Today is April 23rd and it is St George’s Day, the hallowed saint for I guess we are should be celebrating all things English on our nation’s day … Fish & Chips, Afternoon Tea, Cricket, Football, The Beatles, Bowie and Bacon (the painter as well as the butty).
But we don’t. St George’s Day passes us by year on year without a murmur or a memory. Hijacked by the far right over the past few decades, as a nation we have been submissive in allowing a vision of England to develop that is built out of fear of difference and change. In not celebrating all things English we miss an opportunity to be proud and patriotic and enjoy the great things our small country has achieved.
Whether it’s our cultural heritage, industrial achievements, scientific milestones, sports accolades or humanitarian efforts, we have a lot to reflect on and be proud of. We have punched above our weight on the world’s stage, sometimes at the cost of others but that should not take away the achievements of English men and women over centuries.
When I create my Cityscapes of English cities, towns and neighbourhoods I work to a design brief, usually provided by a retailer in a specific area, often a museum or heritage site. This voyage of discovery of a certain place is by no means geographical but is a journey into its very fabric and of the local people that made it what it is today. I am continually humbled when I find out how a significant a place is, whether because of some courageous act when someone stood up for something they believed in, or whether because someone invented something that changed the world or created something that enabled us to see things differently.
I grew up near Southwell Minster as a child. Fifty years later when I draw this magnificent cathedral I discover that it is one of two buildings that have the best preserved and most prolific medieval stone carvings in the world. I didn’t know that until now and it makes me more determined to try to depict them in a way that has the gravitas they deserve.
It took me to draw Newcastle twice before I found out that there was a tunnel leading from the Town Moor, right through the city centre and down to the River Tyne. When I realised this wonderful fact … I couldn’t leave it out so I just had to draw Newcastle all over again!
In drawing Cityscapes to a customer’s brief I still get to put my stamp on the design, not just through my playful and naïve illustration style but in choosing how I interpret a particular icon. Pendle Hill in Lancashire was a place where witches were tried and hanged This was therefore a must for me to not just include this horrific event in my map of Lancashire but to plead their case for justice too. As such, I have my chance to interpret and relay not just the geography of a place, but its history too.
When I drew Bristol recently, I was in awe of the industrial legacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as evident in the Clifton Suspension Bridge and SS Great Britain he created, the latter of which is moored in the canal basin. I try to pay homage to people who have made a difference in a city by including them in the design, sometimes with a full portrait but often hidden away amongst their achievements, as is the case of Mr Brunel. Look closely and you may be able to spot him in my Bristol Cityscape!