Someone contacted me earlier this year asking me to paint a scene along the river Thames in London. It is arguably one of the most famous river views in the world. This being the view from the south bank of the Thames looking across to the Tower of London and featuring the iconic Tower Bridge.

I arrived on-site at about 3pm and there were plenty of tourists about, indulging in selfies or lounging about on the marble benches provided by the counci, taking in the view .

I don’t mind tourist areas although it can be tricky to concentrate on working up ideas as the curious often gather and ask questions just as I am working out something rather complicated. Or even, on occasion, just stand right in front of me to block the view entirely.

To resolve this, I decided to work beneath a tree set back from the busier areas. With the trunk to my back, I could take any questions from onlookers without crowding issues. I was good to go.

Planning the painting

I took in the whole scene before me and worked-up a few ideas. After a few minutes I noticed that the Tower of London was further away than I would have liked so, as with all my paintings I decided to play with the scale a little.

I lifted the size of the white tower and then pushed to the right a little. This change in scale and position would make it work better with Tower Bridge.

These are loose ideas at this point though I did want to pin down the vanishing point of Tower Bridge at an early stage. Once done I began to work out the position of the towers (they had to look the same), ensuring that the pitch of the spans and cables were correct in perspective.

I have known Tower Bridge all my life, but I can’t recall ever drawing it. As I worked, I noticed things that had never occurred to me before, the main one being that each tower fattens out at the top with a sort of faux turret at each corner. For some reason I found this detail particularly difficult to draw. I think part of me didn’t want to accept it.

Once I had completed the drawing, I recalled the client mentioning that the painting was a present for his wife on their pearl wedding anniversary. To mark this occasion, I placed a traditional London oyster seller in the foreground with ‘Pearly Oysters’ as the signage.

A few more tweaks and the drawing was complete, so I pushed on toward the final painting. Thankfully the present went down well. Most pleased and relieved.

Tower Bridge

Drawing of Tower Bridge

A Victorian combined bascule and suspension bridge being the most easterly bridge over the Thames in London.

Its structure is actually iron and steel though was clad in stone to make it fit in with the Tower of London just to the west on the north bank.

It was built between 1886 and 1894, and was designed by Horace Jones, engineered by John Wolfe Barry with editions by Henry Marc Brunel, the son of the more famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Its most interesting feature of course are the central pair of bascules that can open to allow shipping to pass into the pool of London which was one of the busiest ports in the world at the time of its construction.

Tower Bridge is still one of the key bridges in London and has over 40,000 crossings per day.

The Tower of London

Drawing of the tower of London

The Tower of London was founded in 1066 at the time of the Norman conquests. The White Tower we see in the painting was built in 1078 and is constructed from Caen stone imported from Normandy, across the channel.

For most of its existence it was employed as a royal palace, though it has also been used as an armoury, a bank for the crown jewels, the royal mint, a zoo and most famously as a prison – imprisoning many of the most famous and infamous characters in British history.

It was of course also used as a place of execution. The last people to be executed there were 12 men for espionage during world war I and II.

Today it is one of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions and the property is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site.

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