New series of work

I’ve started work on a new collection of drawings. It’s a revival of a theme I addressed a few years ago – a project combining the richly layered sediment of London’s history with the design aesthetic of the London Underground. I didn’t have time to explore even half of what I wanted to back then, so I’m back for another look around.

I’m not sure where I want to take it yet; a tube tunnel walk furnished me with inspiration for some new drawings, and I’m also interested in the Thames, particularly the dark little corners, alleys and walkways that frame it right out towards east London and the Thames Barrier. I’ve also been inspired by recent reading – Sukhdev Sandhu’s Night Haunts (in which he explores the esoteric lifestyles and careers defined and nurtured by after-dark London), Tobias Hill’s Underground, a creepy thriller about a killer on the London Underground, and Dan Bownes, Oliver Green and Sam Mullins’ definitive history of the tube, Underground – How The Tube Shaped London. I love the way the development of the Tube represents a microcosm of London’s history – like our grand old city herself, it’s a fractured, densely layered timeline of good and bad ideas, power struggles, and architectural achievements that tell us a lot about the mindsets, vanities and aspirations of their eras.

Here’s one of the drawings I’ve been working on – a sketch from a walk between Rotherhithe and Wapping stations.

Copyright Gen Williams


Quiet of late, I know. I’ve got a few new works on the go, and some are working out better than others.

The large-ish piece I’ve been working on has hit a brick wall. I don’t know what I’m doing with it; I just can’t see a way to progress. It’s a simple image but technically very ambitious, and I can’t get it to go in the right direction.

In the meantime I’m working on a couple of other things; one mustn’t dwell! First, a piece from the same series, working on canvas covered board for the first time. This is a strange experience; the canvas makes precision tricky and turns blending into a physical challenge, but it feels like the end result could be quite satisfying. And it’s a nice firm base to work on.

I’ve also gone back to live music work; long overdue! First up is a drawing of Yeasayer’s recent, tiny show at London’s Lexington. It’ll be a flood of red, a silhouette against the haze. Although my style is still very detailed and representational, as with my huge piece from earlier this year the point is not identifiable rockstars, but form and movement; I’m not interested in producing fan art but a study of the whole scene, so it matters little to me whether you can tell who the performer is.

Finally, I have a new project in mind. I need to take some photos first to see if I can find some work in it, but I’m excited about it. It’s a variation on my ongoing themes about nightlife; a bit more niche, and kinda oldskool. More on that when it gets going.


Ink on paper

Shard, ink on paper, 12 x 12cm, 2012

The completed Shard drawing.

It was drawn for a friend – it’s his birthday today so he’s getting a handmade card! He is also an artist and was kind enough to do the same for me when it was my birthday. But it has also renewed my hope that I can produce a large fullscale piece of work about the Shard. This drawing is very preliminary, and of course very small too, which limits the detail I can get into. But with a bit more space and time I think I could produce something interesting. I have some images to work from but will probably go on another photo recon mission to make sure I get just the right image to start things off.

I went into my ambivalent feelings about the Shard in an earlier post today, which will provide an interesting perspective for painting it. My painting motive is very basic, really – I paint what attracts and intrigues me. I want to make beautiful paintings, but they must be honest too, I won’t make something lovelier than it is. Something about the Shard leaves me very cold, and I wonder whether that will come out in the painting.

Richard Estes

Added a link to Richard Estes’ (the king!) work in the links section at the bottom.


34th Street and 8th Avenue, 2010, Richard Estes – from

Looking at his paintings is always inspiring and disconcerting; it reminds me of what mastery the human hand and eye are capable of, and also reminds me of how very far I have to go! His precision and colour are staggering. I’d love to be able to produce that kind of precision, though the nature of my chosen medium (pastel) – an inherently smudgy, crumbly, never-fixed form, makes that difficult. Still, I like a challenge.

One day I would like to paint with oils but I’m limited by my current working environment, and I feel quite daunted by wet media; I have never felt as comfortable with it as with dry, moveable, cloudy soft pastel.

On skyscrapers

I’m currently working on a small drawing for a friend of mine – the briefest of work, it’ll be an ink drawing to go on a birthday card for him. It’s a neck-craning view up the Shard at night.

My feelings on this building are mixed to say the least; I love the ambition and gleam of skyscrapers, the way they reflect their surroundings and challenge further ambition from those around them – a race to the top! – but I find the Shard quite an insensitive building; mammoth and ugly at the bottom, and its upper storeys too removed from the immediate surroundings. It’s too massive to be comfortably nestled in London Bridge’s higgledy-piggledy, ancient streets. Look how perfectly the Canary Wharf tower commands its locale, overseeing Canada Square and surrounded by other glass acolytes, without bullying older local buildings! I grew up in London Bridge, and feel quite strongly about its architectural development. I love #1 London Bridge, a really ingenuous piece of glass architecture, but I think the Shard is just too big for its surroundings, unless they’re planning on flattening the area (they’d bloody well better not. Those narrow, tall old buildings on Borough High Street, and the market area, are beautiful.)

I think it would have looked fantastic at a strategic point in the Isle of Dogs, maybe as a lone outreach on one of the bends, almost like a hyper-modern lighthouse or gatekeeper to London. Still, what do I know? I’m am artist, not an architect. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive edifice, and it was fun to work from. A photo will be posted when it’s finished. Colour work on a bigger scale will probably follow.

I need to return to my Moroccan mountain painting too. I have reached an impasse with it; but I do not believe in impasses, so it will be circumvented. One way or another, she will come round the mountain.

Patricia Cain – steel mazes and freehand drawing

An old but interesting piece in the Architects Journal on pastel artist Patricia Cain. Her work is v. architectural and structural, and thus an interesting touchstone for me, though her subject matter is very different to mine. She does enormous complex steel structures and was awarded the Threadneedle Prize for her work. I find her views on drawing as a discipline and technical skill very agreeable and reassuring!

>>>Patricia Cain – Architects Journal

…and a bit of new design

I hated the old theme so I’m trying something different, between now and getting my website up & running. If you love it, or if you hate it and never want to set eyes on it again, let me know.

There’s a blogroll at the bottom of the page too. If you’d like to swap links please let me know. I’d only like to feature relevant links on here, though, so if it’s not art-related or in some way pertinent to what I do, I hope you won’t be offended if I decline.