round drawing people. Perhaps I should try that.

Smoking Man

LLO: Any impressive up-and-coming London-based artists we should keep our eyes on?
MH:
Print Club in Dalston (www.printclublondon.com), has some really good illustrators and artists. I like a lot of the work they produce.

Sundae, Sundae

Thanks Martin! 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Abbey Stirling

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers.

Abbey Stirling, 32

Abbey is a freelance arts and entertainment journalist living and working in London and Ibiza. She is the editor of webzine The London Word.com, and dabbles in feline frolics and fancy dress.

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
AS:
Twelve years almost to the day. I moved here from Australia (where I lived after leaving my native New Zealand) in the spring of ’98.

LLO: Tell us a bit about The London Word, what it’s all about and how it started.
AS:
Like many great things it all began at the pub. A mate and I were letting off some steam over a pint back in 2007. We were both working for an American website at the time, and our contrasting cultures and clashing views with the US office caused no-end of conflict. So, feeling disheartened by our jobs and believing London was misrepresented, we branched off on our own, taking with us everything we’d learnt from that experience.

Now, three years later, we have a team of about 30 contributors who publish articles on a daily basis. Readers can absorb daily postings on culture, food, drink, fashion, shopping, health and wellbeing. We interview a variety of colourful Londoners, from DJs, actors and musicians to tattooists, chefs and sportsmen.

But what I find the most rewarding is when readers voice their views, either via our Speakers’ Corner section or by commenting on each other’s posts. It’s heartening that people make an effort to get some online banter and debate going on our little site. It shows they’re passionate and they care.

LLO: What sets it apart from other London sites?
AS:
We never try to compete with other London sites like Time Out, although we’re certainly inspired by them. I think what sets us apart is that we provide a platform for ordinary Londoners to articulate their opinions, good or bad. We’re not a listings site, we’re an editorial-focused webzine where Londoners can express their experiences, whether it’s a nasty trip on the tube, or an amazing gig or restaurant they’ve been to. We encourage everyone to make themselves heard – in a colourful and eloquent fashion!

LLO: What’s the most unique London discovery you’ve made since the site started in 2007?
AS:
Personally, after interviewing Cryptozoologist Neil Arnold, I’ve discovered some things about Highgate Cemetery that have both deterred and intrigued me.

LLO: Which Londoner would you most love to interview on the site and why?
AS:
David Bowie would be my dream interviewee. He’s a London boy at heart and I’d just like to be in the same room as him. I think that’s a good enough reason!

LLO: What’s the best thing about living in your postcode?
AS:
I can walk pretty much everywhere from N1. All of the places I like to go – Camden, Shoreditch, Dalston, Stoke Newington and the West End, are all within walking distance. Sometimes I walk along the canal to Camden, which is really therapeutic. And most of my friends live in the vicinity, which is a bonus.

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you send me to eat and drink?
AS:
Mildreds, on Lexington Street in Soho, is my favourite place to eat in London. It’s vegetarian, which has put off a few of my carnivore friends, but they’re literally eating their words after the first course.

LLO: Is there somewhere in London you’d like to explore but haven’t had a chance yet?
AS:
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons.

LLO: Favourite place or activity to pass a summer evening in the capital?
AS:
Atop Primrose Hill with friends and wine.

LLO: Describe your perfect day in London.
AS:
A market, any market. London’s markets are so vibrant and chaotic but relaxing at the same time. I love going to Borough Market and then popping over to the South Bank for a stroll. Going to Columbia Road market on a sunny day is London at its best.

Thanks Abbey!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Emli Bendixen

This year started off well for Emli Bendixen as she was short-listed for Professional Photographer of the Year Award 2009. With a long list of clients like Wonderland, Vice and Dazed and Confused and a fascinating portfolio of images, this North London-based photographer – who was born in South Korea and grew up in Denmark – has the passion and vision to go far in her career.

For this week’s London Art Spot, she tells us about her approach to photography on a recent trip to India, where we can find a taste of Korean and Danish food in London and about some of the capital’s interesting locations to take a camera.

LLO: How did you end up in London and how long have you lived here?
EB: 
I first moved to London aged 19 after finishing school in Denmark. Being from a small town, I couldn’t wait to move to the city. I later went off to Glasgow and then to Copenhagen for university before returning to London where I have been ever since. I’ve lived in Shepherds Bush, Kennington, Old Street, Dalston, Stoke Newington and now Crouch End.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
EB:
 First and foremost it gives me access to some really exciting people. I’m curious and inquisitive by nature – and I can think of few places better than London to keep you stimulated and with so much to look at.

LLO: You’re from a Korean/Danish background. Where’s the best place in London to find a taste of Korean or Danish culture?
EB:
To be honest, I haven’t looked into either much. I’m here to check out all the other bits of culture that are different to mine… Although not entirely Danish, I do love the food at Elk in the Woods in Angel; and the Scandinavian bakery in Golden Square. For Korean food there are a couple of excellent places just next to Centre Point – and I really like Dong San in Poland Street.

LLO: Twitter tells me you went to India over Christmas and Flickr shows you brought back some great photos. Tell us a bit about your trip and the photos you took while you were there?
EB:
I went to Kerala in the South. It was an incredible experience. I was very aware of being a tourist, with a Western background, with a camera. I noticed that this role in relation to the people I photographed tinted my photographs with something not quite real – at best something very self-conscious, so I decided to break this process and instead forced myself to focus more on general impressions, the little and the big things… the view from our homestay in Periyar, our taxi driver from Munnar, and the dog that followed us down the beach in Varkala…The result is more personal – I suppose much like a diary – in that I spoke to almost everyone I photographed and walked the same mountains you see in my pictures. The food photography was part of a separate food diary, which my girlfriend was writing.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of and why?
EB:
A portrait called Harmony.

LLO: Favourite place in London to take your camera?
EB:
The city is full of exciting locations – I’ve shot in pubs, clubs, warehouses, studios and council flats; next week I’m shooting in a friend’s house in Finsbury Park that’s in the middle of being renovated. Although I mainly shoot indoors at the moment, I love Hampstead Heath and Abney Park in Stoke Newington. 

LLO: Your largest set on Flickr is called “Faces”. What do you try to capture when you’re shooting a portrait and where do you find your models?
EB:
More often than not, I ask people I know to sit for me. What is most interesting for me in taking a picture is capturing some part of that person which may not usually be on display; so it’s about going beyond what immediately meets the eye. Again, it’s about curiosity… I just want to know a little bit more than I did the moment before that picture was taken.

LLO: What type of camera and lens do you use?
EB:
I normally use a Canon 450D and recently a Canon 1DS Mark III; also a Diana F+, a Holga, and a Minolta XD7.

LLO: Your client list already includes Dazed and Confused, Vice and Professional Photographer Magazine. Who is your dream client and why?
EB:
I would love to work for The Guardian and The Times; Monocle and Intelligent Life are also high on my list. I’m also keen to shoot more music photography – I’ve done press shots for bands such as Robots in Disguise for a couple of years which has been a great challenge and definitely something I want to get more into. I suppose generally I would be happy shooting portraits and lifestyle images that allow for a personal and aesthetic approach.

Thanks Emli!

For more of Emli’s work, check out her website: www.emli.dk/photography.html

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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Listen to a Londoner: Sasha

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview post with people who live (or have lived for a while) in London. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers. 

“Sasha”, early 30s

“Sasha” is in her early thirties and writes The Happiness Project London anonymously.  The HPL encourages Londoners to live their lives by a set of rules shown to improve happiness; including being active, connecting with family and friends, doing charitable acts and learning new things. 

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
Sasha:
About seven years with a brief sojourn to Prague in the middle.

LLO: Tell us a bit about The Happiness Project London.
Sasha: 
It started out as a “make the most of London” blog to inspire myself and my friends to try new restaurants, exhibitions, gigs.  I love giving recommendations and finding new things to do, so it allows me to express my interests and enthusiasm, and put all my suggestions in one place.  However, the thing most Londoners lack is free time so I try not to overload people with what’s on.  Even visiting a new restaurant or pub once a month would fit into the HPL rules.  Oh and I try not to blog about places I don’t like and only focus on the positive.  

The blog developed when I went to Turkey during Ramadan and spoke to a man who told me how fasting had made him feel closer to his family and friends, and charitable towards those who were hungry.  Even though it was hard, he felt happier for doing it.  I thought about London, and how we live a rather selfish life, and decided to add a charitable element to my blog – doing things for others to feel truly happy.  So, it became The Happiness Project London.

LLO: Have you found a place in London – other than your home – that always makes you happy?
Sasha:
The view from Waterloo bridge at any time of the day or night.  I try to stop there, take it all in, and have a “London moment”. 

LLO: You’re also a budding photographer. Share a photo with us?
Sasha:
My problem is I don’t take enough time over photos which is why they are all blurry.  But anyway here’s one of a bus thundering past outside Liverpool Street and my beloved but underplayed trombone.

LLO: One of your Happiness Project rules is to keep active. Do you have a favourite gym or park for workouts?
Sasha:
I hate the cold, so in winter, I either go to the gym, do yoga or play hockey in Battersea Park.  In summer, London’s best asset is its many parks – I love playing tennis in Brockwell Park with its views over the City, or cycling to somewhere like Richmond Park.  I have an old-fashioned ladies bike with wicker basket, which makes me sit up tall and take in the sights.

LLO: In another rule, you recommend taking classes or attending talks or exhibitions. Have you found any unique classes worth taking or know of any upcoming talks or exhibitions you could recommend?
Sasha: 
City Lit has great and cheap classes – everything from jewellery-making to history of art.  I’d like to do an arts and crafts course because I’m fidgety and it would occupy my mind better than TV. 

Otherwise, the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy is definitely worth visiting; the British Museum has some great free events and I’m hoping to watch some Mexican guitar there this month; and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum is always great – especially late night Fridays where you can drink wine under the dinosaur skeleton afterwards.

LLO: Are you still on a quest for the perfect burger in London? What’s the best you’ve found so far?
Sasha:
Hell yes.  I love burgers; have to have at least one a month.  I’ve tried about four or five since the quest started, mostly in pubs and once at McDos, but have not found anything great enough to write about yet.  My list of places to try is huge thanks to comments from people visiting the blog, worrying as I’ve put on half a stone since writing about food.  I’ve heard a lot about Byron and I’d also love to try a posh burger at the American Bar in the Stafford hotel in Mayfair.

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you tell me to eat dinner and then go for drinks?
Sasha: 
Great Queen Street or the Anchor & Hope serve wonderfully simple hearty British food like pheasant, duck or beef – it’s what I imagine people eating during a hunting weekend in the 19th century.  Or if you want to see London’s upmarket cooking at its best, I’d direct you to Chez Bruce, a Galvin restaurant, Pied A Terre or the Wolseley. 

Although I’m partial to the odd martini, my favourite places to drink are comfy old men’s pubs, so I’d suggest you try something like the Prince Regent in Herne Hill, the French House in Soho, or The Scolt Head in Dalston.

LLO: Will you share three of your favourite London blogs or websites?
Sasha:
The London Foodie (http://www.thelondonfoodie.co.uk/) has a wonderfully positive attitude to life and food and is a great supporter of my blog.  Urban Junkies and Le Cool are great for suggesting exciting things to try (although my main problem is finding free time in my diary). 

LLO: Describe a perfect day in London
Sasha: 
It’s a summer Sunday, about 30 degrees.  I start with coffee at Opus on Acre Lane or at Rosie’s in Brixton market.  I text my friends, none of whom are busy.  We arrange to meet at Brockwell Park or Clapham Common, someone brings a Frisbee and another a big blanket.  We sit and drink ciders and chat until later on when we go to a nice old man’s pub with a beer garden to eat burgers, chips and coleslaw – The Landor or The Coach and Horses.  Finally, we watch some live music – perhaps at The Windmill in Brixton or Cargo in Shoreditch. 

Thanks Sasha!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.