The Shoreditch Sketcher, the alias of Phil Dean, has been taking East London by storm with his sketches of iconic locations, as well as tucked-away gems in the capital. Phil began sketching whilst studying at Leeds College of Art; both he and his art has migrated to London where he has illustrated some of the most famous attractions, such as St Paul’s Cathedral.
As the name suggests, the Shoreditch Sketcher is based in Shoreditch. He “loves the area and the vibrancy of the place and the diversity of the people” which inspire his work every day. Access London were lucky enough to catch up with Phil to discuss what influences him, his history with East London, and what he likes to do in the East End.
Why do you do what you do, and when did you start?
So I bought a brand-new Moleskine — heavier weight, off-white drawing paper of course, and crucially a size just over A5, large enough to capture a decent canvas but small enough to tuck into a bag. I bought some new pens to get me excited: Pentel fine line and heavy, fountain Pentel and Signpens, standard issue for designers.
Subject matter was the next consideration. Sketching is like a muscle that needs exercising to grow it, and then when fully pumped it needs plenty of reps to keep it up to scratch. So where am I constantly exposed to countless, interesting scenes? I frequent a lot of bars and restaurants, and they seemed like the perfect subjects. I’m there anyway, so why not sketch at the same time? In truth it’s not too obtrusive and is often a starting point for conversations.
It’s also great to sketch what I would have otherwise Instagrammed. My first few sketches were a bit clunky, but I was determined to just draw and create without worrying about the outcome. I have to get into a groove with it and not get too anxious. What I have found though is that my eye got better and better and each sketch is a reasonably faithful representation of the atmosphere of the bar or restaurant: calm, chilled, hectic, noisy, quiet, relaxed, full on. Of course no-one sits still or poses, so it brings huge challenges for me as faces were never my strong point, but either way I just draw.
I live and work in Shoreditch and spend my spare time exploring London. I love the history of the city – from East to West. I love museums and galleries and anything that gives me an insight into the city I live in today.
What do you do when you’re not sketching East London?
I’m MD of a Creative Agency called Certain. We’re a start-up and have been going for less than a year, and it’s been going amazingly well. London is the global hub for creativity and Shoreditch is at the heart of this hub, and I truly love being part of that.
What does 2016 hold for the Shoreditch Sketcher?
I’m planning to publish a series of limited edition prints of my sketches and also publish a book in collaboration with a local writer. I’ve earmarked an exhibition space to show some of my work as part of a book launch.
What is the favourite sketch you’ve ever done?
If my best ever sketch is measured by popularity on Instagram (which is a reasonable measure) then it’s a drawing I did of St Paul’s Cathedral last year. It’s a pretty tight drawing, so I can see why people like it. Some of my favourites are the super clean line versions, which remind me of why I started to draw.
Find the Shoreditch Sketcher: