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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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.

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Bayer House, Golden Lane Estate

I drew Bayer House from a quiet spot above the Leisure Centre. Bayer House is the brick building on the right. The white building in the centre is Peabody Tower, on the Peabody Estate, the other side of Golden Lane.

In the background, you see the “HYLO” tower on Bunhill Row, under construction.

Bayer House (right), Golden Lane Estate.

Bayer House is three rows of 2 storey maisonettes: like three terraced streets, stacked. The brick walls are pink brinks with pink mortar: very pink. The architects are Chamberlain, Powell and Bon.

I drew this picture from the podium level, one storey up. In the sunken playground area, children played. I could hear their voices below me, and caught an occasional glimpse as they dashed into my field of view. Then I heard another noise, a rhythmic beat or clunk. I thought the children must have some kind of percussive instrument that they were playing with, like two large rocks. May be they were slapping two boxing gloves together. Then their voices opened into greetings. Just at that moment, two enormous police horses came into view, walking at my level. The police officers had paused their mounts, and were waving to the children below. I called out a hello, and then the police officers saw me too. “Hey look, there’s someone drawing!” They moved their horses on, hoofs clip-clopping on the concrete, very loud, and now, of course, utterly distinctive.

Many of the blocks on the Golden Lane Estate are named for councillors or other officials of the City of London who were in post at the time the Estate was under construction. But I could not find a “Bayer”. “Hatfield”, of “Hatfield House” which I drew previously, was also not to be found in the lists. After a long search, the marvellous London Metropolitan Archives turned up the answer. Hatfield St, and parts of Basterfield St, were subject of a compulsory purchase order in 1954. Bayer St, Great and Little Arthur Street, and the intriguing “Hot Water Court” were compulsorily purchased in 1951. So these houses are named after streets. More searching revealed the maps, see below. You see the former Bayer St in approximately the position of Bayer House, and Great Arthur St where Great Arthur House is now. Hatfield House and Basterfield House are also in the position of their corresponding streets. There is still a vestige of Basterfield St north of Basterfield House. Click to enlarge the maps below.

The colours in this picture are Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Mars Yellow(DS), Buff Titanium (DS), and Perylene Maroon (DS). There a bit of Transparent Pyrrol Orange (DS) in the tree and the balconies of Bayer House. It was very cold and the colours did not dry which is why they are a bit blurry.

The collection of my Golden Lane Estate drawings is here:

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Hatfield House, Golden Lane Estate

This is Hatfield House, at the North side of the Golden Lane Estate, EC1.

Hatfield House, Golden Lane Estate, 12″x9″ watercolour [SOLD]

The arches in the middle of the picture are above the Golden Lane Leisure Centre, which is closed at the moment. You can just see the blue vending display, which has goggles and other items for use in the swimming pool.

While I was drawing the picture, I caught movement in the side of my vision. A man appeared below me, indoors, by the side of the swimming pool. I looked at him through the window. He was fully dressed, with covers over his shoes, stirring a bucket with a long pole. After a long period of patient stirring, he poured the contents of the bucket into the swimming pool. Then he refilled the bucket, set it on the edge of the pool, and started stirring again. At that point I stopped watching and resumed my drawing. When I looked back again, he had gone.

This picture was drawn for a commission. I made a preliminary drawing, and various sketches. Here is work in progress. The big challenge was to get the perspective lines right, to show the depth and distance.

This drawing was done on 29th September 2020.

Here are more sketches in the Golden Lane Estate:

Crescent House, Golden Lane Estate

A resident of Crescent House commissioned me to draw his block.

Crescent House – 12″x9″ original watercolour (SOLD)

This is a view from the podium level, above the Golden Lane Leisure centre. The block on the left is Cullum Welch House. The yellow colour in the centre is a reflection of Great Arthur House in the windows of Crescent House.

Map showing the view of Crescent House in the drawing (North is on the right)

The pavement by the wall was being re-laid. Just off the picture, to the right, people who were laying the paving stones sang merry tunes, and insulted each other. “Dean, I don’t believe how long that’s taken you. It’s a five minute job!”

Dean was moving the metal fencing around, making a sound like a drum roll. They needed to reconfigure their enclosure as they finished one section of paving and moved onto the next. I didn’t catch Dean’s repost, but the answer was, “No…no.. it’s just because you are lazy….”

Here is work in progress on this final drawing. It is made on a block of Saunders Waterford Hot Press 300gsm paper.

I made some preliminary drawings a few days previously, to get my head around the composition and the perspective challenges.

At the bottom left of the sketch is that strange sloping block. It is pointed. I didn’t get the whole of it in the sketch as it is so fascinating that it would have distracted from the main object of the drawing which is Crescent House. But it is worthy of examination. It looks like a tank trap. But what is it doing there? There are two of them.

As you see they are wonderful sculptural objects, worthy of a drawing in their own right.

Probably they are to stop people from sitting on that convenient ledge.

Great Arthur House and Cullum Welch House

I found a good viewpoint at Podium level, underneath Crescent House. At ground level a woman ran circuits of the tennis courts. After a while she started doing interval training: running up and down the stairs near where I was standing. Then she came and asked if she could see the picture.

Great Arthur House and Cullum Welch House, Golden Lane Estate, from Crescent House.

Cullum Welch House is named for Sir George James Cullum Welch O.B.E., M.C. He was Sheriff of London, then knighted, then Lord Mayor of London in 1956, which was when the Golden Lane Estate was being built. He was knighted in the 1952 New Year Honours. He served in the army in 1914-18 and 1939-45 conflicts, and gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Cullum Welch House and Great Arthur House, together with other buildings in the Golden Lane Estate are listed Grade II. The listing was in December 1997. Here is an extract from the listing on the Historic England site.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Cullum Welch House, part of the Golden Lane Estate, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: as a self-sufficient ‘urban village’, in which every element of space is accounted for and every detail carefully considered, the Golden Lane Estate has claim to be the most successful of England’s housing developments from the early 1950s.

* Planning interest: the estate reflects the formality, mixed with picturesque attention to landscape, which was emerging in British architecture in the early 1950s, this saw the spaces between the buildings being almost as important as the buildings themselves.

The strong formality of the estate became a key characteristic of the work of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, as did the provision of a wide range of facilities on the site other than just housing. These are features that can also be seen at their Barbican development.

Here’s the description of Great Arthur House from the Historic England website:

Great Arthur House was built in 1953-7 from reinforced concrete. The 17 floor building was the first to break the London County Council’s 100 ft height restriction and was briefly the tallest inhabited building in England. The flats were designed for single people and couples such as nurses and policemen who had to live near their work. The architects for the estate were Chamberlin, Powell and Bon.

It was cold when I drew the picture, 10 degrees C. I wore a hat and gloves. Here are photos of work in progress, and a map.

This picture took about two hours overall, plus 15 minutes for the preliminary sketch.

The colours are Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue, which make the grey tones, plus Hansa Yellow Mid which is the exact colour of the yellow cladding on Great Arthur House.

Here is a collection of my recent drawings of the Golden Lane Estate. Click on the picture to read more about the picture.

Eglwys Jewin, the Welsh Church, from Golden Lane Estate

On a glorious sunny Sunday, the sun lit up the roof of the Welsh Church.

Eglwys Jewin, the Welsh Church, from Golden Lane Estate.

This is the view from the Golden Lane Estate. Here is a map, and an annotated image to show which building is which. The arrow on the map shows the direction I was looking.

I was sitting next to a beech tree, Fagus Sylvatica Dawyck. A small notice at the base of the tree informed me that it has been planted on the 9th December 1989, to commemorate 800 years of the Lord Mayoralty. By co-incidence, this is the same anniversary that was commemorated by the bollard in my previous post. Here is a picture of the planting ceremony, kindly provided by Billy Mann from his Golden Lane Archive.

Fagus Sylvatica Dawyck, Beech Tree on the Golden Lane Estate, being planted.
Photo courtesy of Patsy Cox and used with permission. The photographer was standing almost exactly where I sat to draw my picture.

The tree has grown strongly in the last 30 years. It surges out of its metal hoops, and pushes the notice aside.

The Golden Lane Estate is a busy place. Many people passed by on the nearby paths. The tree and I were on a raised area, above parked cars. Some people were on foot, one was in a wheelchair, and there were several groups of cyclists. One person had a dog. This was a small dog, the same size as my sketchbook. I can say that with certainty, because, while the person was occupied on their mobile phone, the dog dashed onto my dais and plonked itself foursquare on my sketchbook. What to do?

I must have shouted out, because the person looked up briefly from their phone. I glared at the person, and shooed the dog away. The person uttered a perfunctory ‘sorry’ and continued their conversation. “No, no, it’s alright,” they said into the phone, “it’s just that Tabatha…”. They didn’t ask me if it was alright. I looked down at my drawing. It was alright.

I have drawn this church before. It was built in the 1960s. More information about this interesting building is on my previous posts:

This drawing took two hours. It is 25cm by 16cm, 10 inches by 6½ inches on Arches 300gsm watercolour paper. The main colours are Fired Gold Ochre, Mars Yellow, Phthalo Turquoise, and Perylene Maroon, with some Prussian Blue for the shadows.

This is the wonderful three dimensional map of the Golden Lane Estate, which is on the South end of Stanley Cohen House on Golden Lane. It has West at the top because that’s the direction you are facing when you are looking at the map.


The Old Red Cow, from Cloth Fair

Here is a view of the pub “The Old Red Cow”, seen from Cloth Fair.

The Old Red Cow from Cloth Fair
I drew the picture from outside “The Hand and Shears”

The front of the pub is on Long Lane. When CrossRail opens, it will be very well placed to serve the people flooding out of the new “Farringdon East” station. At the moment, however, it’s closed due to the COVID pandemic.

In Cloth Fair in this area there is a particularly varied collection of bollards. One celebrates 800 years of the Lord Mayor: 1189-1989.

Here are some photos of work in progress and a picture of the bollard.

One hour and 20 minutes, drawn and coloured outside the “Hand and Shears”.

St Bartholomew the Great: Cloth Fair

Cloth Fair is a small street near Smithfield, EC1.

Just South of Cloth Fair is the ancient church of St Bartholomew the Great. I sketched this church from Bartholomew Passage, shown on the map above. Later in the week, I sketched it from the South West side.

St Bartholomew the Great is an ancient church, founded 1123, along with the nearby hospital of St Bartholomew, now called Barts Health NHS Trust.

There is a labyrinth of alleys in this area. As I was sketching in Bartholomew Alley, a woman reached the North end of the Alley, staring at her phone. She rotated through 36o degrees, still looking at the phone. Anxious and frustrated, she rushed along Bartholomew Alley, passed me and stopped. Her plight was so desperate that she was going to abandon the instructions of the phone, and ask a stranger for directions. She asked me if this was the right way for the hospital. I said that it was, but it was complicated that way. “If you are in a hurry,” I said, “you’d best go back the way you came…”. She was in a hurry. She uttered an expletive, and set off in the direction I’d indicated.

Then she remembered her manners and paused, turned to face me, and said “Thank you for the information”.

Here are some maps of the new “Barts Square” development, showing the location of the second sketch.

I have sketched often in this area, which is changing rapidly. I am still learning my way around. Here are some of my sketches round here.

Barts Square, West side

Today I went to try out “Halfcup”, a new coffee place which has opened on Bartholomew Close. It’s part of the new “Barts Square” development. These are new buildings in an area that was previously St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Some of the external features of the original hospital buildings have kept, as you see in the … Continue reading “Barts Square, West side”

Barts Square, Butchers’ Hall

Continuing my exploration of Barts Square, EC1, today I drew Butchers’ Hall. Butchers’ Hall is the building with the arched windows, in the centre left of the picture. It is the headquarters of The Worshipful Company of Butchers. This livery company is very old, the Arms were granted in 1540 and the charter by James … Continue reading “Barts Square, Butchers’ Hall”

A concert at St Bartholomew the Great

Here is a post-card sized sketch of people listening to the concert. It felt as though the stones were listening too. Pen and ink in small Seawhite journal, about 20 mins.