Isobel Williams is an artist living in Notting Hill. She blogs about guerrilla drawing, its discomforts and the lives of the people she draws rapidly at random on her blog, and gives the portraits to her street sitters. She recently sketched some of the volunteers during Operation Cup of Tea. She sells her life drawings in ink and wash on her website. Isobel tells us about her Notting Hill.
What’s your earliest memory of Notting Hill?
When I was 15, I came to Portobello Road with my father and a friend. We were hicks from the sticks and found ourselves being photographed by a hustler with a dressed-up monkey before we knew what was happening; I’m a bit more streetwise now.
What are you up to at the moment?
Staring out at a tree, my default position.
If there was one person you would like to draw, who would it be?
Can you reveal any famous faces whom you've drawn or who have bought your artwork?
I’m not always told who buys. Some of the faces I’ve drawn in Notting Hill have earned their own local fame.
Your favourite artists?
I don’t really do favourites but let’s say Velazquez, Edward Ardizzone, Vermeer, Delacroix, Chardin.
Your fashion heroes?
Fortuny, Vionnet, Poiret, Claire McCardell and my friend Rebecca Feiner who dresses with wit and style from charity shops and can make a gilt picture frame slung over one shoulder look both elegant and essential.
What are you wearing?
Correct Miss Moneypenny attire with straight seams as I’ve just been to a business meeting in the City.
What are your favourite shops?
Notting Hill Books in Palace Gardens Terrace and the vintage clothes shop at 295 Portobello Road, both of them for the stock and the conversation. In Fusion in Chepstow Road is great for haberdashery and Poundland in Portobello Road is irresistible – where else can you get enough fluffy Easter chicks to make a bonkers necklace for, well, a pound?
What’s your latest find in Notting Hill?
I was given two handfuls of miniature primitive windowless house-shapes made of wooden struts from fruit crates by a sculptor called Steve Mumford. They are oddly desirable.
Favourite pubs and bars?
It was the Wine Factory in Westbourne Grove which has just closed down.
Your favourite cocktail?
Non-alcoholic – spirits hit me with a cosh.
Your last kiss in Notting Hill?
The last place you visited in Notting Hill?
Marks & Spencer on Notting Hill Gate. Tony Benn was in the queue.
The last film you saw in Notting Hill?
Rififi, a black and white French film noir, at home, on the recommendation of a friend. I think our tastes diverge.
Favourite season in Notting Hill?
Any season which doesn’t have Christmas in it.
Where would you tell a shopper to go in Notting Hill?
Portobello Green arcade has some excellent fashion, tailoring and jewellery and an outstanding watch and clock shop/repairer.
What do you love about Notting Hill?
I'd say it's love-hate with the whole place. More residents need to recognise the sharp social inequalities here. Anyone who doubts that could contact the volunteer centre in Ladbroke Grove.
Notting Hill in a word?
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Radio 3 if it's not aggravating, or the jangled misremembered snippets in my head from Janacek to Rodgers and Hart.
Three things you can't live without?
If it's a thing, the knowledge that some other people have already thought about stuff and written it down in books. When it comes to objects, it would be nice to be less attached to them.
Favourite part of Notting Hill?
Do you use social media?
Only for stalking as a general rule.
How do you keep fit?
Being claustrophobic brings immense health benefits as you take the stairs, where you find despised pictures, piles of rubbish and fire doors to which no one has the key.
What is your Notting Hill secret?
The Kensington Gardeners' Club teas made by pastry chef and oarsman Dennis Mount.
What makes Notting Hill special to you?