Cromwell Tower from the Podium

Here is Cromwell Tower, in the Barbican, with Frobisher Crescent to the right, sketched pre-lockdown, from the Podium.

Cromwell Tower from the Barbican podium, 1st January 2021, 10″x 12″

This was a very cold day, and it started to sleet. That pitted effect you see on the left? That’s not a clever artistic technique, that’s ice crystals dropping on the painting from the sky!

I finished off the tower indoors. I used Daniel Smith Iridescent Moonstone watercolour paint. See how it catches the light!

For the podium tiling I used an experimental effect: scratching. I was in a bit of a hurry (it was really cold) and it was hard to get the angle right as I was holding the painting and standing up. It created an interesting effect, not quite what I intended, but I liked it.

This is one of a series of drawings on Jackson’s watercolour sheets: 10″ x 12″ cold-pressed, 300gsm. The bone implement I used for scratching is from the Vintage Paper Company and is a “bone folder”, intended for folding paper. It is good because it is not entirely sharp, and it’s nice to hold.

The colours are Daniel Smith watercolours: Prussian Blue, Perylene Maroon, and Mars Yellow, with a bit of Green Apatite Genuine for the plants, and Iridescent Moonstone mixed in, especially for the tower.

I’ve drawn in and around the Barbican before. Here’s a collection: (click “load more posts” to see more posts of the Barbican.)

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The Shard from The Tower

From the Tower of London on the North bank of the Thames, you can see the Shard on the South Bank.

The Shard from The Tower, 3rd Jan 2021, 12″ x 10″

Pre-lockdown, I sketched this sitting on a stone bench on the slope to the West of the Tower of London. There were seagulls in the air. Children hurtled down the slope on bicycles, with parents jogging awkwardly behind. Young people threw their arms around each other and photographed themselves.

I worked on my drawing.

It started to rain. Then it really poured with rain. The children scuttled under the overhanging roof of the visitor centre. The young people laughed and rushed off. I had to pack up very quickly. The seagulls remained.

I had finished the pen and ink. I added the colour at home. I tried out some experimental techniques.

For the cobbles I used the wrapping of a pack of mandarin oranges.

To get the sharp edges of the Shard, I used masking tape.

I made this picture on a sheet of Jackson’s 300gsm cold-pressed watercolour paper, 12″ x 10″, using Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton watercolours. The colours are Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Perylene Maroon (DS) and Mars Yellow (DS). The cobblestones also have some Iridescent Moonstone (DS), which makes them sparkle. I made the tree with a marvellous new Tree Brush, also from Jackson’s.

Brushes: Jackson’s “Badger” tree brush series 602, and Jackson’s “Raven” brush series 528.

Barbican at dusk

It was getting dark but I’d been indoors all day. I set off into the gloom with my drawing things.

Looking towards the Barbican from Golden Lane, 5th January 2021, 4:15pm (detail)

It also started raining. Or maybe it was sleet.

I continued my peregrination through the dim streets. I like this time of day. In this weather, it’s not the “violet hour” of Mediterranean sunsets, but more like an Indigo hour, as the colours fade and go into dark smudges. I enjoyed the squares of light, each a little theatre of activity.

Here’s the picture I drew. It was sketched quickly on my walk, with the colour completed at home.

Looking towards the Barbican from Golden Lane, 5th January 2021, 4:15pm

Here are the buildings:

In Wyvern sketchbook, on Arches paper, using Hansa Yellow mid (DS), and Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DS), with Perylene Maroon (DS) and Phthalo Blue Turquoise (W&N) for the sky and the darker greys. Fired Gold Ochre (DS) is in the mix for the Peabody Building.

I have drawn in and around the Barbican before. Here is a collection:

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Grove Lane, Camberwell, SE5

Here are houses on Grove Lane, Camberwell, London SE5.

Grove Lane, Camberwell. 12″ x 9″ watercolour on Arches paper. Drawn on location, 5th December 2020.

I drew this standing in the street. People passed to and fro with prams, dogs and delivery parcels. Although it was December, there were still a few roses out in the bushes behind the fences. The sky really was blue, as you see from the pictures below. It was very cold though, note the gloves. I finished the colour at home, as my hands were freezing.

Here is work in progress.

The main colours are Phthalo blue turquoise for the sky, Mars Yellow, Fired Gold Ochre, and Green Apatite Genuine. The paper is a block of Arches 300gsm Cold Pressed watercolour paper.

This was a commission! Thank you to my client for the commission, and for introducing me to this interesting area. I found a new cycle route through Elephant and Castle.

Bayer House – North and South

Here is Bayer House, on the Golden Lane Estate. This is the view from the South.

Bayer House, Golden Lane Estate, from the South, 9 inches by 12 inches [SOLD]

The building on the right is the Golden Lane Community Centre. It was in active use as I drew the picture. There is a food bank outside, and a lot of activity inside. For more information on the tree which is to the left of the picture, see this post. It was planted on the 9th December 1989.

I drew this picture from a position close to Great Arthur House. People from the Community Centre came and had a look at my drawing. One of them very kindly came and brought me a chair. If you look inside the community centre you can see those kind people behind the window.

The van.

I was a good way into the drawing when a van drew up, right in my line of sight. I finished the parts of the drawing at the top of the building, and to the sides of the building. A good hour had elapsed, but the van was still there. I really needed to draw that part of the building which was behind the van. The driver, dimly visible through the windscreen, was asleep, or may be just resting. Having carefully considered the pros and cons, and the social acceptability of asking a potentially exhausted van driver to move, and the likely consequences, I got up from my chair and walked over to the van in what I hoped was a polite and respectful manner. The van driver was awake, and immediately understood my request. “No problem!” he declared without hesitation, and with extraordinary consideration asked me “Where would you like me to park?”. I indicated an empty slot far over to the other side of the Community Centre. He climbed out of his van, and went into a door under Great Arthur House to confer with “The Office”. “The Office” having been brought onside, he jumped back into the van and made off into the middle distance waving cheerily. I wish all problems were solved so easily.

Here is work in progress:

This was a commission. For the same commission I also made a drawing of the North side of the same building.

Bayer House, North side, 12 inches by 9 inches [SOLD]

For more information about Bayer House, including maps, see this post.

Both drawings on Arches 300gsm watercolour paper block, 12 inches by 9 inches.

Here is a collection of my drawings of the Golden Lane Estate:

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The Horseshoe, Clerkenwell

Here is The Horseshoe, in Clerkenwell Close.

The Horseshoe, 24 Clerkenwell Close EC1

I enjoyed the way the pub is slotted into that corner space, amongst the taller buildings. The building behind it looks as though it might be older than the pub. The arched window-alcove to the left, above the car, has been partly obscured by the wall of the pub. The purpose of this alcove is unclear. It isn’t an ordinary window, and can’t let much light into the building as it is so recessed. It looks as though it might have had some industrial purpose.

And much is happening at roof level. On the right of the pub, high up, someone has made a roof garden. They have a glasshouse, and a weathervane in the shape of a whale. Behind that, even higher up, is a huge bridge-like construction, with arched supports, which looks as though it is a roof on top of a courtyard, behind the buildings I could see. Notice also the formidable collection of communications equipment: a satellite dish and three aerials near the whale, and on the building in the background there were at least two mobile phone masts, with antennae like loudspeakers, pointing in different directions.

The pub itself has a roof garden, with brightly coloured bunting and many flowerpots. I drew this picture yesterday, during Lockdown 2, so sadly it is closed. However it is going on my “After Lockdown” list.

Here are maps:

Here are sketches of work in progress, and some snapshots of the location. I did a preliminary sketch on brown paper, as you see. It was cold, 6 degrees C. I didn’t manage to finish the colour outdoors, but scuttled home to complete the detail in the warm.

This picture took about 1 hour 45 minutes on location, including a chat with a friend who passed by on his afternoon stroll. Then another half hour at home working on the colour detail. The colours are: Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Burnt Umber (DS), Mars Yellow (DS), Green Apatite Genuine (DS), Fired Red Ochre (DS), with some Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue to get the greys, and a few dots of Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Hansa Yellow Mid, and Green Gold (all DS). The picture is size 7 inches by 10 inches on Arches Aquarelle 300gsm watercolour paper, in a Wyvern sketchbook (Sketchbook 9)

This is one of an emerging series of drawings of pubs in the Clerkenwell area. Here are some others in the series:

The Sekforde, Clerkenwell

I sketched The Sekforde, sitting on a step on the other side of the road. The pub was closed today. It looked like a good pub. While I was sketching I received confirmation of this. Two portly men strolled past, paused, and asked me if I was waiting for the pub to open. I said … Continue reading “The Sekforde, Clerkenwell”

Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St

Here is a sketch of The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St, Clerkenwell, made as the light faded. I find this a particularly lovely building. The curves over the windows are semicircles and there is a pleasing symmetry to the upper floors. The semicircle over St John’s Passage exactly matches the door to its left, on another … Continue reading “Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St”

The Eagle, 2 Shepherdess Walk

Here is The Eagle.

The Eagle from Shepherdess Walk

This is a very old pub, located at a significant junction on City Road.

In the picture above, the alley on the right of the pub is called “Shepherdess Place”. It leads to a police car park, and several office blocks. I went down there to draw a picture of The Eagle from the other side.

The Eagle from Shepherdess Place. The plants on the right are some sort of vine, climbing on, or falling off the building. In the background are the towers of the new development 250 City Road.

The Eagle is mentioned in the nursery rhyme. We used to sing it as children without the least idea what it meant.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice, 
half a pound of treacle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel
Up and down the City Road
In and out the Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

This needs translation. I don’t know what the reference to “tuppenny rice” means. It could simply mean “rice” of course, but given that the rest of the song is in rhyming slang, I wonder what ‘Tuppenny rice’ might mean. Tuppenny is “two pence worth”. That would be old pennies, of course, pre-decimal.

“Treacle” is rhyming slang: “Treacle tart”. Hence “treacle” is an affectionate term for “woman”, or perhaps “female sex-worker”. I have been called “treacle” by the market traders where I used to live. It was a friendly kind of a word. “Weasel” is rhyming slang: “Weasel and stoat”, hence “coat”.

So my translation is:

A little bit for food, 
A little bit for the lady-friend
Then I don't have any money left
So I pawn my overcoat
Having visited the [betting?] shops on the City Road
and partaken of refreshment in the Eagle
I don't have any money left
So I pawn my overcoat
“Grecian Theatre Pleasure Grounds,
Grecian Saloon and Olympic Theatre”.

The Eagle was not just a pub. It was also a theatre. I wonder if the huge pitched roof I have drawn (top right in the second picture) covers a large hall. According to a plaque on the outside (pictured)

The Eagle Tavern, Grecian Theatre Pleasure Grounds, Grecian Saloon and Olympic Theatre, stood here 1825-1899. Here Marie Lloyd, music hall artiste, made her first public performance in 1885.

I wonder what “Grecian” meant in this context?

Here are some pictures of work in progress.

This junction is changing rapidly. The empty site on the other side of the road, an old bomb-site, now has construction vehicles in action. I took some photos just for the record, and found out a bit more about the site. See the page on this link if you are interested, and please comment if you know more.

Here are some other drawings I have done in the area:

Gambia House from Shepherdess walk

Gambia House constructed 1968, 20 stories, 115 flats. Owned and managed by Islington. Planning proposal for external cladding, 18 Sept 2014. Eagle Dwelling 212 City Road, on the left of the picture, is a “specialist supported housing scheme for single homeless people who may also have additional complex needs”. It seems to be owned and managed … Continue reading “Gambia House from Shepherdess walk”

Courage on Nile St N1

This is the view looking West from the junction of Nile St and East St, in the borough of Hackney, London N1. I was leaning against a wall on a wide pavement, on the corner. I judged that I was easy to avoid there, and social distance could easily be maintained. In fact, there were … Continue reading “Courage on Nile St N1”

Shepherdess Walk at City Road

This is at the junction of Shepherdess Walk and the City Road.

Shepherdess Café, with Eagle Point and The Atlas Building in the background.

Just off the picture to the left is the Eagle pub. Both the Eagle pub and the narrow building I’ve drawn are remarkably dilapidated, given their location in a trendy part of town, right near Old Street Roundabout. I feel their existences are somewhat precarious. See the huge shiny towers, only a few hundred metres away.

But that building above the café has its dignity, for all that it is cracked, and its walls are leaning several degrees off the vertical. Its windows are surrounded by scrollwork and stucco. It is much used, and much modified. There is a spectacular network of pipes and conduits at the back of the building, and an impressive array of TV aerials and satellite dishes on the front.

The alley on the left of my drawing is Shepherdess Place.

Notices on Shepherdess Place.

The white stone in the brickwork tells us that this small street marks a parish boundary. It says “The Boundary of the Parish of St Luke Middlesex, Ths B Johnson, Rd Phillips, Church Wardens, 1864“, with an additional figure “1” whose meaning is obscure to me. Can we assume “Ths” is “Thomas” and “Rd” is Rudyard? The black notice confirms this boundary “St L-S 1893“, 29 years later.

See how lovely the brickwork is! All those pinks and browns!

Here is work in progress on the drawing and some maps.

Five different buses pass the spot where I was drawing. They all head North up Shepherdess Walk:

  • 21 to Newington Green
  • 271 to Highgate Village
  • 394 to Homerton Hospital
  • 141 to Palmers Green
  • 76 to Tottenham Hale

There is a police station next to the Eagle pub, offices and housing all around. Moorfields Eye Hospital is just across the City Road. It’s a busy corner. The Shepherdess Café was closed because of lockdown.

There are many colours in this picture, all Daniel Smith colours: Lunar Earth, Buff Titanium, Burnt Umber and Prussian Blue for the brickwork, Perylene Maroon is in there too, for the grey and black, and Mars Yellow and Transparent Pyrrol Orange for the street signs. This is in Sketchbook 9 on Arches Aquarelle 300g NOT paper. The picture is 10″ x 7″ and took 1hr30min approx.

Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St

Here is a sketch of The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St, Clerkenwell, made as the light faded.

Jerusalem Tavern, 55 Britton St, 16 Nov 2020

I find this a particularly lovely building. The curves over the windows are semicircles and there is a pleasing symmetry to the upper floors. The semicircle over St John’s Passage exactly matches the door to its left, on another lovely house which has amazing tall windows on the first floor.

Britton Street was surprisingly lively on that Monday afternoon. There are offices along the street and people rushed in and out of doors, or came and stood on the pavement smoking. Delivery drivers were the main traffic, both vans and bicycles. They all seemed to know each other. A package was delivered to the office next to me. A woman came out to receive it. It was evidently expected. The driver returned to his van, and sorted more packages inside.

Here are some work in progress pictures and a map. I have just finished reading “Troubled Blood” by Robert Galbraith. If you’ve read the book you’ll know that much of the action takes place in these streets in Clerkenwell. As far as I can work out, all the streets mentioned in the book exist, and the routes described are realistic.

This drawing took about an hour. The colours are: for the walls – Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Mars Yellow (DS) and Phthalo Turquoise (W&N) , for the light in the windows Hansa Yellow Mid (DS). The drawing is 7″ x 10″, done in a sketchbook on 300gsm Arches Aquarelle Paper.

While I was drawing, I detected a movement in my peripheral vision. A spider of alarming size was climbing the wall against which I was leaning. It was making little spurts across each brick, then secreting itself into the mortar, trying to become invisible, before making its next jump. As I watched, it turned around meaningfully, and started heading down towards my rucksack, which was upright on the pavement, open, leaning against the brickwork like a spider-catching bucket. I moved the rucksack, and closed its flap. I was more-than-usually disconcerted, because we had been watching “Dr No” the previous night. I could recall rather too vividly that scene of the poisonous spider which crawls on James Bond while he is sleeping. I stood away from the wall, and monitored the spider’s progress. I did not have long to wait. It reached pavement level, no doubt disappointed that the bright yellow rucksack had somehow disappeared. Then it went into a pavement-level crack to decide what to do next. I decided to stop worrying about it.

To see the spider, scroll down – if you dare. Trigger warning: SPIDER.

Spider. It is about half the height of a house brick. Those are bricks on the wall, against which I was leaning.

Golden Lane Leisure Centre – South

On Golden Lane Estate there is a Leisure Centre in the Modernist style. Its roof floats on slender columns, and there are huge windows so you can see the activity inside.

Here’s a view of the south end. The tree is in the garden in front of Basterfield House.

I drew this picture sitting on the paving stones outside Cullum Welch House. This was the location I’d chosen, because from that precise spot I could see the Atlas Building in the gap between Basterfield House and Great Arthur House. It’s a huge empty space. A woman walked past me, intrigued by my equipment spread around. She looked critically at the plastic carrier bag I was using to insulate myself from the concrete. “I’m glad to see you are sitting on something,” she told me. “My mother used to say you should not sit on cold concrete or you would get…now what was it you would get?” Since this woman was herself somewhat elderly, I was guessing that the advice from her mother dated way back into the previous century. We smiled at each other, thinking of mothers. She walked away, puzzling over what it was that her mother had been concerned about. I continued my drawing, thinking about advice from mothers, and how it endured.

A day or so later, I made a sketch in the evening, looking the other way.

It was evening, and very cold. This time I was standing up, looking West, as the sky dimmed.

Here is a collection of my sketches in the Golden Lane Estate.