Tuesday, 31 August 2010

the whitechapel road

This is the Whitechapel Road in East London. I have painted this scene a number of times and i am still drawn to it. A street like this will at first site appear static, unchanging. Though on closer observation you notice it is in constant flux, some changes are subtle, some obvious. There is however a commonality in these refinements. They are forced by necessity.

It would be very unlikely that a change occurs purely for the aesthetic. The windows are renewed because the others were rotten. The signage replaced because the previous business went broke. The walls are painted because their prior shabby state was affecting trade. And ‘Those satellite dishes’ have to go... It’s all cable now’. The rough hands of commerce squeeze hard here. High competition to the right meets low margins to the left. Constant change without ever looking new.

For at least 700 years this road and its human players have been on a permanent ‘Make do and mend’ ticket. This tension creates vibrancy and excitement as living on the edge tends to do. Combine that with the mix and match architecture and you have a unique cocktail. Walk here and you will get wrapped up in the sell and the thrill of the £1 purchase. You can’t help feeling that you HAVE to buy something, ‘Of course I need two kilos of tomatoes and a nylon zip up bag just to keep them in, doesn’t everyone?’

The earnest need for trade also generates a feeling of acceptance, all are welcome here. Consequently the rejected of London are drawn to this place. They come to be with the like minded, to feel normal. It’s most famous outcast being Joseph Merrick (The Elephant man) who allowed himself to be exhibited in the shop second from right and later lived over the road in the Royal London Hospital until his death. If the Whitechapel Road was in need of a saint then beatification would certainly go to this hopeful, charming, wounded man.

Monday, 30 August 2010

a painting in sutton-on-sea

I have recently been commissioned to paint a scene in Sutton-On-Sea. The client’s mother used to own a house in the town though she is now too elderly to visit so he thought a painting which would recall many a happy holiday would make a nice present for her.

I had never heard of Sutton-On-Sea though after searching in Google I discovered that it is in Lincolnshire. I could not find much more information aside from adverts for pubs and chip shops. The largest contribution about the town was in Wikipedia which said:

'It is host to a post office, a few public houses, a Spar store, a hotel, and a paddling pool on the front. The A52 to Skegness runs through the town.'

So in so far as the ever growing internet is concerned the core function of this community is to provide a road from somewhere unspecified to Skegness. I couldn’t wait to get there!

I left London at around 6am and planned to be on site by around 9.30 and thankfully the journey was uneventful. My client had carefully marked some key points which he felt would be interesting subjects to paint. He had chosen about a dozen or so and most were down the High Street which in itself was only a few hundred yards long. The buildings were a mixture of Victorian and 1970’s architecture. And just as Wikipedia had promised there was a Spar too.
The choice was simple. Nicks Knacks junk shop. A building rammed with a genuinely brilliant clutter of ‘stuff' that seems to spill into the street. The chap who runs the place (Nick?) is a fine fella and supplied me with cups of coffee all day and a chair too. Nick's Nacks appear to be a more that just a shop. It is a meeting point and general focus for the many of the locals. I quickly sketched them as they passed or paused outside to pass the time of day. Often with a bag of chips in hand.

It would be very easy to miss Sutton-on-Sea if you are on your way to Skegness from somewhere unspecified, though if you do go, then pop into Nick's Knacks and lose yourself for an hour or two.

I hope you like the painting.