It’s cold – it’s really cold, and the idea of standing around outdoors drawing isn’t doing anything for me. So it’s warm in comparison with Alaska, but you get the idea. And daylight is short. Winter can have the same effect on drawings as it does on lawns: it gets so darn cold and dark it’s hard for anything to grow with vigour.
Unlike lawns, I’m able to head indoors. Cafes often have those long, high tables running alongside the windows that are probably designed to squeeze more sitting customers in, but which are, more importantly, ideal to draw from. The seats are usually so hard and uncomfortable it’s impossible to relax too much or doze off, so you have to draw. There’s enough room to spread out with your sketchbook and skinny espresso macchiato fiordilatte on the rocks with a green salad and not feel overlooked.
The choice of what you get to draw is limited by these cafes’ locations, but there are so many of them around London that this isn’t such a major problem. Cafes usually come first: I haven’t seen so many closing in the teeth of the recession. Several years ago the Victoria and Albert Museum marketed itself as “an ace cafe with quite a nice museum attached”. Look at any National Trust property and the cafe is a prerequisite, regardless of the hundreds of years of history, intrigue and turmoil that the building may have been witness to. Cake is king.
Things have been improving with pubs too. The dingy old boozers with frosted glass and bands of drunken, smoking dockers creating enough fug to make even the view across the table difficult to make out have largely given way, at the expense of a lot of character, it must be said, for smoke-free wining and dining opportunities with clear glass to the world outside. The idea being that people, especially women, are more likely to enter a pub if they can see into it before reaching the door. Good news for the artist looking for shelter from the cold, bad news if he/she has any predilection for drink at which point drawing will go out of the window.
At this point it becomes a case of either how fast you work or how well your drawing stands up to high levels of alcohol or overpriced caffeine. Working indoors comes at a price.