It’s been a while since I have done any location sketching and it seems I am a little rusty. When I met up with Drawing London on Location a few weeks ago I spent most of the day struggling with the perspective on Shad Thames. I didn’t manage to complete the drawing but while my friend Jon and I were sat on the floor sketching we did get to learn a little of the history of the area. A young lady passing by stopped to chat to us and asked if we knew anything about the area. We thought she was asking as she wanted to know for herself but it turned out that she has lived in the area all her life and thought that as we were interested enough to sketch the buildings she loved, we would probably like to know more about them.
Shad Thames, completed in the 1870s, was apparently the spice district of London and the warehouse buildings that we were sitting amongst were originally used to store spices shipped in via the Thames. She pointed out that the building we were sitting next to was used to store salt and that the walls were so inpregnated with salt that they would never hold a coat of paint. She also pointed out the spices stored in several of the other buildings and explained that the building opposite us was used to store Cardamom and apparently still smells of Cardamom whenever it rains. Though less so since the area was renovated by Terance Conran and all of the buildings were cleared out and converted into up market housing and restaurants etc. Before this, the area had sat empty and unused for some time but when it was at it’s industrial height and the warehouses in Shad Thames were being built, the area had captured the imagination of Charles Dickens who based the story Oliver Twist around an inlet just a little further down the river. Hopefully I have remembered and recounted what she said faithfully.
I think I have mentioned before how sitting and sketching in public makes you fair game and available for conversation. Even in a place like London where people tend to be anonymous and insular. Sometimes this is a pain especially if you feel self-conscious about drawing in public. But every now and then you meet someone who has something very interesting to say and has obvious passion for their subject matter and I feel very glad that I have this chance to open myself up to Londoners who I would not normally have the chance to speak with.
As the day drew on I realised I was not going to get much further with my drawing of Shad Thames and I was craving putting some colour to paper so I moved on to do a quick 40 min landscape watercolour sketch of Tower Bridge from the Waterfront near the Design Museum. I may go back to finish the Shad Thames sketch but Mat convinced me to scan it as it is. For some reason he really likes it as it is.