From Lauderdale Place: Eastern Cluster

It is amazing how many buildings you can see from Lauderdale Place. Lauderdale is the Westernmost of the three Barbican Towers. I am standing beside it, looking South-East, over Lambert Jones Mews.

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The towers are members of the so-called “Eastern Cluster”. The new building, 22 Bishopsgate, with its 60 floors, makes the former “NatWest Tower” look small. The NatWest Tower used to be the tallest tower block in the City. It is a mere 42 floors, and is now called “Tower 42”. Perhaps that is because of the number of floors. I never thought of that before.

You can just glimpse “the Scalpel”, the pointed crystalline building on Lime St, near the Lloyds building. In the picture it is between 22 Bishopsgate and St Giles’ Church.

I have annotated all the buildings here:

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Here is work in progress:

We think of the Barbican as concrete, but in fact there is quite a lot of brick. I studied the brickwork on Lambert Jones Mews carefully, and then found it was more difficult to draw than I expected. The pattern is very particular: long-short-long-short.

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The drawing took 1hr45min, drawn in bright sunlight and a light breeze. I finished it at 12:15pm. Then I went home and had a Hot Cross Bun which I had bought from St John’s Bakery. The bag was standing beside me while I was drawing, smelling spicy.

 

A walk to Wapping

Today was a beautiful day. It was a day to go for a walk.

I went to the river. Near Old Billingsgate I looked under London Bridge and saw Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast. This is a 15 minute sketch, watercolour-only, no pen.

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Onwards towards the East, I stood on Sugar Quay, which has only just re-opened after years of being closed while the nearby hotel is built.

Here is the Shard, in context,  from a wooden bench on Sugar Quay.

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This map shows my walk:

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Tourists congregate around Tower Bridge. East of Tower Bridge, after St Katherines Dock, there are no tourists at all. It was suddenly very quiet. I went down “Alderman Steps”. There was this great view. The wind was fierce, and my eyes were streaming. I had a go anyway. Two mallards bobbed around amongst the floating quays, chatting away, looking around as if searching for something lost.

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Then I went on East. I had lunch in a hipster café called “Urban Baristas” on Wapping High Street.

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Lunch at the hipster café “Urban Baristas”

A man at the next table discussed flats on his mobile phone. He said Shoreditch was too expensive, so he was looking in Wapping. He’d found a good place, a view of the river, open plan, lots of space. Maybe it was offices he was describing, not flats.

Then I went on East. The river opens out here, it starts to feel more like an estuary. There are 1980s flats, brick-built, but in the river shores are the remains of the old trade: the old chains, the stanchions, huge shafts of timber, rotting piers.

Then the river bends again, and there’s a magnificent view of Canary Wharf.

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I drew this in about an hour, sitting in sunlight spiked with the smell of someone else’s fish and chips.

Here is work in progress:

Here is me drawing:

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Strange Landscapes from Wood (2)

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Here’s a print I made at East London Printmakers yesterday.

It’s a continuation of the project “Strange Landscapes from Wood”, which I started in November 2018, before work for the exhibition and New Year Cards took over.

This print shows a dialogue, or perhaps an exploration. Are they perhaps looking down a tunnel? Or watching a sunset?

This is a chine collé print from a copper etched plate. The paper is thin Japanese paper brought to me by kind friends directly from “Paper Nao” in Tokyo. You can see how the plate was made on this link: Strange landscapes from wood

The plain print, with no chine collé, looks like this:

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The coloured bits are placed on top of the plate, glue side up. I’ve described the process on this link: The chine collé process

Here is work in progress:

St Alphege Gardens, flowering tree

This tree is in blossom. It’s by the old London Wall.

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I cannot do it justice. You should go and look at it. Everyone should. It’s a miracle, in amongst the buildings.

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The Shard from Borough Market

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Walking back from Intaglio Printmaker in Southwark, I thought it would be a good idea to walk through Borough Market. It was not. The crowds were so closely pressed together, and walking and stopping, that I could make no headway through the main part of the market. So I went round the edge, and glimpsed the Shard, high above the roofs.

The roofs, and the lights, look old but they are not really old. The lights, the nearest ones, are gas lights, with real gas flames. They are recent. The market was re-created and enlarged in the late 1990s. It’s now easy to believe that it’s always been a thriving London market.  But it hasn’t. The “Blueprint” website from developers CBRE says:

In the 1980s, the surrounding area of Borough Market had undergone severe decline. The market’s days as a wholesale hub were threatened by the growth of supermarket retailers and the nearby development of the New Covent Garden market in Vauxhall in the 1970s. By 1994, the market had as few as nine traders and an income of less than £400k per year…..

The first “green shoot” for the market emerged … in 1996. The market had hit rock bottom with little left but a few traders and a mobile barber’s stall operating from a caravan. Neil’s Yard Dairy approached the market seeking additional space in damp conditions for the preservation of their expanding cheese business. Damp space, according to [George] Nicholson [market chairman], “was something we had lots of.”

 

fullsizeoutput_331bI drew this picture standing up in Stoney Street. There was a strong wind. Papers, mostly takeaway food wrappers, rushed along in the air as if they had somewhere to go.

There were huge crowds outside Monmouth coffee. The whole of Stoney Street, to the right of my picture,  was occupied by people.

Astonishingly, cars appeared. This picture took about 45 minutes and in that time I must have seen about 10 cars, one every few minutes. They arrived and stopped, seeing the crowds. Then, no doubt consulting a GPS which said this was indeed a street, they pushed on.

People walked past me, eating food from wrappers or drinking beer from cans. One drinker rolled over to me. “Are you drawing a picture?” he leered, ready to make fun.

“No,” I replied, “I’m riding a bicycle.” In his drink-fuddled haze, he had a problem to process that.

He turned to his fellow drinkers. “She says she’s riding a bicycle,” he announced. His wise companions hurried him on.

 

Hôtel de France, Vaud

Last week I stayed with my friends at the Hôtel de France in Sainte-Croix.

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Here is a sketch I made of the hotel from across the road, sitting on a wall by the lay-by. It was really cold, 4 degrees C. One and a half hours, drawn and coloured on location.

A woman parks her car in my line of sight and blocks the view. She is one of a succession of people who parks their car in my line of sight and blocks the view. They all do so unapologetically. I might be just air, sitting there with my sketchbook.

They are collecting items from the hardware shop, which is called “Jaccard”. They all return quite quickly and drive off. So I have become used to the rhythm, and it no longer bothers me. I draw the chimneys, over the top of the car, and the distant mountain, which is called Covatannaz.

This particular woman, on returning to her car, called out “Hélène!”. Her car was empty. I assumed she was calling to someone round the corner. “Hélène,” she said again. I realised she was talking to me. None of my names is Hélène, although I quite like the name. I ran through the options in my head. Was “Hélène” a kind of French form of “Fore!”, which golfers shout? Was this a warning of some kind? No. She and I were looking at each other, she with an open face of greeting, me no doubt with a puzzled frown, which after a little while influenced her open greeting, and she frowned too.

“Bonjour!” I said brightly, hoping to lighten the mood.

“Ah,” she said, and her expression altered again. Perhaps my voice was wrong. Even with one word, my English accent must have been apparent. “Excusez-moi,” she continued,  “Je vous avez prise pour Hélène Jumeaux*.” She continued to look at me as though I might change my mind and confess to being Hélène Jumeaux, despite the accent. When I didn’t, she hid her confusion by examining my picture, which she genuinely seemed to like, and she complimented me.

Prosopagnosia, face blindness, affects maybe 1 in 50 people, according to “faceblind.org“. It is an inability to recognise faces, not an inability to remember names. That is also a problem, but a different one. I know this, because, as I’ve got older, face blindness has become more and more of a problem for me. I felt sympathy for the woman. Neither my limited mastery of French, nor the situation, enabled me to express this connection. But we managed. We smiled, and talked about the picture.

Forgive me if I pass you on the street without recognising you, even if we’ve seen each other only a few hours before. Please say hello. And say your name.  As I’ve got older I’ve realised that many mental and physical defects, such as deafness, visual impairment, prosopagnosia, encroaching memory loss, can all be interpreted, by people who are young and fully functional, as rudeness. It’s made me more forgiving of other people’s weaknesses, other people’s apparent rudeness.

Here is the line drawing, the same picture as above, before the colour went on.

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Here are a couple more drawings from the same trip, and a photo of this drawing on location, just after I finished it.

I have made pictures at the Hôtel de France before:

Sainte-Croix, Vaud, Switzerland

Sainte-Croix, Vaud

View from a Swiss Hotel

Some sketches of hotel tableware

Here is a gallery of archive sketches from Vaud and Sainte-Croix.

*names in this story have been changed

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