This was going to be so much fun. As you know, I lost the London chapter of my Damn Garden Book last week, and it was still lost even after I’d done a middling-thorough search of my workroom. I concluded that the London chapter had been accidentally buried deep within one of the piles and files (thanks for that, Gigi) that surround me in my workroom.
So, last Saturday morning I made myself a cup of tea (I also brought a back-up beverage in case the going got really tough) and I began my down-to-the-studs search. This was going to be such fun because, as I documented the piles and files of my room [with these photos] you and I, Dear Readers, were going to laugh, and laugh, and laugh when we finally unearthed the London chapter from one of these unsuspecting piles or files.
I was just about to do my chant: Tony, Tony, look around
Something’s lost that must be found (thank you, Rachel!)
And then Top Cat called to me from his man cave, “Honey, I found the London chapter.”
Seems to me that I had had the London chapter in my hand one day when I must have been distracted by either a cat or a bird at the feeder at the picture window and set down those damn pages on Top Cat’s coffee table / feet-putting-up apparatus, upon which he had subsequently piled junk mail and To Do Lists atop. This is what the London chapter looks like:
WHEW. Top Cat’s timing is always perfect. I thank DoG that he found it before I’d torn all my piles and files apart to no avail. I spent the past Mon-Fri writing the London chapter and it was a non-stop delight. WHEW.
Anyhoo, now that the London chapter was found, I was able to spend my weekend rescuing this:
This was a full-page (9 inches high, 8 inches wide) illustration I had done for the London chapter back in April of 2012, back when the London chapter was just a figment of my imagination.
I thought it was OK…but I looked at it again and thought it might work better as a half-page pic so I cropped it thusly:
I also thought that I’d make the lines of my drawing more artsy by using a fun new brush/pen gizmo I’d just bought but, as you can see, that technique only highlighted my inability to draw architecture. This pic was toast.
But I never throw out my mistakes, because you never know, you know?. So I put this in the file where I store all my bad ideas and there it sat, for about three years.
And then it came time to start writing the London chapter for reals, so I pulled out this old piece of toast and gave it a good thinking.
I needed a full-page (see 9″ x 8″ sheet of Canson 90lb. above) illustration for the title page of the London chapter, a picture that said, in a glance:
Walled backyard gardens in the city
This pic was on the right track. It just needed a tiny rescue to make it work.
The first thing I had to do was figure out what to cut out of the old pic. Tracing paper was my main tool:
Then I had to position the fragment into the composition that was in my mind:
Then I drew the composition that was in my mind:
And then I re-drew it because my first attempt looked stupid (did I mention that, as an illustrator, architecture is my kryponite?) :
I began to draw the proposed comp onto the Canson 90lb working surface.
It needed re-doing, which I did, even tho the erasures made the working surface unusable:
Well, as you can see, after working for three and a half hours on this I still could not figure out the perspective or the architecture, so I decided to sleep on it and start over the next day.
Here’s the reason (other than my total lack of drafting skill) why this side of the illustration was so hard to get right:
I took this photo from the third floor balcony of the Chelsea/Knightsbridge flat of a friend. This was on one of my Summer visits, back in the days of the late ’90s and early ’00s when I would go to London for long weekends. London was where I would get into mischief, back in the late ’90s and early ’00s.
I also have a Winter version of the same scene:
I also have sunset and dusk versions, nighttime versions, stormy weather sky versions, etc. I loved that view. I loved those walled backyards and the private forests contained within.
When I first illustrated this view, I used the whole photo but (see above) that Edwardian town house facing on the left side of this pic is more architecture than I can handle. I also wanted to emphasize the walled gardens more, that is, I wanted to elongate the verdure and turn the Ed. town house around…all of which I had to make up.
And the quasi-bird’s eye perspective is very tricky.
So, I started all over again the next morning:
Yes, the perspective is still wonky (I forgot to tell you that researching typical London buildings so I could imagine them in place in this composition takes hours or, at least, more than one). But I hope to disguise that by distracting the viewer with lots of other cool things going on in the pic.
After I had the framework pencilled onto the Canson 90lb. work surface, I went to work on the background that had to scream LONDON:
This, too, took hours to research on the inter webs. I knew that most of the landmarks just ad to suggest St. Paul’s, or the Tower Bridge, or the Tower, or castles… but I had to get Big Ben 100% right, and Big Ben was murder to get right.
From here on in, the rest of the pic was a breeze. Note here how I am beginning to rescue the cut-out:
Without the direct sunlight shadowing it, the cut-out is an easy rescue:
I might have to kill a few bits of the background. I think it’s too much London.
Altogether, this rescue took two days and 8 hours. Are you wondering why, considering how little of the original pic I kept, why I didn’t just re-do the whole kit and caboodle? It’s because re-drawing the buildings on the right would have been unbearably boring for me, and I’ve come to suspect that I just like the challenge of a rescue.
It’s not my usual style, to combine a line drawing with watercolor like this, but I think it works as a way to make the pic more fantastical (and so hide my poor architectural drafting) and to highlight the walled gardens — painting the buildings, even with a light wash, would make the pic too busy.
The blank space at the bottom is where the chapter title and sub-title go.
I think the pic works.