Category Archives: York

sketching York Minster – fast and slow

We stayed in the wonderful city of York for 5 nights. During this time, we walked passed by York Minster everyday and explored the interior twice. This blog is a collection of the sketches of this magnificent cathedral. They range from 10 minute to 2 hour sketches.  Some were planned sketching sessions and others were unplanned, taking opportunities as they presented themselves.


a very quick 10 minute sketch with my Lamy Safari Joy ink pen

This was an unplanned 10 minute sketch on the way to our day tour pick up spot. I was unsure of the time I would have and just started at the top and just started getting crazy lines down on paper. I could see the tour group gathering, so finished up. It is not really recognizable as York Minster, but for me, it captures the moment. As I scan the pages and write my blog I am immediately transported back to that time and place


This was sketched on an excellent tour of York Minster. There is so much history and the guides are so very knowledgeable and love to share that knowledge. He thought that I was taking notes.


The arrow is pointing to me (the little black splodge) sketching outside York Minster on our last morning. Our suitcases are next to me.


And this is what was sketching with my watercolour pencils in that time. This was planned as we had checked out of our lovely Palm Court B&B and had time before our booked train to London.


There are some beautifully carved monuments, sculptures and tombs throughout the Minster. Some were on the ground or at eyelevel and there were some magnificent marble medieval tombs. I was tempted to draw them for the purity of line and the wonderful marble folds of dress and gowns. However I decided on the tomb of a significant person in the history of York Minster – the founder of the Minster as it is today. I am glad that I wrote down on the page how long each sketch took, as I would have no idea if you asked me now.

After our first visit and tour of York Minster I knew that I wanted to return. I wanted to draw more, but when we returned I was not sure where to begin. There were so many beautiful architectural features. York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe The present building was begun in about 1230 and completed in 1472. The stone used for the building is magnesian limestone, a beautiful creamy-white coloured rock. So different after the red brick of Manchester.

I decided to take a deep breath and put some of the techniques I learnt in Stephanie Bowers “Soaring Spaces” Urban Sketching Workshop at Urban Sketching Symposium the week before.

I spent two hours on this sketch and am really pleased with the result. I don’t think that I could have added any more .  It was a peaceful time, as the tourists walked around me. No one stopped and talked. I could quietly sketch in the serene surroundings and beautiful inspirational space.


York – sketching my arrival

After this weeks reviews of my Manchester Urban Sketching Symposium experiences, I am now returning to my travel holiday sketchbooks. I shall whisk you onward to York today. We spent 6 days in York and I completed 45 pages of sketches. Like all cities/towns, York is very visual , but also has so much visual (and therefore sketchable) history from Roman, Medieval, Georgian and Victorian times.


The first sketch was on a very crowded train from Manchester to York, looking out the window. When we were well into the countryside and when I sketched this there was a consistency of the view. So what I sketched on the page was a compilation of the view in the distance (which remained the same for a while) and a typical view of a changing mid-distance, then some coloured flowers out the window.

Today’s post is setting the scene in York. They are drawings done over time in our hotel room. The urban sketching of the city comes later….


I changed sketchbooks mid-York and wanted to continue the narrative in Sketchbook Two, so I sketched the page above . It was fascinating to find out that “York” is derived (potentially) from yew. I love the yew tree and the myths and history that surround it. It is a very English tree to me.

31july2016-palm-court-york 31july2016-palm-court-view-york


As I mentioned in my Manchester blog, I usually draw my hotel and this was no exception for Palm Court  This lovely eight room family run Victorian townhouse is a B&B and our comfortable home for the week. Palm Court was only 5 minutes walk from York City walls – we walked through the early 14th century Monk Bar each day, and every time I was in awe of the history surrounding me.



Across the road from our B&B was the River Foss and a small park. It was not a particularly pretty park, but it did have a large flock of Canada Geese and a family of swans. I had collected some feathers earlier in the week, but It was not until the last day that I had time to sketch them .


I sketched five of my breakfasts in York – sometimes just the toast. On the final morning I had some of the FULL English breakfast. My special customised watercolour pencil wrap, it sits neatly on the breakfast table. Sometimes the times that you stop for food are opportunities where you have control over the time and space and view. I may appear that I draw food a lot, but this is actually because these are the opportunities that are there.  I also talk and sketch at the same time, so can interact with people.  Mum and I would plan some of our day over breakfast or be checking the map to see how to get to our first place to start the day.

Next weekend I will blog about sketching in York. I really enjoyed my time there and would return to do it all again tomorrow.

Return from UK holiday – catching up

I have just returned from 3 weeks holiday in England, which involved a lot of sketching. Slighty jet-legged, I am sorting out, catching up, reliving wonderful holiday memories and planning ahead. The sketches on this page are a few that I have scanned today.

27Jul2016 Manchester Town Hall rooftop

I travelled to Manchester for the Urban Sketching Symposium and then to York and then to London.27Jul2016 Symposium opening event

The holiday was wonderful and very special. I was overwhelmed with the history that surrounded me and the architecture of these three cities. I travelled with my very very patient mother, who understood and accommodated my sketching as we travelled – it is so easy to get distracted and ‘need’ to sketch something as you pass by it.

1Aug2016 York The Shambles

1Aug2016 York Micklegate Bar

I filled almost three sketchbooks (Moleskine 13 x 19 cm) with travel sketches in those three weeks. I now have the long task of scanning them. But before I can do that, many of the pages need to be ‘finished’ . This usually involves adding the date, heading, transcribing my scribbled pencil notes into the page in pen. Sometimes I want to find out more information about the place I have sketched and look online for details. I usually don’t add anymore to the sketch that I did on location, unless it is to add a bit more colour, or intensity to some areas.

5Aug2016 London Russell Square 5Aug2016 London Trafalgar Square



Once scanned, I will add them all into an Album on my flickr site, and a few on this blog.

Many people have been sharing their sketches and summaries and videos of their Symposium experiences on facebook and their blogs. I am looking forward to spending time looking through these one day.

I had decided not to blog, scan or try and keep up with any social media while I was away. I wanted to spend my time experiencing the sights, meeting people and sketching. However I did end up posting one drawing a day to Instagram. I am alissaduke1 if you want to see them. I also shared these to my facebook page Alissa Duke Art.