Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The water and birds return to West Lake

At long last, after far too long, the water and birds are beginning to return to the West Lake in Victoria Park in East London.  The swans are back as are are the gulls and the geese - but there's no sign yet of the ducks or the coots.

I sat at the balcony at the Pavilion Cafe last week, ate a veggie brunch washed down with a mug of builders tea, and sketched plein air the view that I've often drawn before.

The water - and birds - return to West Lake
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The water level is at a stage where the birds give a very good imitation of walking on water.  Apparently it's going to take 12 weeks for it to fill to the level it should be.

The sun came out as I sketched and, of course, changed all the colours!

Below is a photo of the birds after somebody dumped some bread into the water right next to me!


Monday, November 21, 2011

A new Chinese Pagoda for Victoria Park

Construction of the new Chinese Pagoda in Victoria Park
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The regeneration of Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets seems to have picked up a bit of pace after a lot of criticism of the way the project is being handled.  People have been very fed up with the loss of its amenity for local residents during the works - particularly those with children who have lost the use of both playspaces.  It seems like it's been going on forever......

The new Chinese Pagoda

The construction of the Chinese Pagoda is currently underway - along with the new Chinese Bridge.  It's a lot smaller than I was expecting (see The Pagoda at Kew Gardens - I go to Kew Gardens a lot!) - but read on and you'll find out why it is designed as it is.

It's been built on the reclamation of one of the original islands in the Lake - and having created a new island, it's also getting two new bridges as well as a Chinese Pagoda.  One is rustic and the other is going to be decorative metal painted in red.

It also seemed like a jolly good time to do a sketch of it!

Below you can see two photographs of the two bridges and the pagoda

Victoria Park: A brand new channel to a new island with rustic bridge and new Chinese Pagoda
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Construction of Pennethorne Bridge to link island to rest of Victoria Park
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

What's a Chinese Pagoda doing in an East End Park?  Well it's certainly not a silly question!

The original Chinese Pagoda in Victoria Park

China opened up to the west during Queen Victoria's reign however there were still some considerable tensions - the first Opium War for example only finishing in 1842.

The following are some comments on the original Chinese Pagoda which was originally built as an entrance to the Chinese Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1842. Below are extracts from documents on the Internet - and it seemed like a good idea to record them alongside the building of the new Pagoda.

They explain why the pagoda is shaped as it is.

This is what the Illustrated London News had to say
Upon the left-hand side of the inclined plane, extending iron Hyde Park Corner to Knightsbridge, and towards the extremity of St. George's Place, a grotesque erection has lately sprung up with all the cupidity which distinguishes the building operations of the present day. As the work proceeded, many were the guesses at the purpose for which it was intended; and, to feed the suspense of the many thousands who daily pass this thoroughfare, the work was covered with canvas until just completed. The structure in question is the entrance to an extensive apartment filled with "curiosities of China." In design this entrance is characteristically Chinese, and is taken from the model of a summer residence now in the collection. It is of two stories, the veranda roof of the lower one being supported by vermilion-coloured columns, with pure white capitals, and over the doorway is inscribed, in Chinese characters, "Ten Thousand Chinese Things." Such summer-houses as the above are usual in the gardens of the wealthy, in the southern provinces of China, often standing in the midst of a sheet of water, and approached by bridges and sometimes they have mother-of- pearl windows. Although the above building in raised from the pathway, whence it is approached by a flight of steps, it is somewhat squatly proportioned. But such is the character of Chinese buildings, so that when the Emperor Kesen-king saw a perspective view of a street in Paris or London, he observed, "that territory must be very small whose inhabitants are obliged to pile their houses to the clouds;" and, in a poem on London, by a Chinese visitor, it is stated,- "The houses are so lofty that you may pluck the stars."
courtesy of Victoria London website
Entrance to the Chinese Collection exhibition hall, St George's Place, c. 1842
This is an extract from British History Online - The Chinese Collection and St George's Gallery (demolished)
The mysterious structure which had attracted such curiosity was a replica of a Chinese summer-house or 'pagoda' at the corner of the way in to Old Barrack Yard (Plate 6a). This arresting object was the entrance to an exhibition of Chinese art and artefacts known as the Chinese Collection, which had opened to the public on 23 June. (ref. 43) The exhibition itself was in a new building back from the main road, and the pagoda, designed after a model in the collection, served both as a ticket-office and way in to the exhibition hall, which was reached up steps and through a vestibule or covered walk at the rear (Plate 11a).

The Chinese Collection had been amassed by an American merchant, Nathan Dunn (1782–1844), during his twelve years in Canton, and exhibited by him from 1838 at the Philadelphia Museum. In 1842—'at the suggestion of many of the most influential, scientific, and learned persons of the British metropolis and kingdom' (ref. 44) — Dunn brought the collection to England and opened it to the public in the specially constructed hall in Knightsbridge, which occupied part of the site of the former foot-guards barracks. With Dunn came William B. Langdon, the London-born curator of the collection and the author of a descriptive catalogue, who had known him in China. (ref. 45)

Both the hall and the pagoda were erected by the publicworks contractors Grissell & Peto, the pagoda at a cost of £800. (ref. 46) The pagoda stood about 19ft square, a 'somewhat squatly proportioned' wooden building with a single room to each of its two storeys. It was decorated in gold and bright colours— green roofs, and vermilion pillars with white capitals—and ornamented with brackets in the form of dragons. Over the doorway was a Chinese inscription signifying 'Ten Thousand Chinese Things'. (ref. 47) The hall, 225ft long and 50ft wide, was a plain affair externally (Plate 6a). Inside, it was largely taken up by a single lofty 'saloon', top lit and lined with pillars: 'a sort of Brighton Pavilion with permanent fittings'. (ref. 48)
I'm now wondering what sort of decorative finishes our new pagoda is going to have.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Bird Topiary at Great Dixter

The Bird Topiary at Great Dixter
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils, 11" x 16"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

One of our Indian Summer Jaunts at the end of September was down to Great Dixter in East Sussex to see the garden in late summer.

We let the satnav do the navigation and ended up having a delightful journey across Kent and East Sussex which I'd never have done if trying to read a map (The other half isn't wonderful at reading maps so we've always taken main road routes hiterto).

We got there at lunchtime and sat and had our sandwiches while sat in the Sunk Garden next to the Barns.  Then took a leisurely trip round the garden to see what had changed before I started the sketch at the top of the post.

The original plan had been to sketch the topiary birds in my Moleskine A4 sketchbook to see how they worked and then sketch them again for "A Postcard from my Walk".

The sun had other ideas!

This was on the 28th September and it was very hot in East Sussex with a clear summer blue sky with absolutely no clouds.  Even the sunlover aka he who must not be bored while I sketch couldn't cope with sitting in the sun for longer than 20 minutes as it was just too hot!  (The BBC ran a slideshow the next day In pictures: Autumn Heatwave of what people had been getting up the previous day during the Indian Summer and the Guardian was writing about how retailers were having to switch back to summer mode)

So my sketch for the postcard had to be done at home based on my sketch in the garden - which in turn also had to be finished off at home re the dark tones at home as it takes forever to get the right dark green.  The trick is to do a bit in the garden and then know how much more needs to be the same colour to complete the sketch!

The Topiary Birds at Great Dixter

Here's the link to the post about the sketch on A Postcard from my WalkGreat Dixter, Sussex

The garden is now closed but opens again in April next year.  It's one of my favourite gardens and is definitely worth a visit if you are every in the area.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn Colour at Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park - 29th October 2011
pen and ink and coloured pencil, 11.5" x 16"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Following on from my last post about our visit to Sheffield Park at the end of September (see An Indian Summer (and ice lakes) at Sheffield Park), this is just a tiny sample of the Autumn Colour I saw at Sheffield Park when we visited again at the end of October.

I've never come across a National Trust property before which increases its charges to non-members for a specific period of time in the Autumn - but that's what happens at Sheffield Park.  "He who must not be bored while I sketch" noticed it on the sign so we were rather glad we'd just had him made up to the other half of a Joint Membership of the National Trust.

The garden is 120 acres (49 hectares) and has four lakes which means about a third of it is water.  In Autumn it becomes very specicial because it is, in effect, an arboretum - a collection of trees of both native species and ones from overseas.

In terms of history, the park was first laid out by Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1716-1783) in the 18th century and was subsequently remodelled by Humprey Repton (1752-1818).  There's little indication of they did although it seems likely that Brown cleared some trees and undergrowth to open up the landscape and Repton attended to the part of the garden which is nearest to the house.
‘Such is the power of vegetation at Sheffield Place, that every berry soon becomes a bush, and every bush a tree.’Humprey Repton
The first Earl of Sheffield was responsible for the balustraded bridge (1882), the cascade and the Middle Lake. He also started the arboretum.

A gentleman called Arthur Gilstrap Soames (1854-1934) acequired the house in 1910 and was responsible for introduction of the vibrant colour in the garden - and all the visitors!

He planted trees which were North American in origin, such as the Tupelo Gum and Scarlet American Oak which contribute signiifcantly to the autumn colour.  Other trees which he also planted in abundance included Conifers, cypresses and Japanese maples - with the acers also contributing very significantly to the autumn colour.

Clumps of lakeside rhododendrons were planted next to the lakes - and were a favourite of Virginia Woolf - and beds of autumn gentians can be found in the garden.

Certainly it's a very fine place to see and to paint in Autumn - particularly given the reflections of the colours of the trees in the water of the lakes. The photographers are also rather keen on it. I think I saw more heavy duty expensive cameras with huge lenses on our visit than I've seen for a very long time.

This sketch was done from the north eastern edge of the top lake - looking across the lake.

Arboretums are certainly a great place to paint and draw landscapes in Autumn - if they have the right type of trees!


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

An Indian Summer (and ice lakes) at Sheffield Park

At the end of September and beginning of October we raced around the south east of Britain visiting gardens during the wonderful warm temperatures, sunshine and blue skies of an Indian Summer.  One of the places we visited was Sheffield Park.

Indian Summer at Sheffield Park
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils - 11.5" x 16"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The visit on 30th September was memorable for the number of chaps wandering around in long shorts.  It was a ratio of about 3:1 - and a lot of them weren't youngsters.  Which is how I came to persuade "he who must not be bored while I sketch" that maybe adding some long shorts to his summer wardrobe wouldn't be such a bad idea! :)

He also declared Sheffield Park Gardens to be one of his favourite places.  The lack of children shouting and screaming on a Friday afternoon being a major bonus!

I think he'd forgotten that the last time we went to Sheffield Park Gardens was to celebrate his birthday in the midst of winter - when the lake was frozen and there was virtually nobody there!  We had all our cold weather togs on at the time - quite a contrast to the hot days at the end of September (See Ice Lake at Sheffield Park)
We visited Sussex in January for a birthday treat and walked around the wonderful Sheffield Park gardens on a day when it was literally freezing! This was the view of the ice lake which had formed - looking back towards the house
Ice Lake at Sheffield Park
Coloured Pencil 20cm x 30cm
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Both views were done from exactly the same place - at the end of the second lake (I forget its name) with the view of the Ice lake being more towards the house and the view at the top looking more towards the northeast side of the Lake. I had brilliant blue skies on both occasions but the temperature varied by 25+ degrees centigrade!