We discover some of the best places for budding artists to capture Islington life – or simply soak up the surroundings and enjoy the view.
Suppose you possessed an easy-to-carry painter’s easel, where would you place it to capture the best views around Islington? Chances are that the best spots for artists and photographers are also inspiring places to watch the world go by.
Watch the Seasons
Artists with an architectural flair love winter tree silhouettes. January and February may seem bleak, but up close the bare branches are beginning to form buds and you may soon see catkins. Try really looking at something in nature every day and you’ll soon be rewarded. If it helps, either take a photo or do a sketch – or imagine that you are. What colours will you need to capture this? What will best frame lichen-dusted bark or that frosted leaf? A good place to get nature-watching are in the gardens surrounding St Mary Magdalene Church, Holloway Road, as they are just by the bus stop and have plenty of benches. Cafes abound or pop over the road to Central Library to use the toilet, warm up and take a book home. Prefer being near water? Then try taking a daily stroll by Regent’s Canal near Angel.
Leave Your Art Behind
Nature artist Andy Goldsworthy arranges leaves, stones and all sorts of natural objects to create impermanent masterpieces. Visit your nearest green space and have a go at making a circle of twigs or leaves. It’s incredibly absorbing and because you have to leave it behind, a lovely surprise art work for someone else to discover.
Act like a history detective by finding a bench (your ‘sit spot’) on Islington Green and imagining the life of the ruff-wearing statue looking towards Angel tube. This is Hugh Myddleton, whose legacy is the New River, a canal that brings water from Hertfordshire to London (now also an enjoyable nature trail starting behind Sadler’s Wells). Or be a more modern detective when the Business Design Centre hosts a show. Can you work out who lives in Islington and who is visiting? A simple way to make a sketch of winter-coat wearing Islingtonians is to use watercolour. Paint a dot above a carrot shape and then add a shadow line, just like best-selling Scottish artist Jack Vettriano.
Join the RSPB Big Bird Watch
From 27-29 January 2018 the nation will be recording feathery visitors to their gardens and green spaces. Get ready by watching the birds so you know you can identify a sparrow, starling, blackbird, blue tit, etc. You could even create a bird feeding table and put out seeds and fat balls for the birds, which will also give you hours of bird-watching contemplation.
SOAKING UP WINTER SUNSHINE
Approximately two minutes’ walk from Arsenal tube you’ll find Gillespie Park, which is a lovely place to potter. Or take a seat on the wooden bench overlooking the pond. There are mini woodlands where you might see a noisy and colourful jay or even find a cheeky robin following you. Warm up at the Islington Ecology Centre (which has toilet facilities) and then walk up the hill towards the wind turbine to watch the trains speeding between King’s Cross and Scotland.
Head to the Park
Highbury Fields, close to the Balbec Road junction, can be a wonderful place to people watch. In the week it’s all about dog walkers, so relive your childhood and play ‘Spot the Dog’ or imagine which dog you’d most like to take home. Every Saturday at 9am, a gang of keen Park Run runners speed 5km round the perimeter, against the clock. Later there will be plenty of activity as kids are escorted to the playing fields. At dusk you may be rewarded by a spectacular sunset that sets the fields on fire, creating long shadows and spiky silhouettes that call out to be captured on canvas or through the lens of a camera. If you’ve been painting successfully you could take your masterpiece to the Frame Factory (open Tues-Sat) which recently moved from Cross Street to 3 Highbury Crescent, just opposite Highbury Pool.