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.
From the Barbican Podium underneath Willoughby House you can look East across the Crossrail site. Soon this view will be obliterated by the tall building on top of the Moorgate Crossrail station. But just now, this is what you can see:
I drew this picture with just three colours:
Cadmium Red (Rembrandt)
Cobalt Blue (Jacksons)
Indian Yellow (Jacksons)
This was following the advice of Teoh Yi Chie of Parkablogs, in one of his Youtube posts, called “How I choose which colours to use”. He advises limiting the number of colours, and choosing just one red, one yellow and one blue for a picture. As you see, it is possible to create a wide range of colours from just three, including all the greys you see in the picture.
I was particularly pleased with the sheen on The Gherkin, which happened as the colours granulated and dried out.
The Towers in the picture are part of the emerging “Eastern Cluster”. This is a region of skyscrapers in the City of London. More will be added, according to the Eastern Cluster Strategy (try this link: City of London Eastern Cluster Strategy).
Here are the ones I could identify:
Here are photos of the picture being drawn:
About 1½ hours, drawn and coloured standing on the podium, leaning the sketchbook on the concrete of the podium. Warm breeze. Sun. I needed the sunhat.
This was a quick sketch, perhaps 25 minutes. The moon hung just above Tower 42, as you can just see in the picture, and in this short time, it moved until it was over TwentyTwo.
I was on my way to see if the new rooftop garden on 120 Fenchurch Street was open to the public as advertised. With very low expectations I found my way between the immense towers of the insurance district, and presented myself, in my anorak with my rucksack, at what I deemed was the correct entrance. It looked like a corporate reception area, with a person in uniform with a label round their neck. Expecting to be asked my business and turned away, I asked politely if I could go up. “Yes of course,” said the uniformed individual, smiling broadly, “Just put your bag through the scanner.” It was as easy as that. I was amazed. More uniformed people were on hand to welcome me into the lift and out when I reached the 15th floor.
This roof garden is stunning. The sun was shining, and a estuarine wind ruffled the heads of the tulips. People were standing about on the clean concrete areas as though in an architectural layout. 120 Fenchurch Street is not particularly high, on the grand overall scale of things, but the view is spectacular because it is embedded within other towers, so it’s like being in a sculpture park. The Gherkin, the Scalpel, and TwentyTwo Bishopsgate are all round it, and there’s the Lloyds Building, and a distant view of St Pauls, and the glint of the Thames.
I decided I would be selective, and not try to draw a wide view. So I settled out of the wind, on the West side, and drew this.
I enjoyed the chasm, and the roof paraphernalia. The drain pipes were much in the steampunk tradition. They took flamboyant routes over the brick, with far more right angles than is strictly necessary. See also the iron staircases and platforms, more like the set of “Streetcar Named Desire” than office blocks in the financial district.
Here is work in progress, and the sketchbook on the paving of the roof garden.
The drawing took 1hour 15 minutes.
Here are maps showing where I was.
Here’s the direction I was looking from Throgmorton Avenue
Here is the direction I was looking from 120 Fenchurch St