I was commissioned to paint this junction of Shoreditch High Street. My client spent many years living in an apartment on this junction, and wanted a memory of it.
Today, it is party central with a bar, club, coffee shop or nightclub on every corner. Oh mustn’t forget the arty book shop. It looks like it has always been there.
This, however, is not the case. It seems just a few short years ago I visited the Comedy Cafe on Rivington Street on a Saturday night, and Shoreditch was like a deserted dystopian world, lit only by the single red neon light of the lone comedy night spot.
You would casually come across Banksy graffiti on dark walls, many pieces lost forever by over zealous council cleaners. The most famous being a 2002 piece featuring Pulp Fiction characters pointing bananas instead of guns. This was painted over by London Transport workmen despite being worth more than £300,000 at the time. A Transport for London spokesman said “Our graffiti removal teams are staffed by professional cleaners not professional art critics.” Very London!
Painting Shoreditch High Street
The client was open to ideas on the final painting so I decided to do a couple of quick sketchbook visuals to present.
As I did these visuals in February, it was pretty cold so I fortified myself with coffee first to keep me warm. Yes, ‘Artisan Coffee’ served by someone sporting a woolly beard and covered in tattoos.
The first view was facing West from the Churchyard of Shoreditch Church (as in” when I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch”, from the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons).
I liked this view as the railway bridge cuts nicely over the road, and in the background you can see Shoreditch Town Hall peering over the top. I was pretty pleased with it and though the client didn’t choose this route, I think I may do a final piece anyway and pop it onto the site to sell.
The second view was looking North up Kingsland Road, and Hackney Road. I was also treated with a lovely wrought iron railway bridge on the Kingsland Road side.
When you are drawing on site you have the opportunity to notice the local people. The people who hang out here are totally different from those in Camden High Street. Shoreditch High Street is far more fashion conscious, and sadly far more self conscious too. It’s a great place to party though its a mite too poised.
That said, my job is just to record. I did also notice the action around ‘Browns Gentlemen’s Club’ in the centre of the painting. A constant trickle of men in groups passing through the well guarded doors at the front. And at the side door ‘girls’ going on lunch breaks alone. I drew them in too.
This was the view the client chose, so in the final painting, I brought all the days sketches watercolours and notes together for the final piece.
Moste enjoyable, especially that railway bridge.
I am fashion!
While I was working, I photographed by a Parisian journalist as part of London fashion week! All without either a beard or a single tattoo.
I think he thought the pencils and eraser I have hanging about my neck on bit of string is some sort of hipster fashion statement.