Illustrating London

Illustrating London

After moving into a new flat with my partner, Amanda, in London, we spent the first year slowly decorating and accumulating art to hang on our walls.  In doing so, the idea of a map of London, or our local area, was discussed. I was keen, Amanda was not because she found the illustrated maps I proposed generic and impersonal. I persisted and Amanda came up with the compromise of drawing a map of London that included landmarks that were personal to us and our time in London. 

This was in January 2020, although uncertain of scale and medium, I resolved to draw the map within the year. 

Fast forward 3 months, and pen was still yet to be put to paper. Amanda and I had recently fled our flat in London to join my parents on the South West Coast of Wales for the period that will eternally be known as 'Lockdown'. 

Less than a day into Lockdown, my Mum (a textile maker and former Art teacher), had Amanda stitching and, aware of 'the map', sat me down with a pencil, Matthew Rice's Architectural Primer and a sheet of paper slightly larger than A2, 'Go on then, draw London.'  she said in that tone I knew too well from A-level. 

And starting with Stamford Bridge in West London over the following 3 months, when I was not working, I was drawing and planning the next neighbourhood, monument or memory I wanted to include and reminisce upon. I tried to draw for roughly an hour or two in the evenings, and sometimes over my lunch breaks.  I consulted with family and friends whom I dearly missed and took a lot of inspiration from my Dad's drawings and designs.

Being away from London, the map was a way of reminding me of the city, my friends, my work and the 8 years I have spent there. Given the restrictions Lockdown imposed, being reminded of those memories and the place we call home helped process the mixed emotions fuelled by returning to live with my parents and the uncertainty caused by the lockdown.

Throughout the drawing, I fell into the habit of recording my progress on Instagram posting updates and tagging famous institutions that feature on the map.  The feedback was very positive and by the end a number of friends had got in touch asking if they could buy a copy. 

As I drew the map for Amanda and I, I had no commercial incentive to sell prints for profit. But with all the fantastic fundraising initiatives that have come out of Lockdown, it felt like a good opportunity to raise money for the NHS initially. 

After the death of George Floyd, and the incredibly progressive BLM movement that followed, I decided that the charitable element should be split between the two causes. And with help from friends reposting on social media we have managed to sell 80 copies raising over £1,600 for charity. 

Without Lockdown, I would not have had the time or the motivation to embark on the project, and definitely not to the scale of the final piece. It gave me an opportunity to distract myself from the current situation, rekindle my love for drawing and fundraise for two brilliant causes. 

Both A2 and A3 prints of the map can be ordered by email: 

Henry Wright