I was commissioned to paint the new apartments on the southern bank of the Thames known as Battersea Reach.

This part of the river was severely damaged during World War II probably due to the local industries and the vast power station was just up river. Bombing accuracy was never as good as the films made out, so I suspect many of the bombs destined for the power station, ended up on this site instead.

After the war, the site has been redeveloped for municipal and private housing. The Battersea Reach development being one of the most recent incarnations.

Generally, I paint older buildings. With modern building techniques and materials, your modern building presents  unusual challenges.

Drawing and painting modern structures

In the 1960s and 70s Architects and structural engineers, perfected the technique of a having a robust and solid core holding up the whole structure leaving plenty of scope to do what they like on the outer skin, so great acreages of fragile glass can be easily slotted in.

Moving to very recent times, computer power enables active imaginations to bend designs safely to the absolute limit. You only have to look at the architectural mad house playgrounds of the Middle East where a bottomless chequebook may not have been the best idea in the world.

So in summary, there is often not a right angle to be seen and as glass does not possess its own colour and is highly reflective, you really have to work hard to pin down the shapes, and structure or it will look like a line of 100 meter jelly moulds.

Drawing and painting Battersea Reach

Thankfully, here I had a lovely long view from the north bank of the Thames.

You can see the swept-back look of each of the ‘blocks’ which I suppose would be reminiscent of the prows of ocean going liners complete with funnels. Far more pleasing to me than the clumsy blocks from the 1960s or indeed many of the Dubai-esk clones springing up all over the City and the East End.

I kept it simple at first, keying in the basic shapes and just getting a decent look on the pitch of the front balconies. Nothing too clever at this stage. An idea. This is the skeleton of a more accurate drawing.

Battersea Reach drawing sketch blog

The main challenge of the second drawing is NOT to get it too accurate or it will simply look like an artist’s impression. The final painting had to look lively, though with the right amount of balconies and windows. But not so loose or I might get that jelly mould I was now rather paranoid of.

Battersea Drawing blog

Once all the structure was sorted, I could begin enjoying all the painting. As mentioned previously, I needed to ensure all those glass reflections were working in harmony with the lighter London brick cladding.

All in all, I was rather pleased with it all, and once it came to painting the river and characters, I could sit back and enjoy it a bit more.

Were it not for the commission I don’t think I would have chosen to paint Battersea Reach, though I am glad I did, and I felt that I had really learnt something in my work and a bit more about the challenges of modern architecture.


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