Wapping Old Stairs – Thames Beach

I went for a walk out East. Here is the view from the peaceful beach at Wapping Old Stairs E.

Wapping Old Stairs E

This was rather a quick sketch, because the tide was coming in. The geese came to have a look.

Earlier this year I sketched from the top of those steps, looking inland.

Wapping Old Stairs E

On a radiantly bright day I walked East from the City in search of horizons. Wapping, east of Tower Bridge, is where the buildings at last are of human size, and you can see the sky. Next to the pub called “Town of Ramsgate” on Wapping High Street, there is a small passage, a slot … Continue reading “Wapping Old Stairs E”

The passage is to the right, in front of the pub

Wapping Old Stairs is quite hard to find. It is next to the “Town of Ramsgate” pub.

This sketch took about 45 minutes. The colours are Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Perylene Maroon (DS), Mars Yellow (DS). I used the Fired Gold Ochre because it granulates so usefully to make the sand. The algae and green plants on the steps were slightly iridescent, glowing rather strangely even though in shadow.

The O2 from Trinity Buoy Wharf

Here is the view across the river Thames from Trinity Buoy Wharf, E14. The drawing shows “The O2”, which used to be called “The Millenium Dome”. It is an events arena. I have never been inside. In the distance are the towers of Canary Wharf.

I drew this in a lovely peaceful spot sitting on a wooden step next to a shed at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Each person who walked past said hello. A man paused and commented, “Ah, Art is going on!”, which made me laugh, somehow. Perhaps it was the way he said it.

Here is work in progress, and a photo of my art materials and my bike helmet on the step.

The drawing took 1hour30mins. The colours are: Mars Yellow (Daniel Smith), Transparent Pyrrol Orange (Daniel Smith), Phthalo Turquoise (Winsor and Newton).

I have sketched at Trinity Buoy wharf before. See this blog post:

Trinity Buoy Wharf

The headlines in the Evening Standard had described the pollution levels in central London at “Red Alert” levels. So I headed East to the clearer air and big skies of the maritime Thames. Trinity Buoy Wharf is here: I drew a picture of the lighthouse. Above me, four stories of shipping containers contain offices. Words … Continue reading “Trinity Buoy Wharf”

Balfron Tower

I went on a marvellous cycle ride in East London. The air was clear, the roads were wide and empty. As I came back I spotted this view of the Balfron Tower. I sat on a low wall in a housing estate off Willis Street, and sketched it.

Balfron Tower, Poplar, east London.

This tower is designed by the architect Ernő Goldfinger, and resembles his other famous tower, Trellick Tower, which is in North West London. Balfron Tower was built in 1967 as council housing.

It has recently been sold by Tower Hamlets Council, and redeveloped by the developer LondonNewcastle as luxury flats. You can see some of the scaffolding in the drawing.

Here is where it is.

Here is work in progress. Also a glimpse of my bicycle.

As I sat sketching, a pale young man approached. “It’s beautiful,” he said as he strode past. He was referring to the Balfron Tower, not to my drawing.

“Yes, ” I agreed, “I think so”. I looked down to my drawing again. But the young man had something else to say.

“You should see Jesus,” he told me, “He’s beautiful too.” Taking my baffled silence as amazement, he continued, “I’ve seen Him, believe it or not”. He left this statement hanging in the air and walked on around the corner, without breaking step.

Hermitage Moorings and The Shard

Walking east, downriver, the crowds left behind, suddenly there is space and silence.

Hermitage Moorings, with the boat “Twee Artsen”

This drawing is a view across the river from the North bank. Tower Bridge is just off to the right. Opposite you see The Shard, and the waterfront buildings of Hays Galleria. The curved building in the background houses the Greater London Authority (GLA).

In the foreground is the boat which is called “Twee Artsen”. As far as I can work out, that is Dutch for “Two Doctors”, as in medical practitioners. It seems a strange name for a boat, so perhaps I got that wrong. Can anyone advise me?

This was a lovely place to draw.

The drawing took about half an hour. The sky is cobalt blue, knocked back a bit with Naples Yellow Red. There’s some Mars Yellow and Perinone Orange for the masts of the boats. The Thames is Cobalt blue with Burnt Umber. The boat black is made from Phthalo Green (BS) and Perylene Maroon. There’s some Hansa Yellow Mid in there too, for the lower sky. Quite a lot of colours in this one. The Naples Yellow Red is a Rembrandt colour, all the rest are Daniel Smith.

Where Hermitage Moorings is.

The Eastern Cluster from Tower Wharf

I went down to the river to find the sun. It was there, flooding the North side of the Thames, and so were an extraordinary number of tourists.

But who can blame them? The city was looking clear cut and perfect, there was a slight haze in the distance, a blue sky, and a low golden sun. I stopped by The Tower, and admired Tower Bridge, as everyone else was doing. Then I looked the other way, and saw the towers of the City.

From left to right: 22Bishopsgate (the tallest), the Cheesegrater, the Scalpel, the Gherkin.

I enjoyed the fact that you can see the pollarded trees and the chimneys of the buildings of the Tower of London, in front of the skyscrapers. The lower, pointed building, just to the left of the Gherkin, is the former headquarters of the Admiralty. Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703), who wrote the diaries, worked there. This building is now an upmarket hotel.

The castellations in the foreground are part of the Tower of London.

The colours used are Cobalt Blue, Burnt Umber, and Mars Yellow, all Daniel Smith watercolours.

This drawing took about an hour, drawn and coloured on location.

Weavers Fields, and Worship Street

On Wednesday I went for a peregrination around Hackney, north and east of Brick Lane.


I drew this sitting on a bench on Weavers’ Fields. The tower block is Charles Dickens House. The church which you can just see is on the junction of Pollard Row and the Bethnal Green Road. It is a deconsecrated church, and looks as though it’s been converted to residential flats. The building with the roof, straight ahead, is on Derbyshire Road E2. It’s clearly been industrial in its time, now it looks vaguely high-tech. Note the long solar panel on the roof.

It was incredibly cold, about 5 degrees C. But very bright sun, so the solar panel must have been working.

I walked on back to the city. In amongst the office blocks it was warmer. I tucked myself into the angle of a building and drew this:


This is 101 Worship Street, in the beautiful row of workshops designed by Philip Webb. If I were to make the untold millions necessary, I would buy up this row and look after it. I have had my eye on it for a while, ready to campaign if it were threatened. At the far end, sketchily shown behind the cars, is a sort of font or water fountain, with a sharp angled roof. The houses are not in good repair, and evidently listed or they’d have been pulled down by now. They are surrounded by the huge developments of Hoxton and the City of London, as you see behind. This is the “fin tech” area. But these houses survive, against the odds, tribute to the utopian dreams of a previous era.

99 Leman Street E1 – Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS)

This huge redbrick building in Leman Street stands proudly amongst the 21st century steel and glass. Inscribed round its windows and above its door in letters a foot high are the words “Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited”. The words are spelled out in full, and written in stone. Oh, those confident and visionary Victorians!

The Co-operative Wholesale Society’s  London Branch headquarters were built to designs by J. F. Goodey of 1885. At the formal opening on 2 November 1887, the CWS announced that it should ‘be their aim to make this beautiful building a common home for all the various movements having for their object the interest and advancement of the working people. They had with them their friend, the Rev. S. A. Barnett, and they hoped to work hand in hand with him and the residents of Toynbee Hall, in giving a message of hope to the people of the neighbourhood’

from the “Survey of London” [https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/1264/detail/]


A thin plastic sign by the street door says “Sugar House”. It is now apartments.

This drawing done very quickly, in about 10-15 minutes, as the sun was setting and I was tired and cold. From the junction of Chamber St and Leman St.

Trinity Buoy Wharf

The headlines in the Evening Standard had described the pollution levels in central London at “Red Alert” levels. So I headed East to the clearer air and big skies of the maritime Thames.

Trinity Buoy Wharf is here:


I drew a picture of the lighthouse.

Above me, four stories of shipping containers contain offices. Words floated down.

“That was his first investment. He hasn’t really been improving. … To be fair, he does wear a luminescent hat. If that isn’t a warning sticker I don’t know what is.”

I continued drawing. The shed on the left of the lighthouse contains a small display called “The Faraday Effect”. Inside the shed I learned that

“there used to be two lighthouses here. The original one was built in 1854 and demolished in the late 1920s. This was the building used by Micheal Faraday in his scientific work for Trinity House.  The roof space adjoining the surviving lighthouse, which was built in 1864, housed Faraday’s workshop for examining lenses and other apparatus”

I was glad I’d drawn the roof adjoining the lighthouse. The building below it, on the right of the picture, is “Fat Boys Diner” with a Pepsi sign on top. I’ve not been in there yet.

The Faraday Effect is the phenomenon whereby when polarised light passes through a magnetic field, the polarisation rotates. Faraday also showed that light is affected by magnet force. He discovered electromagnetic induction: that electricity can be made by rotating a coil of wire in a magnetic field. Hence power stations, and much else.

Before I drew the lighthouse, I had a coffee in the marvellous “Bow Creek Café”. From there I drew this picture:


There was a lot of light. The things in the foreground were dark, and the boat shone.

The light-bulb shaped object on the left is a construction on top of a number of blue containers labelled “ENO” in the English National Opera logo.

On the left is the lightship, which is red, called “Lightship95 Audio Recording Studio”.