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Jane Northcote: Urban Sketching Towers Project

Jane Northcote is an artist, whose latest sketching project is being exhibited at the Barbican Library this February. If you’re a fan of urban sketching, pop along to see great plein air ink drawings in the wonderful context of the architecture of the Barbican and central London.


Map of Location of Jane Northcote’s Sketched Towers

Where: Barbican Library Foyer, Level 2, Barbican Centre, London, EC2Y 8DD

When: 1st February 2019 to 27th February 2019, All day every day except Sunday.

For detailed opening times see the Barbican Library website.

Find out more about Jane Northcote’s exhibition on her website.



Urban Sketching Project: Towers Project

By Jane Northcote


Exhibition View

Starting in the Barbican, I set off with my sketchbook to identify nearby towers and tower blocks and discover their stories.

This exhibition shows the results. These are urban sketches, pen and wash, showing vistas discovered on walks through the streets and estates of Finsbury, Clerkenwell, and the City. Mostly I draw towers. I like to find a vista which shows several periods of history in one view: a Victorian Church, a 1960s tower block, and a 21st-century skyscraper.

Jane Northcote cheesegrater

Jane Northcote, Cheesegrater and St Katherine Cree, etching

As I’m drawing them, I find that the towers have character and individuality. Then I want to know more about them. Sometimes, when I am drawing, people come up and tell me about the locality. I learn about what was there before, or how it’s changed.

Jane Northcote, Lauderdale Tower and St Giles

Jane Northcote, Lauderdale Tower and St Giles

The exhibition includes some of these observations, together with maps of the locations. There are framed pictures, postcards, original watercolours, and etchings. Many of the etchings are presented in the form of greetings cards.

All the items are for sale.

Towers Project, Jane Northcote, chine collé, urban sketching

Towers Project, Jane Northcote, chine collé


Exhibition View of the Towers Project

Insight into Jane Northcote’s Urban Sketching Towers Project and Drawing Journal

11th January 2017 10.30am

Jane Northcote Whitecross Street and Coltash Court

Jane Northcote, Whitecross Street and Coltash Court

‘Coltash Court is the residential tower block in the centre of the picture. It’s 152 Whitecross Street, at the junction of Whitecross Street with Old Street. I can’t see when it was built – looks like 1960s. It’s labelled Homes for Islington”, with Islington Council branding as well. A one-bedroom flat in there is advertised for £415K, fully furnished”.

I drew and coloured this standing up at the junction with Errol Street, outside Waitrose. 9:30 to 10:30, so about an hour. I used the convenient tables in the covered section outside Waitrose to put my painting things. But I couldn’t draw from there as I couldn’t see up the street.’

26th June 2018, 4.20pm

Jane Northcote Grayson House, Pleydell Estate

Jane Northcote Grayson House, Pleydell Estate

‘1 hr 40 mins from the small park called Radnor Street Gardens.

Grayson House on the left, and Gambier House in the background.

Next to me, for the entire duration of the drawing two men played ping-pong. The children came out of school at 4pm, and wanted to use the ping-pong table. But the men said no.

Later note: I discover from the amazing Streets with a story, The book of Islington” by Eric A Willats FLA, that Grayson House (1961)” was ” named after Frederick George Grayson, a superintendent of Radnor Street Sunday Schools and Mission, formerly in Radnor Street.” Mr Willats’ book lists streets and some buildings in Islington, including as he says what has come to my notice up to the early summer of 1986.” It is in the Islington Museum.’

24th October 2018, 12.20pm

Jane Northcote Michael Cliffe House

Jane Northcote, Michael Cliffe House

‘Here is Michael Cliffe House, in the Finsbury Estate, from Tysoe Street.

The lower level block in the low centre of the picture is Joseph Trotter Close, also part of the Finsbury Estate.

While I was drawing the picture a man came and told me that he had seen the original architect’s drawing of this low level block. In the architect’s vision it was sleek and wonderful”. But the man said the reality was very different. The concrete had worn badly and the building had not succeeded, in his opinion.

Earlier a woman came when I was at the pen-and-ink stage. She said that her 11 year old grandson had started painting, which pleased her very much. She bought paints for him. I asked if she painted too. She said no, but she was inspired by her grandson and might now have a go herself. After all,” she said, ” he just paints anything, and I could do that too!”. I agreed.

‘The drawing took two hours. After I finished I went to have a look at Joseph Trotter Close. I saw a low-level set of bungalows, all very much inhabited, with children’s play things and outdoor chairs on the lawn. It may not be sleek, but it looked as though people enjoyed living there.

The entrance to Michael Cliffe House was cramped and congested, with cars manoeuvring awkwardly and a dark, obscured, entrance. Lovely typeface though.’

About Jane Northcote


Jane Northcote in the exhibition

Jane Northcote is an artist based in London, many of her works are of urban architecture in London. Her drawings are done with pen, ink and watercolour and she also creates prints using etched copper plates, woodcuts and cine collé. Many of her prints are A5 or smaller and her drawings and watercolours are mainly done in sketchbooks.


Exhibition View of the Towers Project

Top image is Jane Northcote, St Alphege

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