Woodford Arts Group member Darren Evans tells the story behind his painting of Limehouse Reach, which was pre-selected for this year’s Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours annual exhibition
Throughout the year, most of my time spent painting is focused on creating artworks that have been commissioned through my website or other platforms. But over Christmas and the new year, I had a little more time to focus on more speculative artwork. Like most artists, I have a number of ideas for paintings that I never seem to have time to start, so this new year seemed like a great time to pick up my paintbrush.
Starting a new painting always causes me a crisis of confidence, and I will routinely procrastinate, finding anything to do to delay putting the first mark on paper, even if I have done preliminary sketches and know exactly what I want to create! This year, I decided to tackle a subject I consistently come back to: the River Thames.
The Thames has always held a fascination for me. It is inextricably linked with London’s very existence and its history. Nowhere is that link between the river and the past felt more strongly than down on the shoreline and, in particular, where the river flows east of Tower Bridge and around the Isle of Dogs.
This painting is called Limehouse Reach, which is the nautical name for this section of the Thames. I wanted to capture that feeling of history, of Dickensian London and otherworldliness that you experience when you walk onto the shore having stepped down the narrow stairs of Wapping and Limehouse. In this painting, I have incorporated some of the buildings that hang over the Thames and evoke feelings of adventure, travel, the early days of international commerce, piracy and, in the distance, the juxtaposition of the modern world shown by the towers of Canary Wharf. I have painted this in multiple layers of watercolour washes, which give the historic building a ghostly, dreamlike quality and are representative of this world heavily influenced by water.
I was very happy with this painting and decided to submit it to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 210th annual exhibition. The institute was founded 190 years ago to encourage and educate painters in the fine art of watercolour, seeking the best artists to become members by giving them the opportunity to exhibit their work, a principle that still holds to this day. I am very pleased to say that Limehouse Reach has been shortlisted after the first round of the admission process and I will find out in early March if this will be part of the exhibition that will take place in mid-April at the Mall Galleries in central London.