Wednesday 16 November 2016

Drawing Alton

Did I mention the set of Hampshire towns that I've been drawing?  Here's a case study of a tricky one:  Alton.

I settled on the format of a 10cm square containing a pen drawing in black and grey.  The idea is to sum up the town or give its highlights, not to present it as a view.  The arrangements are all different - symmetrical, jumbled, in blocks, splayed out...  It depends on what elements I have to work with.

Now for the process:


The page of lists and sketches.
First I need to make a list of things to include:  buildings, statues, activities, symbols, natural features...
I start by scouring a bunch of old guidebooks to England or the south:  I would say "old and new" but they're mostly old or older:

Pevsner's Buildings Of England, the AA Leisure Guide, England's Thousand Best Houses, the Blue Guide to England, the Shell Guide To Britain, the Collins Pocket Guide To English Parish Churches, Here's England (by Ruth McKenney - a real treasure); online lists of follies and hills and fairs and so on.
Then come the books about Hampshire, heritage handbooks, leaflets, photo books and gazetteers.

I am in love with local history websites and photo archives.  Of course, the amount online varies but the information available can be staggering.  I don't know all of these towns and I would hate to misrepresent them.

I'll look at aerial views, OS maps and Google Streetview.  If possible, I'll go for a visit.  The project has kept me supplied with reasons to drive to unfamiliar corners of the county and take photos of wooden signs, cricket games, landmark trees, architectural styles and so on.

The arrangement

The page of layout attempts.
Having sketched the buildings and picked their best angles, it takes AN AGE to make a satisfactory arrangement - longer each time because I want variety.

Once that's done, the dark, grey and light areas have to be balanced.  It's easy to make it all outlines and not give enough depth.


This is by far the quickest part.  I'll sketch loosely in pencil and then begin the ink.  Finally, the pain of making sure I wait long enough before rubbing out, in fear of the much greater pain of smudging.

Here's the result for Alton, with the following elements:

  • St. Lawrence's Church, with a reference to the tempest of 1686.
  • Civil War muskets that left holes in the church door in the Battle Of Alton in 1643.
  • The town hall on the market square.
  • The high street of Georgian buildings (it's highlights, not an actual section).
  • The railway bridge and an engine of the Watercress Line / Mid Hants Railway (the left-hand arch leads to a pub called The French Horn).
  • Hops, a local industry even into this century.
  • The Alton Buckle, an Anglo-Saxon artifact.
  • The Curtis Museum.
  • The unusual war memorial cairn.
  • The Assembly Rooms.
  • Gliders, flown in the area.
  • The pond.

Wondering what I left out?  Here goes:  the new library, the Methodist chapel (converted), the Palace Cinema, the King's Head, the 20th Century magistrates' court, the Museum Annexe and Allen Gallery, the Alton Machine (a type of coach), the river Wey and the legendary Fanny Adams.

Alton in ten centimetres.

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