Austin Friars, City of London

The City is quiet on a Saturday. Here is a view along one of the City lanes, Austin Friars. I drew it from the back (east side) of Drapers Gardens, which is a new office block on Copthall Avenue.


I struggled with the sky. This is “cerulean blue chromium”. It granulated, didn’t go on flat.  I think I had the paper too wet – I wetted it before I put the paint on, which was probably a bad idea. The actual sky was a clear and uniform blue, extraordinary in England in November. Don’t be deceived though, it was very cold where I was standing. You can see my hand shaking – look at the phone box.

In the distance you see the Natwest Tower on the left, now called “Tower42”. To the right and high up is the new building “TwentyTwo Bishopsgate”. The NatWest Tower was the highest in London in its day (1980). TwentyTwo will be the highest in the City to date.

Austin Friars, the road, bisects a site formerly occupied by an Augustinian Friary, hence the name. The monastery is long gone, except that the church survives, rebuilt after the Blitz. It is the “Dutch Church” in London, just out of the picture along Austin Friars.

Map showing the sightline in the drawing

I sat on the ground to put the watercolour on. A man came up and asked me if I would like a hot drink, coffee or tea? He called me Ma’am. He told me he worked nearby, in the office block behind me. Very shortly he returned with tea in a takeaway cup, including a lid. Seeing that I was still sitting on the pavement, he offered to fetch me some cardboard to sit on. This was a really nice man. I was about to stand up again though, so I thanked him for the tea and he went back indoors.

He revived my faith in human nature. I was very glad of the tea, and of the warm feeling that even here amongst city skyscrapers, there are human humans.

The drawing took about 1hour30min, drawn and coloured on location. Daniel Smith watercolours, mostly Mars Yellow, Perinone Orange and Prussian Blue, with Cerulean Blue Chromium sky, and a bit of Pyrrol Red for the phone box.



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