Here is St Giles Church from the Lakeside Terrace of the Barbican. While I drew this, three men were shovelling mud from the bottom of the lake. The mud is black and viscous and the men were remarkably cheerful in their task. They would have made good subjects for a drawing too. But for now, here’s the church:
The church features in some of my “Tower” sketches:
Today I found another view of the view under Mountjoy. This is from the high walk that goes north from the Museum of London, looking East.
Under the Mountjoy Highwalk there are a number of “framed” pictures. The old London Wall fortification is visible. The sun reflected from the lake and threw patterns onto the old stone. I couldn’t get all that in the picture so you have to take my word for it.
A group of tourists stopped on the “Wallside” highwalk. You can see them in the centre right of the picture.
These “windows” will all be obliterated by the proposed City of London School for Girls expansion.
This view is from the place where the north bound highwalk turns abruptly left (click map to expand it).
This picture took about an hour. I tried hard not to overdo it.
At the top of the picture are the flats of Mountjoy House, with their impressive window boxes.
This is the view that will be lost if the City of London School for Girls expansion proposal goes ahead.
I spent time today paying attention to this view, because that is what I need to do, to draw it. The pillars are reflected in the water. The enormous flight of steps is like that in a fairy story, so wide and grand. There’s a massive three-dimensional sculpture of concrete, of light and dark. Flat spaces and lines don’t quite join up but are nonetheless connected, like rhythmic music. Framed by the 20th century brutalist columns you see an older more ornamented building, and trees. You can even see right through to the other side of Aldersgate. This is a magnificent view.
The interesting blotchy effect on the pillars is rain falling on the picture. I started this picture at 09:30. Then it started to rain. The fine rain speckled my picture. Bigger drops diluted the paint in the palette and made the paints shift about. Then it started pouring down with menace. I scrabbled my things together and dashed into St Giles’ Church which was behind me. Inside the church, people moved purposefully about, and all was calm. And it was dry. I took a deep breath and kept my drawing horizontal. There was a table next to the door. A woman looked at me over the table. I felt the need to explain. “I’m sheltering from the rain,” I told her.
Her response was calm and logical, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“I would,” I said. Her companion at the table offered me a biscuit. Grateful to the Royal Society of Organists for their hospitality, I sat on a wooden bench and let my drawing dry off. Experimental short tunes from the organ floated quizzically in the air.
Then I went out again. I wanted to finish my picture. I stood in the porch of the church and looked at the rain. “Every decision is a moral decision.” I believe that. Should I pack up the drawing and go home? I could use the time before the Planning Meeting to do the supermarket shop, deal with the plumbing problem, and process the sourdough.
Or should I continue the drawing?
What principles are at stake here? I finish drawings that I start. I don’t mind the rain. My ink and watercolour does mind the rain, though. So I’ll draw the picture under an umbrella.
This was surprisingly effective. I managed to get all the ink drawn before 10:45, when I packed up again, to go to the Planning Meeting. During this time I was approached by a flustered gentleman in a smart suit, who wanted to “get across the lake”. He was hopelessly disoriented, pointing South-West, when he should have been heading North-East. I re-directed him and he dashed off towards the Barbican Hall.
The Planning Committee Meeting at 11am was the City of London Planning and Transportation Committee. This was their July meeting. In their September meeting, if things go according to the plan put forward by the School, this same Committee is due to approve a plan for a building which will totally block out the view I have drawn. The proposed new structure would cover the steps, build round the pillars, and put in an industrial kitchen. Residents in Mountjoy House, directly above my picture, are understandably dismayed. The Barbican Association, representing Barbican residents, is leading a campaign to prevent to save the view, and stop the expansion. Here is their postcard/flyer.
On the way back from the planning meeting, I went back to the view, and put the colour.
Spending time looking at this view, these pillars, these shapes, I realise how magnificent it is, and how talented the architects were. This view is worth fighting for.
Yesterday I was experimenting with Daniel Smith watercolours. The aim was to get a really good deep black with just two colours.
The Perinone Orange with Prussian Blue is particularly magic. Two quite pale colours suddenly combine to a carbon black. It’s like watching a chemical process. Although it is, of course, a physical process. These two colours are complementary, and together they absorb all the visible spectrum. Impressive.
I did other experiments:
Should I add orange and purple to the palette?
Is Nickel Titanate yellow a useful colour?
This is the best grey yet.
Then I had a lot of colours left in the mixing tray. I didn’t want to throw them away, they looked so lovely and jewel-like in the mixing tray. So I made some sci-fi landscapes.
I had been travelling since 5am. So I just rested. I looked out of the hotel window. I saw chimney pots.
With the wind and snow in Switzerland, it’s worth a lot of effort on the part of the chimney pot designer to get it right. Clearly, though, much experimentation is required. Every one in this drawing is different.
Switzerland is the only place I know where copper is a construction material. The rest of us use it to make small domestic items, or jewellery. But here, the whole of the chimney pot stack with the cylindrical top, in the middle of the picture, is made of copper. Also copper is the guttering which runs across the middle foreground, and some of the down pipes.
Later, in a pause, I made another drawing, this time from the terrace of the Hôtel de France. This time I was tuned in to chimney pots. See the marvellous construction on the skyline! It is even furnished with a set of steps, so the chimney pot repairer is provided for. Or perhaps the chimney sweep.
Another day I searched for chimney pots again, since this was becoming a theme. Here is the view from the same place, looking a slightly different direction.
Here is the picture under construction.
The item in the middle of the base of the picture is a letter box. I posted a few postcards:
Pen and ink sketches are a good way to fill in the time waiting while travelling:
Shetland is a place of sky and water. I was working on reflections.
Experimenting with reflections
A sketch done on the beach at Burrastow
Here are reflections of rocks:
Here’s one that is almost abstract. Perhaps it reflects a mood.
The rocks round Burrastow each have a skirt of yellow and brown seaweed. So does the pier. There are lobsters down there.
I am using a new paintbox and experimenting with the colours.
You see the brown seaweed on the shore.
The island of Foula is sometimes visible from nearby cliffs. It is about 20 miles away, so it floats on the horizon. Foula is a mysterious place.
Here is another picture of Foula. The island disappeared while I was making these photos of my painting things.
Foula, from Uskie Geo
Painting things at Uskie Geo
Watercolour Box 3, Uskie Geo
I walked to Footabrough. Here’s the route, and some pictures of Footabrough.
A walk from Burrastow to Footabrough
On the way, there is a lagoon where the seals live. The arrow on the map shows the direction of the view in this drawing. The weird dots on the map are because I drew it on the left hand page of the sketchbook. I’d previously used that left-hand page to try out colours (see photo below). Note I am wearing gloves. This is July, in Shetland.
Lagoon of the seals, postcard sketch.
Lagoon of the seals, sketchbook sketch
Here are the headlands north of Footabrough. They have marvellous names: Knowe of Banascord, The Hamar and West Stack, Gerdipaddle, Skerries of Watsness. The picture is from Braganess, south of Footabrough.
This is a characteristic Shetland scene. It shows the remembered view across the Weisdale Voe.
As you see, there was a lot of wind and fine rain. Here are some local drawings around Burrastow (click to enlarge).
On the way to Burrastow I stayed in my favourite Shetland B&B: Hayhoull, in Bigton in South Mainland. It is right next to the amazing St Ninian’s Isle, which is connected to the Mainland by a strip of sand.
On this trip I also did quick sketches using pen and ink. Each of these takes about 10-20 minutes.