A beautiful sunny day with a Force 9 gale battering the prom seemed like the perfect backdrop for a nautical themed Explore and Draw session on the magnificent, retired lightship Light Vessel 21 – LV21 – now moored at St Andrew’s Quay in Gravesend, Kent.
I was booked to give an introductory talk to the artists and after that, taking care not to be blown overboard, we set off to explore the ship in search of inspiration for our drawings .
LV 21 was acquired in 2009 by Päivi Seppälä and Gary Weston who have converted the 400m, steel-hulled ship into a thriving cultural and heritage centre. https://lv21.co.uk/ It was the last lightship to be built by Dartmouth-based Philip and Son, and spent most of its service off the Kent coast on the Varne, East Goodwin and Channel stations. Derek Grieve, the last Master of the lightship, explains what daily life was like for the crew on board. website https://lv21.co.uk/about/history-of-lv21/crew-stories/
In 1981, LV21 survived a collision with another ship, the Ore Meteor, which was being towed by a tug. Crew member Brian Packham gives a fascinating account of the event. https://lv21.co.uk/about/history-of-lv21/collision-at-the-varne/
The Thames has inspired artists for centuries. Many people will be familiar with J.M.W. Turner’s work but you may not have heard of The Wapping Group of Artists, founded in 1946, who met initially to record the busy life of London’s dockland and, since then, have painted the Thames and the land either side of it. http://thewappinggroupofartists.co.uk/
Being born and bred in Gravesend, the river hasalways been part of my life and, inevitably, its history and childhood memories have found their way into my art.
This limited edition lino cut shows the Chapman Lighthouse, which stood off the coast of Canvey Island in the Thames Estuary from 1851 to 1957, warning sailors away from the mud flats. It featured in Chapter 1 of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. https://duncangrantartist.com/product/chapman-light/
The digital print (below right) depicts Lower Hope, a stretch of the tidal Thames, below Gravesend, near the Ship and Lobster pub. The picture, which was originaly an acrylic painting, is about remembering my dad. We would go walking down by the sea wall when I was a kid. The background is a doodle of elements from my life. I am the small figure in the middle. I guess I am walking on my own these days. http://duncangrantartist.com/product/ac364-print/
This final image, also a digital print from an acrylic painting, is a view of the Thames from Gravesend High Street. Visitors to Gravesend are often amazed to see 7-storey cruise ships appearing from behind the buildings at the end of the road. http://duncangrantartist.com/product/to-the-river-print/
The variety offered by Thames and LV21 did not disappoint the Explore and Draw artists. Encouraged by workshop leader and artist Luna Zsigo, they captured their surroundings in very different ways – from detailed drawings of ropes, to windswept landscapes framed by the lightship’s portholes. My LV21 inspired drawing is at the top of this post.
Everyone is welcome at Explore and Draw sessions – from absolute beginners to more experienced artists. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and non-judgemental…oh, and the cake is to die for!
If you are interested in joining or attending other cultural events on board L21 or organised by Päivi and Gary, visit the website: https://lv21.co.uk/events/
Explore and Draw workshop photographs by Neil Thorne Photography – 07715 681855
Finally, talented musician Ian Kirton has set some of my Thames-related work to one of his original compositions ‘Simplicity’. See the You Tube link below.
A licence to use Ian Kirton’s track ‘Simplicity’ can be purchased here: https://www.productiontrax.com/royalty-free-music/249644
All the pictures featured are available to buy on this website, just search for the title in the Gallery.