I first noticed this scene of Denmark street whilst dipping through an alley way from the direction of Covent Garden. I paused outside the church of St Giles just by the Resurrection gate and saw the painting right in front of me.
Dominating the sky behind is the steel and glass block of the Centerpoint. The West End’s very own, weighty boot of the 1960s. It has never pleased me as a structure but over the years it has somehow earned its place.
About Denmark Street, London
The street was originally developed on top of an old leper hospital in the 17th Century and named after Prince George of Denmark.
I really enjoy the variation in the architecture which seems to have been patch worked together over time and you can see that that there are stories in these buildings. If you notice that rag tag of a roof line, you can see that much has been swept away over the centuries. The original eight buildings that have survived should consider themselves very lucky.
The houses here were originally residential, though slowly moved over to commercial in the 19th century as the West End Expanded. Firstly, a site for metal work and slowly over to the music recording industry. Possible because it is nicely placed in between Soho and Covent Garden’s Theatre Land.
For almost a century, Denmark Street has been the go to place for British Popular music. They have all recorded and played here: David Bowie, Jimmy Hendrix, The Kinks and The Sex Pistols even lived here for a while. I believe the lavatory they used has been listed for preservation.
Drawing Denmark Street
I pulled out my pencils, sketchbook and other paraphernalia and got to work.
It was a sunny afternoon in mid June, the lunchtime crowd were beginning to scuttle back and forward with a fiver in the hand and a sandwich in the eye. In London lunchtimes can be very short affairs, you have to get out quick and get back quick too. Leave it too late and someone else might be sitting in your chair with all you stuff placed in a cardboard box together with a ‘Leaving Card’.
That said, not everyone was rushing about. Some already had their lunch and were eating al fresco outside Hanks guitar shop. And as London’s Denmark Street the home of British pop music, I wondered if they were famous. They looked famous, but then the non famous always do.
Along with the would be pop stars of course are the workers. The guy cleaning the streets and the builders.
Those builders that just seem to be standing about. No matter where you go in the world, there are builders that appear to be doing nothing at all. How does anything ever get finished? Part of me can’t help admiring them.
I worked steadily on the drawing and being mindful to note the day as it was. Just a snapshot, that is all I wanted. A rather ordinary afternoon in a rather extraordinary street.
I was pleased with my final drawings, I felt I had enough for the painting. The painting was developed in the studio. With the look and feel I wanted to concentrate on the tonal values of the image. I had an idea that this would give it the mood I was looking for. Something traditional yet modern. The past is always there somewhere.