Monday, April 15, 2019

London Days Part 10 History is Never Dull

Ornate light pole by the Thames River Promenade 
Watercolor by Meera Rao 

I was fascinated by the ornate light poles by the Thames River during our walk on the promenade on the banks  opposite side of the London Eye. It is a beautiful stretch with parks on one side and river on the other. We walked past war memorials all the way up to Big Ben -which was undergoing renovation then. There are huge trees along the street and Thames with 'Sphinx benches' under their shade to sit and watch the river as well as the buzz of city life.  

Of course there is history, controversy and more behind these lamps. From the website Paul Dobraszczyk Rag-picking History : 'Built in stages between 1862 and 1874 by the Metropolitan Board of Works, the Thames Embankment transformed London’s riverscape by reclaiming marshy land next to the river and constructing wide carriage- and foot-ways and a high granite retaining wall, stretching over three miles in total.' After much deliberation 'a dolphin lamp designed by George Vulliamy, architect to the Board of Works'  was chosen.  Please hop over to the website and check out rest of the designs, photos and more juicy factoids :) 

Skylon Marker  watercolor and ink by Meera Rao

A small shiny  marker on the footbridge over the Thames River sent me googling  'Skylon' and 1951 Festival of Britain.  Of course, even the smallest objects around the city have interesting history :) 

From Wikipedia : The Skylon was a futuristic-looking, slender, vertical, cigar-shaped steel tensegrity structure located by the Thames in London, that gave the illusion of 'floating' above the ground, built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain. The former location of the Skylon is the riverside promenade between the London Eye and Hungerford Bridge. Skylon was removed in 1952 when the rest of the exhibition was dismantled, on the orders of Winston Churchill, who saw the Festival and its architectural structures as a symbol of the preceding Labour Government's vision of a new socialist Britain. According to The Guardian  : The original Skylon, built in the last year of the postwar Labour government and immensely popular as a futuristic shape, was vengefully scrapped, cut in pieces and sold as ashtrays by an incoming Conservative administration. 

These are the last two sketches of my travel sketchbook from last September - finally all posted in the blog!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

London Days Part 9 Hanging Flower Baskets

The Woodman at Highgate watercolor by Meera Rao 

I loved the flower boxes and hanging baskets all over London.   We came across this charming pub often as we got in and out of the nearby tube station.  I preferred taking the bus over the trains just so I could see the beauty of the flower boxes on various buildings - even though it took us longer to get from place to place :) 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

London Days Part 8 Cattle Trough

Cattle Trough  watercolor and ink by Meer Rao 

When I came across this opposite the public library on Queens Ave in Muswell Hill, London, I just assumed it was for flowers for neighborhood beautification. Then I saw the inscription on the sides: 'Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough'  it said on the long side and had this inscription on the short side: 'In Memory of the late David Kidd of Leyton.'  There was also a notice that confirmed its present status as a planter maintained by the local Association- and a request to enjoy the flowers but not take any of the plants. 

Upon googling, I discovered the fascinating history of these troughs and what lead to the government takeover of the water supply for the citizens from private suppliers, paving the way to the modern sewer and water systems. According to Wikipedia 

The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was an association set up in London by Samuel Gurney, a Member of Parliament, and philanthropist and Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister, in 1859 to provide free drinking water. Originally called the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association it changed its name to include cattle troughs in 1867, to also support animal welfare. In 2011, as the Drinking Fountain Association, it began to support the Find-a-Fountain campaign to map the UK's drinking water fountains.  

I also found out that the troughs that have survived over the years are mainly granite and they are mostly now planted with flowers. Cast iron or Zinc lined timber were also in vogue - but were too easily damaged.  The write up was really fascinating - amazing how any one thing can have so much history and be a part of the culture of the place! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

London Days Part 7 : A Whole Lot More Than Crumpets and Tea

A Whole lot More than Tea and Crumpets  watercolor and ink  Meera Rao 

London surprised me with its wonderful offerings of Vegan and Vegetarian food. That made our outings so much more enjoyable. Of course, there was Indian food but almost every restaurant had vegan and vegetarian options. Even a Fish and chip place near Westminster had a delicious vegan dish to order! Street food wise, 'Horn OK Please' near London Eye had yummy vegan/vegetarian options and very tasty south Indian Masala Dosa :) I was amused to find Karma Cola as a drink option most everywhere - had not encountered that brand before.  The red Coca Cola bucket with condiments was at a Pizza place that happily for me had vegan Pizza on the menu. Supermarkets too had many ready to eat vegan and vegetarian selections in their aisles. So, at-least in London, British food was definitely eclectic. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

London Days: Part 6 Street Art and Fine Arts

National Gallery of Art - Trafalgar Square  watercolor by Meera Rao

There is art right outside the National Gallery of Art too.  Many street artists come early, stake out a patch of concrete to draw on the 'civic space' in the Trafalgar Square. They draw with chalk, with coins; do performance art as living statues. There are musicians singing, playing instruments. You can get your portrait done in pencils, charcoal or pastels.  A few are political protestors broadcasting their cause via street art. All this definitely adds color and character to the square making the gray day a bit more lively!  I admired their drive to create art that would be gone at the end of the day while also hoping to earn a few pounds from tourists or catch the eye of a patron. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

London Days Part 5

Trafalgar Square  Watercolor By Meera Rao 

The day we were at the Trafalgar Square was cloudy and cold.  Since we were there early in the morning there weren't too many people around. The imposing and 145' tall Nelson Column  was built in 1843 to honor Lord (Admiral) Horatio Nelson who died at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The British won that battle against the French. The Trafalgar Square itself dates back to 1830. I read that the four lions guarding were made by melting the defeated French  Navy bronze cannons.  I found an interesting connection there to the United States : "In Trafalgar Square there are also various statues of well-known people such as George Washington, given to the English by the State of Virginia. The statue is placed on cement brought specially from the States, as Washington had sworn he would never set foot on British soil again"  

I am sorry we missed -by a day or so- seeing the 'Please Feed The Lions' an interactive sculpture by artist and designer Es Devlin, who is known for her innovative projection-mapped sculptures that fuse light, music and technology. There was a companion red lion on the square and visitors were encouraged to 'feed' words to the lion which was then mixed with others' words and 'roared' out to the public, and displayed in light on the Nelson column at night.  Check out the Lonely planet link to it here.   And a video of it here. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Connections: London Days Part 4

Connections watercolor by Meera Rao 

'Red' is everywhere in London lending color to gray days. The red buses of course brighten the roads as they travel. There is a red mailbox in every neighborhood. The rows of red telephone booths in a street corners are a common sight. The black FreeWifi/telephone booths are new additions highlighting the evolution of how we connect these days.  I read that there is great controversy about this latest connectivity 'box' - is it making London into a smart city or letting a few giant companies track your movements throughout the city with the ultimate goal of monetization?  

Friday, January 25, 2019

London Days, Part 3

Alexandra Palace watercolor by Meera Rao

Alexandra Palace is an entertainment and sports venue in London, located near Muswell Hill.  "The People's Palace" is fondly referred to as "Ally Pally", and serves as a public centre of recreation, education and entertainment; North London's counterpart to the Crystal Palace in South London. It has beautiful gardens and facilities for  fun paddle boating. 

Birds Trees and Flowers  watercolor by Meera Rao

I sketched some magpies that were hopping around,  a row of trees, and some flowers while sipping  hot tea by a cafe on the grounds of the Alexandra Palace. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

London Days Part 2

The House at Muswell Hill  watercolor and ink by Meera Rao 

The House on the Hill watercolor and ink by Meera Rao 

The Ornate Fireplace  watercolor and ink by Meera Rao 

I am always wondering how loose or tight I ought to sketch or color. Mostly I get carried away and want to put down all colors I see!  Here, the solid feel of the towering  brick house  with the overgrown bushes was as much fun to sketch as the delicate ornate years old fireplace. 

I used  Koi  travel set and Pelikan transparent watercolor paints.  I also quickly learned that the texture of paper was too rough and not made for much detailed work.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

London Days Part 1

London sketchbook 2018 page 1watercolor and ink by Meera Rao 

As the dates on page 1 show, we were in London last September.  The very first page of the sketchbook is the last page I usually complete. I like to know the feel of the paper so I don't mess up the very first page of the sketchbook :) Besides, by the end of the trip, I know what I want to draw on the special page ! This page shows the highlights of my trip along with the classic Union Jack and the seal of the city. I loved the ride on the London Eye, the Underground, and the red double decker buses. The iconic Telephone booths of course had to be included!  

Double Rainbow Dulles International Airport  Runway watercolor by Meera Rao

I saw the double rainbow as we were taking off and decided to sketch it. The sketchbook is Arches Aquarelle Carnet de Voyage Travel book 100gms/140lbs, 15 , 6x10" /15x25cms, and cold pressed.  The paper is a bit more textured than I am used to. 

Bird's Eye View of English Fields  watercolor by Meera Rao

The fields below peeking through morning fog as we approached London caught my fancy.  I was still getting used to the paper here! 

London is too full of fogs and serious people. 
Whether the fogs produce the serious people, 
 whether the serious people produce the fogs, 
I don't know.

~Oscar Wilde~

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...