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John Webb - Artist

John Webb - Artist

John Webb is a freelance artist and retired architect. We have asked him to record the redevelopment of 195 Piccadilly in pen and wash sketches. Here are some of his thoughts on documenting the transformation:

The first thing I do is walk round the ‘safe routes’ to see what has changed and note anything that I think should be recorded.  But, at the same time I will see parts, corners, views which grab me visually.  At this stage that’s a lot!  It’s all a bit ‘Piranesi’ which I love and lends itself to the ‘capture an impression’ of my style.

To the great masters a sketch book was their camera. Many exhibitions now include some of the Artist’s books which are fascinating.  Sir Hugh Casson (Architect and designer of the Elephant and Rhinoceros Pavillion, London Zoo) said he would complete a sketch quicker than a photographer needs to set everything up. But, now with the advent of instant cameras sketching has evolved into more of an art or end in itself.   I prefer not to work from photographs but I sometimes use them as references when completing work at home.

Sketching, like painting is a silent, motionless art form so when I’m following a project it needs to ‘tell the story’ and convey that there’s plenty of movement.  It is key is to understand the contractor’s programme and how the key parts will fit together.  Here it’s going to be a bit of three dimensional chess game which makes it a challenge – a hugely enjoyable one.

One of my favourite films is Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017).  Aviation is another hobby of mine, so the flying sequences really grabbed me.  But, I mainly admired it for its form, telling the story of three parties over three different time frames was exceptionally good.