Jun 23 2010
The weather in London was stereotypically cold & rainy the whole week, so I did a lot less drawing (and outdoor sightseeing generally) than in Paris. We still had a great time, though, because (as I think I mentioned already) There are a ton of great, free museums in London, there’s a ton of great theater, and we had a bunch of great friends to visit and hang out with.
Our friends Rachel and Chris hosted us for a couple of nights, and Rachel took us to the Sir John Soane’s Museum. Wonderfully eclectic place packed with interesting objects and cool architectural details (Soane was an architect). They don’t allow photography, and none of my drawings really came out, so here’s a shot of the outside, plus the lovely park just across the street.
I decided I had brought the wrong art materials on this trip. I thought a palette pre-loaded with bright colors of gouache would be fun, but forgot that it dries up and flakes off the palette (unlike watercolor). I had also brought some watercolor pencils, and those were convenient but they were of inferior quality. So we stopped at an art supply store. Wow. This is my favorite art supply store ever. Nothing student-grade, everything beautiful. Some really cool pigment inks I’ve never seen before, a drool-inducing array of sketchbooks, and an entire wall of ground pigments in glass jars (for those who make their own paint, and don’t mind handling a few hazardous substances). It’s called L. Cornellisen & Son.
It’s at this point that I should admit that this trip was not entirely business-free. In fact, I did some research in both Paris and London for future book projects. And then there were our two publisher visits. First, Alison was invited by a fan of her blog (Lindsey Heaven, pictured below. Great name!) to visit the offices of Puffin Books UK. We sat around chatting about books and publishing with all of the lovely children’s book editors for an hour, then visited their fabulous roof terrace with incredible views up and down the Thames.
Ttouristy wandering around the Strand, Trafalgar Square and St. James’ Park, ending with Buckingham Palace.
While wandering by the Park, we happened on the opening of a portrait show by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. It was quite wonderful. Some of my favorites were exquisite little sketches by an illustrator I love, Victor Ambrus.
Then our second publisher visit: Walker Books UK, Candlewick’s UK counterpart and thus my UK publisher. Again, a thoroughly lovely time hanging out over tea and cakes (ok, donuts) with the fiction publisher, Gill Evans, and the marketing & publicity department. It’s interesting to see how they have to work a bit harder and more inventively over there, because the total market (i.e. the population) is so much smaller than here in the US. I’m not really sure how anyone makes any money at the end of the day, but thankfully it seems that they do. In that second picture, you can see my Beowulf and King Lear on the wall behind me.
From there we walked up along the river to the area around the National Theater, across from Parliament.
The elections were on, so all the newscasters were set up with Parliament as a backdrop for their reporting.
And of course, there’s the London Eye. We didn’t go up, because it’s pretty overpriced, it was a cloudy day, we’d just had fantastic views from the opposite side of the river the previous day, and because Alison says it’s cooler at night. Also stopped in to browse at the excellent independent bookstore Foyle’s.
Poking our heads into the National Theater to get tickets for Warhorse (more on that in part 3), we stumbled on a show of travel drawings, paintings and prints by Doug Patterson. Check his work out, I think it’s quite fabulous.
Gotta love the double-decker buses. That fancy building is the Royal Courts of Justice. Chris later told us that the courts are open to the public — apparently you can even watch a trial if you want.
Another branch of Foyle’s Bookstore, where we found my books shelved with Asterix & Tintin. This is the fulfillment of a dream for me
They have a (real) piranha aquarium, too!
We meant to hit the Globe Theater, but arrived too late for the tour (they stop tours for the matinee performance), so we decided to try again the next day. We went and had lunch at the Tate Modern, which has a great restaurant with awesome views.
As we were leaving, there was a film crew shooting on the ramp outside the Tate. I don’t know what it was exactly, but it featured an undead boxer chasing a very pale, historically-dressed kid.
After that we went to the Tower of London, which is a pretty massive place. We only got to see about half of it before they closed. Good research material! Starting with the main entrance to the Tower, the prisoner’s entrance, a young soldier, and the chapel:
A model of the Tower, interior courtyard shots, the Rack:
They have some great prisoners’ graffiti:
We also saw the Crown Jewels and related accessories, and took a quick tour through the arms & armor collection, yielding this juxtaposition in my sketchbook, which I call “uneasy sits the crown”:
All in all, it’s a pretty awesome place if you’re into that sort of thing — castles, torture, arms & armor, etc.
Coming up in the final installment, London Days 6-9: Warhorse, Les Mis, Greenwich, cute honeymoon shots, Shakespeare’s Globe, trampolining, The Museum of Natural History, Peter Pan, and Zula the wolfhound. Plus special bonus photos of Greenland!