Towers East and Towers West – multiple prints

My idea was to produce multiple copies of “Towers East” and “Towers West”. These are aquatint plates I prepared a few months ago.  This post describes the process to produce the plates: Towers East and Towers West

The Towers are St Mary’s Tower and Peabody Tower, just to the North of the Barbican.

I made 14 reasonable prints, and 2 out-takes. I glued the out-takes into my notebook. I make one page per print session, and record what I did, what paper and ink I used, what worked and what didn’t. This is in an attempt to learn and improve my printing technique.

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Here are the 14 reasonable prints, numbered 1 to 14. Numbers 1-13 are on card 20cm by 30cm. This card size is intended as a greeting card. When folded it fits neatly into an A5 envelope. Number 14 is on larger paper. All are for sale,  £5 each plus postage. Please contact me by email via the contacts page, or leave a comment on this page. The red writing is on the online image here, not on the print.

Click on an image to enlarge it. It may take a little while to load.

The technique is “chine-collé” which is described here: The chine collé process

Here’s number 13 so you can see the format:

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Here is number 14 on the larger paper:

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These are all part of my “Towers Project” leading to an exhibition in the Barbican Library February 2019.

I work in the print studio at East London Printmakers. Prints are on Fabriano Unica Paper, using Intaglio Printmaker Bone Black ink. They are printed by hand on the Henderson press. Each print takes about half an hour to print.

St Bartholomew the Less

St Bartholomew the Less is a Chapel of Ease in St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City. It’s just to the right of the main entrance from Smithfield.  You might not notice the door in the wall. Sometimes they put a board outside. I’ve been in a number of times. It’s a very peaceful, welcoming, place. Somehow, one feels the need to visit a place of prayer before, or after, a hospital visit.

I was invited to draw pictures of the church. The City Music Foundation, a charity, wants to use my pictures in its publicity. They are going to be based in St Bartholomew the Less. So the Managing Director of the Foundation, Clare Taylor, contacted me. She’d seen the pictures I’d done of The Charterhouse.

Here are the first two pictures of St Bartholomew the Less:

It was founded in 1123, by Rahere, a “courtier of Henry I“, according to the leaflet. The tower dates from the 15th century. “The three bells in the tower include one dating from 1380 and another from 1420” says the leaflet. I was interested in Rahere, because there is a Rahere St and a Rahere House which I have drawn.

Since the Foundation is a music foundation, I thought it would be a fun idea to draw the bells. By kind permission of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), whose representative efficiently produced a key, I was able to go up into the belfry. Bells, I found, are not so easy to draw as you might think. Like the human form, they have curves. And unless you get the curves exactly right, they look like a different character. Also, the belfry contained not only very ancient bells, but also 600 years of dust. It was indescribably dirty. But amazing. And very quiet inside, with all the noise going on outside. I wedged myself into the wooden frame, braced my back against a metal rod, and got started.

The platform into which I was wedged was not very big. I manoeuvred very slowly because I didn’t want to knock anything, such as a paintbrush, down into the depths. The best medium seemed to be black ink. Ink is a bit dodgy to manage at the best of times. But keeping it upright on an ancient wooden raft, in the semi-darkness, verged on the farcical. No-one was there to sympathise, except the bells, and they’d seen it all before.

 

 

Galway House

Galway House is one of the two Towers on the Pleydall Estate just North of Old Street. The other tower is Grayson.

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I drew this from behind Grayson House. There was a ferocious cold wind. I seemed to have picked the place where all the winds met. Here are maps showing the direction I was looking.

 


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Here are the blocks in the picture. It almost looks as though the Atlas Building continues the march of these majestic 1960s blocks. But it doesn’t, not really.

In the drawing you can see the scaffolding on the Atlas Building, and the external lift that was going up and down as I was drawing.

I was interested to see that the inhabitants of Galway Tower made use of their flower beds.

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Raised flower beds in Galway House, South side.

I’ve seen the same arrangement of raised flower beds next to the flats in Rahere House, where the beds were more exposed, and not used.

This whole area underwent huge changes in the twentieth century, although the street layout is unchanged.

From 1751, on Old Street, there was a huge hospital for the mentally ill: St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics.

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St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics on Old Street. The obelisk in St Luke’s Gardens is in the background. Image credit: Wikipedia

This hospital was closed in 1916 and the residents moved out. The building was acquired by the Bank of England and used for printing bank notes.

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Bank of England Printing Works on Old Street, 1925, image credit: Bank of England Museum.

Here is the area in 1940: map from http://www.maps-of-london.com, click to enlarge.

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The Pleydell Estate area, Finsbury, in 1940. Picture credit: http://www.maps-of-london.com

You see Galway Street on the crease of the map, in the centre about a quarter of the way down. Below it, to the right is the “Bank Printing Works”.

In 1959 the London County Council sought to purchase the Printing Works site and use it as an annexe to Covent Garden. This was opposed by Michael Cliffe, MP for Finsbury and Shoreditch, on the grounds that it would create unacceptable traffic congestion, especially at the Old Street Roundabout.

Mr Cliffe is quoted in Hansard:

“…London County Council (General Powers) Bill, …. The Council, through the Bill, sought powers to acquire and redevelop St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe of Covent Garden Market….. I would ask the Minister what is the point of spending millions of pounds in trying to solve the problem of congestion in Central London if we are to convert the St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe to Covent Garden in an area where we know it must inevitably cause the kind of congestion that we are trying to avoid and which we are discussing every day. As the number of vehicles increases, further problems will have to be solved. Surely we do not want to create further difficulties after our experience gained in the past?” [Hansard: HC Deb 17 December 1959 vol 615 cc1738-47]

Mr Cliffe must have prevailed. I feel an affinity with him because earlier this week I drew Michael Cliffe House.

The Printing Works building was demolished in 1963. At around that time Finsbury Council was building council houses, including the 4 tower blocks in the area: Gambier House, Grayson House, Godfrey House and Galway House. So somehow the Council must have acquired the Print Works site. I can’t find the history online so I’m going to visit the London Metropolitan Archives and the Islington Museum.

The Towers also were allocated to different Estates: Galway is in the “St Luke’s Estate” which includes the Printing works Site, Gambier is in the City Road Estate and Grayson and Galway are in the Pleydell Estate.

From “Streets with a story, The book of Islington” (1986) by Eric A Willats FLA I learn that: “Messrs. Emberton, Franck & Tardrew were the architects of Galway House (Pleydell Estate)”.

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From a map sent to Mr I Agar in 2010 in response to a Freedom of Information request [FOI 340742.pdf]
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The Pleydell Estate, Galway House in the Background.

Michael Cliffe House

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

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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.

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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.

The real surprise was inside the entrance. There, uncelebrated in the underpass, were some amazing mosaics of dancers.

Michael Cliffe (1903-1964) was a Labour councillor for Finsbury, Mayor of Finsbury (1956-7), and an active Labour MP (1958-64).

The Finsbury Estate was built by Finsbury Borough Council in 1965. The architects were Emberton, Franck & Tardrew. Finsbury Borough council was absorbed by Islington.

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Périgord, France – Sept 2018

The village of Montcigoux has a house with a long roof.

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Note also the extraordinary number of electricity cables. The plan is to put them underground. This was in progress. But so far not on this side of the village.

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The queue at Limoges airport Passport Controle took 1 hour. There were only two officials and a huge number of people on the aircraft.

We went to Brantôme, a town on the River Dronne. It’s on an island in the river. There’s a food market on Fridays. At the cafe I sketched the Abbey.

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We walked by the river and found a poem on a stone tablet. I wrote it in my notebook.

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With the help of friends, I am still puzzling out what the poem says. Here’s the latest attempt:

Philosopher, it is there, right at the end of the convent
Whose façade is washed by the River Dronne in flood
That in this enclave, having spent the summer under the majestic elm trees
While leaving your monastic cell to its gigantic books
You would be in free dialogue with your memories.

All suggestions, improvements and interpretations welcome. The verb “jaser” seems to mean “gossip”, but perhaps “faire jaser” has a different meaning. Any ideas? I also assumed that the “G.B.” was the writer “Brantôme”. Georges Brantôme I guessed. But no, the writer Brantôme is Pierre. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme (c. 1540 – 15 July 1614), also known as the abbé de Brantôme, was a French historian, soldier and biographer.

I rather get the impression from his Wikipedia entry that the abbé de Brantôme was more of a chronicler than a poet. So who is “G.B.”? I definitely need to go back to Brantôme to have a closer look at that stone plaque. And to buy more of that cheese with nettles in, made by a Dutchman who has settled in France, and sold to us by his son.

“Is it French cheese?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, in the manner of someone embarking on a long explanation, “the milk is from French cows, and it was made in France….”. But, evidently, it was made by his father, a Dutch man, using a Dutch process. So is the cheese French? Is that even a useful question?

Here’s a view of the abbey from the restaurant where we had lunch:

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I sketched in Périgord last year. See this link:  Montcigoux

One of my pictures is now on the wall of the house it depicts.

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Original Watercolour framed

Sketches in Crete – Sept 2018

I was experimental. I had a large sketchbook with rough pages, given to me for my birthday. I turned over the pages and tried things.

As we drove back from Aptera one evening, the sun was setting and fired up the mist between the hills. Back at the kitchen table, I had a go:

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It was stormy. We had some amazing sunsets.

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I did a lot of quick sketches with some special Koh-i-noor sketching pencils that friends brought me from the Czech Republic:

We walked up the Diktamos gorge. It is deep and leafy. Here is an impression drawn that evening, trying to show you the dark depths of the gorge, the high rocky walls, and the leaves. John is shown, sitting on a stone, bottom centre left.

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On the way to the airport we stopped in Agia Triada. I had 45 minutes to do a sketch. This is pen and ink.

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It’s a three hour flight.  One has to do something. I revisited the Diktamos gorge in pen and ink. The game was to use as few lines as possible, by not taking the pen off the paper. This is 3 lines.

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The Atlas Building – prints

This week I made prints of an etching of the Atlas Building. The etchings are based on a sketch I made.

I made 12 prints. Here they are.

They are all for sale! Please let me know if you would like to buy one. All are printed on etching paper “Fabriano Unica”. They are intended to be used as greetings cards. So the print is to the side like this:

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They fold in half to make a greeting card which fits in a C5 envelope.

Equally they can be folded in half or cut, and put in a frame size A5.

If you’d like to buy one, please contact me, and say which one you’d like. They are numbered – click the images in the gallery above. £5 each + postage. These are handmade items by me, an amateur printer. Thumb marks, imperfections, ink smudges and other defects reflect the handmade nature of the items and, as they say, “should not be regarded as defects”.

This is all preparation for my “Towers” exhibition in February 2019.

The process I use is “chine collé”. Here are some photos of work in progress:

To see more detail on the process,  look at this page, which explains all the stages.

The photos above are in “East London Printmakers” in Stepney, where I do my work.

Here is the original sketch on which the prints are based.

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Atlas Building