I am currently working on a commission to paint a number of scenes around the Waterloo area of London. I began just before Christmas drawing in the main façade of the station featuring commuters, Christmas shoppers, and those going on holiday. All pouring in and out of the main entrance.
On site at Christmas
Although bitterly cold with my feet near solid it had that indefinable pleasing feel in the air that only Christmas can bring. I managed to grab another view looking from the South to the North bank before hypothermia near carried me off. Here too there was holiday cheer with stalls selling hot drinks and a few fair ground rides to add a bit of warmth to the entertainment if not the body. Santa is on his way!
Back again in January
Christmas is gone now and I have returned in January to begin again. The views of course are the same though the atmosphere is very… well, January in London. It is rather bleak, grey and rinsed of colour. The sky slate, the river mud, the buildings flat cut out shapes. Architects design in the full sun of their imaginations, their creations are never conceived under the merciless, base light of a January in London.
So each year the cities architecture endures the misery of the British winter like so many ugly ducklings, grumbling and waiting for spring. Only Wren appears to shine through today, but then Wren was the monumental talent with a Kings budget.
Clothing and Kit
Anyway, enough moaning from me. Today I am on a full heavy winter kit of clothing including double thick fingerless gloves, meaty man boots, a heavy overcoat cladding my pink podgy body. All topped off with a hat, scarf and plenty of change for hot teas.
In regards to equipment I will only be drawing today so I am on a light kit of just sketch book, pencils, and a camera for quick references. The eraser and sharpener I carry on a string around my neck and though I look an idiot I would rather that than end up watching another eraser drop to the road only to bounce majestically down another drain. I would have my gloves on a string through my coat too if I could get away with it. I never lost gloves when I was a child.
Where to draw?
I have my eye on the City Hall building. Once the headquarters of The Greater London Council it now houses a hotel, private flats and an aquarium of all things. It sits next door to The London Eye and boasts some of the best river views.
The challenge being to get the huge City hall Building in the picture with plenty of characters too. If I did a close up they would be so many ants so I needed a near and far composition.
Luckily it didn’t take long to find my pitch. Just out of Embankment station near the river boat stop is a souvenirs booth manned by a fella cocooned in wool and kapok.
This view was ideal for me and got to work right away on the sweep of the building across the river with the booth in the foreground.
The seller turned out to be Polish and we chatted to pass the time while stamping life back into our feet. I only had to be there for an hour or so, he was there all day, every day and I know the Thames wind near cut you in half when it takes a mood.
We packed up at around the same time and I agreed to give him a share if the client was happy. ‘A modelling fee’ I gestured.
That evening I showed the client the initial drawings and thankfully she was pleased with my efforts and we are all go for the final pieces.