Painting the London street scene picture
The starting point for the London Street painting was this black and white photo of St Martin-le-Grand in 1896, from the book entitled “Victorian and Edwardian London from old photographs”, BT Batsford Ltd. London. The Greek-style building on the right was the General Post office. None of the buildings in the picture has survived. I used the overall layout as shown but introduced people and horse-drawn carts from other sources and from my imagination into the final painting.
The first stage was drawing the buildings to get the correct perspective. I scanned the original photograph and printed it on A4 paper. The A4 paper size makes it relatively straight forward to calculate the overall dimensions of the buildings on the A1 size canvas (841x594mm or 2.76ft x 1.95ft) by taking measurements from the A4 print and multiplying by a factor of 2.83 for the canvass. (Note: the factor of 2.83 is derived from the linear dimensions on A1 being 2 x √2 larger than on A4). The dimensions of the detail of the buildings were then estimated by eye.
Then the buildings and road were blocked out using acrylic paints (from Michael Wilcox School of Colour) with a limited-range palette of Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Blue (plus Titanium White).
On to this background was added the traffic, people, animals and shadows using acrylics. To get the positioning that looked best for the buses and cart, paper cutouts were made and placed at various positions on the canvass before committing to paint.
The final stage used oils (Sennelier Rive Gauche) for the columns and other highlights. These new quick-drying oil paints (which are touch-dry in two days) allow better blending (particularly for the columns) than can be achieved with the very fast drying acrylics.
I tried to show interactions between the people to create interest: note the man on the horse leaning over to look at (talk to?) the lady in the red dress and parasol, and the policeman (on the right of the passengers in the horse-drawn bus) looking over at them both. Is the man with the white parcel about to be run over by the horse because the driver is intent at looking at the lady? And the chasing dogs were added to give a little more movement to the picture.