It’s About Time To Begin

Big Ben Watercolor Illustration

For Day 20 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “Buildings,” I opted for a little scribbled sketch of Big Ben, the nickname for the Great Bell and clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. I’ve sketched other famous landmarks along the way, but had yet to make a sketch of this one so I figured I’d give it a go. I’ve only ever been to London once in my life, but it was a wonderful trip and I hope to return one day. Being a big kid, I had just finished the first Harry Potter book shortly after it came out and thought it was rather cool that my hotel was close to King Cross station. Though I did search for Platform 9 3/4 as mentioned in the book, it didn’t exist that trip because the books had yet to gain quite the level of notoriety to make it a tourist destination. Though I also had to visit Paddington Station in honor of my favorite actual childhood character, Paddington Bear, who is named after the station, having been discovered there by a lovely family. Yes, in all of my childish tourism, I did indeed view Big Ben in person. Who would ever miss a perfect opportunity to visit the clock from Peter Pan, after all? Yeah, I’m realizing now my London trip had a bit of a recurrent theme in the end.

Yet, that trip to London was made extra fabulous by all of the magical stories that had happened there. Well, happened inside the of books and my own imagination, at least. And a story well told always feels a bit like you’re living in it, no matter how impossible the plot. I was also a fan of the books Bed-knob and Broomstick and, of course, Mary Poppins, the latter written before my mother was even born. All of these I’ve mentioned were made into movies, but I still prefer the stories from the books most. While I always love book illustrations, it was wonderful to draw the missing pictures in my mind. The moments that occurred in those beats in between, where the illustrator had not chosen that particular event to create a depiction. I would draw those missing moments in my mind and it made reading the story so much more interesting and fun. And last, but never least, I loved the books and art of Beatrix Potter, born in Kensington, London. So I have a very found love of England and all of the magical childhood memories that authors writing there have inspired in me.

More than a whimsical memory, I often reread books from my childhood. It’s a wonderful way to reconnect with my inner child and more importantly, that sense of pure wonder that can help me in my art. How does it help? Well, this doodlewash does rather look like Big Ben, but it’s entirely scribbled, doodled, colored, with no ruler or fuss with precise accuracy and was completed in less than an hour. It’s another illusion brought to life by my child inside, who never worries over laborious technical things and just wants to make something cool appear on paper. While I love that people enjoy the little doodles I create, I always want to be clear that they are not technical masterpieces. There’s no step-by-step laborious technique ever applied, just broad principles and broad strokes with a brush and pen. It’s equally why I can’t show you a consistent stepped process as to how I sketch as much as help you simply relive the mindset I use to sketch things in the first place. That, in the end, is the real secret ingredient. So, if you haven’t truly tried tapping into your childish side when you create something new, it’s about time to begin.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Opus (Vivid Pink), Terra Cotta, Cobalt Turquoise, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink and black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Big Ben Watercolor Illustration Sketchbook Detail
Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
22 Comments
  1. Karen Fortier 1 month ago

    Great Big Ben Charlie! I have only been to the airport in London in route to Madrid. I had hoped to go to London on a high school trip but it never came to be. Who knows what future trips may be in store.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕I hope there’s a London trip in your future! It’s a wonderful place to visit!

  2. Laura Hale 1 month ago

    Wonderful sketch and “tour of London”. Thank you Charlie for taking us along.

  3. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 1 month ago

    Wowza this is fabulous 🙂

  4. Lisa 1 month ago

    That is an excellent Big Ben, considering no tools were used. I might need to practice straight lines. I’m not this good.

    Boy, it was a hot one here today, 92 degrees and humid! Then the storms came ripping through and it was cool enough for the neighbors to cut up and haul away the tree that fell in their yard due to the wind. We just lost a few branches.

    So I sold a painting. Sunflowers, with no straight lines involved. Luckily it was painted on a fresh sheet of paper, so there isn’t a failed paint on the back. 😀

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks, Lisa! 😃💕 hehe… I start with a pencil scribble, then ink and correct as I go, then watercolor and correct some more! Hope you stay cool… this summer is not fun at all! And yay! Congrats to selling a painting… that’s wonderful!

  5. Sandra Strait 1 month ago

    I love all the amazing detail in your building! I love going back and rereading my favorites from childhood. I still cry when Lassie makes it home and Black Beauty reuinites with Joe Greene. As you may guess, my favorites were animal stories though I read everything. Everything. No book was safe from my prying eyes.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks, Sandra! 😃💕 Glad you liked this! Aww I loved Lassie and Black Beauty! I need to go back and read those! I agree… animal stories are my favorite!

  6. June Hadaway 1 month ago

    Wow, so much detail….a really beautiful Big Ben! London has to be a beautiful place. My mom was from Bath, another place I understand quite beautiful. I still own a little Paddington…. Just too sweet not to hold on to.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, June! 😃💕 Yeah, I’ve not been to Bath, but hear it’s lovely as well. And yay to a little Paddington! Best bear ever! Hold onto it!

  7. Sharon Nolfi 1 month ago

    Fantastic detail on Big Ben! I love Beatrix Potter illustrations.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 yeah, Beatrix Potter has such gorgeous illustrations!

  8. LoriCtoo 1 month ago

    What a beautiful piece! I would like to sit by your side and watch you sketch. I bet it is mesmerizing. My favorite childhood stories were Winnie the Pooh….go figure. It was thanks to my first grade teacher who used to read them to us. She would bring in her collection of sawdust stuffed characters (which I collected later on in life and still have) and display them while she read to us. I can still see me sitting with my head on my desk imagining those little guys in each story. Ahhhhh

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, Lori! 😃💕hehe… sitting by me sketching would involve a glass of wine and giggles mostly… my process is random and crazy. I plan to do a timelapse video at some point, so people can see just how scribbly it all is, but I barely have time to do everything else I have going! lol And what a lovely memory of reading time… I love that!

  9. smzang 1 month ago

    Charlie says, “There’s no step-by-step laborious technique ever applied, just broad principles and broad strokes with a brush and pen. It’s equally why I can’t show you a consistent stepped process as to how I sketch as much as help you simply relive the mindset I use to sketch things in the first place. That, in the end, is the real secret ingredient.”

    That sketch of Big Ben is splendid. It does for me what any exceptional art does: It transports me to the scene. Looking at your painting is like reading a book. It opens
    the mind and the eyes to amazing experiences.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, Sarah! 😃💕Glad you enjoyed this sketch! And what a wonderful compliment! I’m so thrilled you like my doodles and stories! Yay!

  10. Robert J. Coleman 1 month ago

    Your Big Ben captures the sense of place in a few bold strokes rather than in an architectural rendering. The colors reflect how you feel about the subject; very positively!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, Bob! 😃💕 What a complimentary description! I’m so happy you enjoyed this!

  11. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 1 month ago

    Big Ben actually looms this way, imposing and grand. You painted it perfectly, making me feel I was back in London, looking up and up and up.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 month ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 Glad you liked my Big Ben! Yeah, I realize now how often I choose this pushed perspective with buildings. It’s those eyes of a child… always looking up! hehe

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