I have recently completed a commission for a client who requested three views near the Thames at Waterloo in London. The location was the only restriction really and within that area it was a pretty open brief. I had a generous deadline too so I could look about and choose carefully. Perfect
What to paint? I felt that whatever I do the finished pieces would all have to work together in some way so they could be put up next to each other as well as stand up individually.
After a much musing I decided on one view from the North bank looking across the river to County Hall, the old home of the Greater London Council, and another looking from the south bank over to The Royal Horseguards Hotel.
This luxury block of apartments was based on a French Chateau and was a happy by-product of a pyramid fraud scheme by one Jabez Balfour in 1895.
This Dickensian swindler with the Dickensian name was caught running off with his investors’ money and did 16 years hard labour in true Dickensian style. He is long gone now though The Royal Horseguards is still here.
The last location was the entrance to Waterloo Station. This station holds happy memories for me. It is the station that takes you down to the South Coast to Portsmouth to where I grew up.
Years back on a Friday after work I would rush over to Waterloo Station and jump on a train down to Portsmouth for the weekend to meet up with friends. If I kept a pace up I could have my first drink in hand by 8.15. The first but by no means the last. If all went to plan then by 2am the brutalised, straggling survivors would be found groaning into a curry and bewildered at why everyone else looked so smashed. Halcyon days.
Getting on with it I worked out the sketches early on in the year and the only thing that was tricky was the weather. It was so brutally cold I even did a blog about it.
I returned in the Spring to give it all another look. I needed the sun a little higher and certainly didn’t want everyone wrapped up like ice age refugees.
County Hall and Royal Horseguards went in quite nicely; I had to adjust the proportions on site compared to my sketches though all in all it was fine. I was saving the best until last, that being Waterloo Station entrance. I was happy with the sketch though I did not solve the problem of the arch. It is complicated and drops back in steps with elaborate carvings as it went. I am not interested in natural perspective though whatever I do has to look convincing.
I like this kind of challenge and once the bones of the building were in I sliced, diced and pulled about the arch until it began to work. As I worked I noticed that at the back of the clock is a great arc of frosted glass. And behind the glass you could pick out the occasional fleeting movement.
I imagined that this is the office of the king of the railways, enthroned behind a monstrous mahogany desk. The arc of bright glass behind him to enhance that imperious persona. A pretty impressive place to have your office I should think.
I was cracking on now and the arch was working fine. I had enough characters to populate the busy steps too. Working on the final bits I felt I had enough to finish the rest off in the studio which I did do a while later. All in all I am pretty pleased with them all.
Oh by the way After I packed up on that day I went inside the station for a tea. Up a flight of stairs I found one of the cafes for my cuppa. It was there I discovered that the ‘king of the railways office’ was in fact just a well-lit lavatory at the back.
Life can be like that sometimes.
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