Here is an etching for the City Music Foundation.
Here are photos of work in progress and some more prints:
See this post for earlier sessions on this project: St Bartholomew the Less – etchings(1)
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.
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.
Here is a back alley off Fleet Street, London EC4.
It is Old Mitre Court. The buildings on the right are 1 & 2 Mitre Court Buildings. They are listed Grade 2. Here’s what Historic England says in the listing:
Early/mid C19. 4 storeys plus basement. Plain classical, south elevation of Portland stone with channelled ground storey and cornice below top floor. Arched passage through centre. Plain, rear elevation of yellow brick with railings and gates.
It’s the “rear elevation of yellow brick” that you see in the picture. There are three gas lamps, at least one of which works. The other two look very rickety.
The buildings, 1 & 2 Mitre Court Buildings, are legal practices, housing Barristers and their associates. A list of the barristers is by the doors. The notice on the pavement says “Inner Temple Treasury Office, Open 10am – 4pm”. This is the office underneath the furthest gas light, the one with the right-angled support above it.
The paving slabs at the bottom of the picture were in fact green, as I have drawn them. It was damp, and there was a coating of moss-type algae on the paving slabs. A saying of my late father was, “The plants will win in the end”. When I see such a green coating on stone, in the middle of the City, I am reminded of his words, and I think he is right.
Eventually I had to stop drawing as the rain came down. The drawing got a bit wet.
Here is work in progress and a map:
Drawing took 1hour 15 mins. Colours used mostly Perinone orange, and Prussian blue, with a bit of burnt umber. Indian yellow for the gas lights. All Daniel Smith colours. Pen is Lamy Safari EF nib, with De Atramentis document (waterproof) black ink.
I went out to look for more gas lights in the City. There was rain, and the back alleys were wet. I couldn’t find any more gaslights.
At the South East extreme of my peregrination I looked up and saw St Peter upon Cornhill. It is wedged in between other buildings.
The adjacent building is labelled “54 & 55” Cornhill, in lovely art-deco writing. There is a branch of “EAT” on the ground floor. High up, there are three strange devils (ringed in red on the annotated picture above). The two larger and higher ones are definitely female devils, with big breasts and strong muscles. The smaller devil is yelling from his position above a window.
I drew this picture from the shelter of White Lion Court, which is on the North side of Cornhill. This is one of those City of London back-alleys. It doesn’t go anywhere, just to the door of what looks like an insurance company, and off to the side is a doorway with ecclesiastical carving above. It looks like the entrance to a monastery. But that can’t be right. The modern iron gate is adorned with modern litter.
As I was drawing a man came round from the nearby branch of Sainsbury’s to eat his sandwich and smoke.
Then later another man came by and asked me if I had seen the fire brigade. I said no, because I hadn’t. He said the fire alarm in one of the offices had gone off. He said he’d be wandering about for a bit, while he contacted the key holder. I could hear him calmly making phone calls. He was still there when I finished my drawing and packed up. I waved goodbye to him, and he nodded and half waved back, constrained in his movements as he was holding his phone to his ear and consulting a notebook.
It is astonishing how many tourist groups go down Cornhill. If I have done nothing else today, I have at least inspired a few tourists and other passers-by to look upwards to the onion spire of St Peter upon Cornhill. People pause, see that I am drawing, wonder what I can possibly be drawing in that dingy back-alley, and then look in the direction I’m looking and see the spire.
The tourist groups pause in the shelter of nearby Sun Court. I guess they are being told anecdotes about why there are she-devils on 54 and 55 Cornhill. I looked online. I can only find anecdotes, no facts. The building is by Runtz, 1853.
There has been a church at St Peter upon Cornhill since the 2nd Century AD, according to a tablet whose inscription was recorded and copied on various printed media, and now on Wikipedia. The tablet doesn’t exist any more as it was destroyed in the fire of London. The current building is by Christopher Wren, and was constructed between 1677 and 1684. There is also an entrance on Gracechurch St, which I must go and have a look at.
Here is work in progress.
The drawing took 1½ hours.
There are quite a few gas lights in London. I aim to draw as many as possible before they are taken out of service. It’s quite remarkable that there are so many still in operation. This one is in Guildhall Yard, in the City of London. St Lawrence Jewry is in the background.
Here is the gas light close up, drawn from Guildhall Yard, looking south.
Written on the little blue canister are the words:
It is a timing device. According to the marvellous website “Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History”, in 1904 the Horstmann Gear Company patented….
“…the Solar Dial which automatically adjusted lighting times at dusk and dawn throughout the year. It was the start of nearly eighty years of Horstmann’s manufacturing involvement in the street lighting controls market.”
However before this innovation, the gas might have been lit by a person, because there is the arm for the ladder, as shown in my drawing. Perhaps that arm was always there, though, even after automation, in case someone needed to inspect the light. The North face of the light, the one shown in my picture, includes hinges on the left, and evidently could be opened.
I do not know if this light still functions. I shall take a diversion that way in the night, and let you know.*
I have drawn another local gas light, which does still function, off King Edward Street.
All pictures drawn and coloured on location. Pen and wash.
*Update: It works!
This is a drawing on one of those hot days last week.
I sat at one of the tables on the Barbican Lakeside Terrace and drew what I saw. The massive building is 125 London Wall, a multi-occupancy monolith. Behind, to the right is 88 Wood Street, designed by Richard Rogers (“Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners”). It’s a bit like the Lloyds Building, with transparent walls and lifts you can see going up and down. On the left is the new building at One London Wall Place.
In front of all that is the side of St Giles’ church, with its castellations. There was a celebration going on: Barbican@50.
The banner you can see fastened to the railings says “SOSBarbican.com”. It is placed by objectors to the proposed extension of the Girls School.
1 hour 20.
Here is the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, seen from across the Barbican Lake. I drew this sitting on a ventilator grille in an alcove of the residential flats in Andrewes House.
The Tower in the distance is Cromwell Tower. The sloping glass roof is the Barbican Conservatory. Gilbert House is the residential block on the left. In the foreground is the magical sunken garden, a planted area whose walkways are below the level of the lake.
As I drew, I was watched with interest by mallard ducks. One settled at my feet, in a proprietorial way.
I had not noticed before that the Guildhall School is built as a series of blocks, rather like a container park. The top row and the bottom row don’t quite match. The second row has a series of upright concrete beams, which I’ve shown, between the blocks.
I saw that the windows are angled. The inhabitants of one block must be able to see, in a sideways sort of way, into the next block. I’ve never been inside the School, so I don’t know how this works out in practice. But after all, this is a school of performing arts, so it’s rather good if you can see your fellow students through a window: every window a stage.
However the angling of the windows meant that from outside I couldn’t see inside. I have to wait until the performers are ready to present their pieces on a public stage. Still, from time to time I heard a flight of notes on a saxophone. Perhaps they had opened the window of one of the practice rooms.
About 2 hours, including a chat to a fellow resident who stopped by.
Predominantly just two colours: Perinone Orange and Prussian Blue, with a tiny bit of Mars Yellow in the rushes.