A trio of Tower Bridge watercolour paintings

A little trio of watercolour paintings of views of London’s Tower Bridge, as seen from London Bridge.

A few weeks’ ago, I gained quite a few new followers on my Instagram account after posting the painting from our visit to The Salt Box.

When time permits, I’m always intrigued to look at the feeds of any new followers. Often, they are artists – in the way that I mainly follow other artists, but sometimes, it just seems to be people who are following purely because they like what they see.

It was when looking at the feed of a new follower, by the username of CarrieP that I came across a whole series of images of London’s iconic Tower Bridge as seen from London Bridge. I thought they were wonderful images and felt really inspired to try to paint them.

This was the first painting that I did:

Tower Bridge (I)

Once I’d painted this, I contacted CarrieP to share this image with her and was delighted by her reaction, and her permission to share it, along with any other subsequent paintings that I might do.

Our exchange only heightened the significance of the subject matter for me. CarrieP used to work in London and used to cross London Bridge on her journey to and from work.

For many years during my time in London, I used to cycle across Tower Bridge to and from work. Although we were in London at different times, I loved the idea that Carrie’s photos and my paintings were like the two of us saying ‘hi’ to each other across time, from one bridge to another.

Suffice to say, by this point I was in full reminiscence mode for my time in London. I was also still inspired by many more of Carrie’s photos. Here’s the next view I tackled:

Although I liked this one, there was something about it that didn’t work as well as the previous painting. In all of these views, I was taking a squarish instagram image and extending it by quite a lot to create these portrait format paintings.

I decided to try cropping some of the bottom off this painting which I felt was an improvement:

Tower Bridge (II)

I think one of the things I really enjoyed about these scenes was the simplicity of being able to communicate something that was very clearly London in such a quick and direct manner. The ‘London’ element in each painting only takes up a tiny proportion of each painting – the rest of the space is given over to sky and water.

After doing these two, I felt compelled to at least make it a hat-trick! Here’s the third:

Tower Bridge (III)

I think the first and third paintings are the strongest of these three but I really enjoyed painting all of them.

As I was looking at them side by side, I was struck by how with the correct arrangement, the buildings from each painting merged precisely across the three scenes.

Tower Bridge in triplicate

This was totally unintentional but brought a smile to my face nevertheless. It seemed to make them look more like a triptych rather than three separate paintings of the same view.


Heart Research UK‘s #anonartproject came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday night. Last week I promised that I’d share the outcome today. Many eagle eyed followers had already identified which images were mine, and I was delighted by people’s interest in following the auction and the progress of my images.

At the request of Heart Research UK however, I’ve been asked to keep the details of which images were mine secret for just a little longer! The images are being sent out this week and next, which means that winning bidders still don’t know for certain whose work they have won, and it’s certainly not for me to do any spoilers!

Hopefully I’ll be able to go fully public with all of the details next week. In the meantime, and far more importantly, I can report that every single submission sold, and that the money raised this year was over Β£53,500 – which is the most ever raised by this particular project. I was personally delighted that my paintings exceeded the target that I’d nominally hoped for. This means that over the past three years, my submissions have raised over Β£1,000 for Heart Research UK.

As I could never afford to donate this much, I can’t tell you how good it feels to have been able to play a small part in this great initiative.

Thoughts on A trio of Tower Bridge watercolour paintings

12 thoughts on “A trio of Tower Bridge watercolour paintings”

  1. Maureen Gass-Brown

    John, these are ALL wonderful ! Their luminosity and contrast ( and clouds, too ! ) are masterful . πŸ€— And, cropping the middle one made a huge difference . Bravo !! πŸ‘πŸΌ πŸ₯° πŸ‘πŸΌ

  2. It was easy enough to work out your three paintings, and a goodly sum raised. Great stuff!

    I really appreciate the three Tower Bridge paintings, really pleasing skies (my skies have gone awry at present, can’t seem to get them rendered in a convincing manner!) I wonder about painting from someone else’s photos, I don’t have a problem with it, but presumably it creates a number of challenges? Of the three, my favourite is the one you find least convincing, though it’s a close run thing – I think it’s the light on the big boat in that picture that seals it for me.

    1. Hi Ray and many thanks for this. I think things going awry are all part of the ebb and flow of our development. I’m enjoying my skies at the moment and trying to make the most of it while I can as it’s bound to come to an end at some point!
      I try not to make a habit of painting from other people’s photographs but I must confess, after a year of restricted travel – I’m tired of keep trawling through my own selection! I must confess too that I’ve often really like the conversations that I’ve had with people that I’ve approached to seek permission – it’s been a nice way of meeting people in these distanced times. With these ones, it was also easier because of the personal knowledge and experiences I have of these views of London and I think this made a real difference. Glad you like that middle version – not sure if you’ve seen my other reply on this but I do think if I’d made the water a lot darker, this one would have been more successful.

  3. I see you’ve been letting those washes do their own thing again especially in the skies. Get control of them, John; the results may look good but there’s far too much of this libertarianism going on in the world today. I blame the long-haired students of the late 60s… (I remember it well…)
    I wonder if the reason you don’t like the middle painting is because you haven’t really related what’s going on in the sky to the water. I see there’s not much there in the original photo but there’s enough to darken the areas under the towers and to add a touch of pink where appropriate. I reckon that’s all it would need to pull it together. No doubt it’s too late now; it’ll already have been sold.
    And on that note, congratulations on beating your Β£1000 mark. A great effort!

    1. I’ve been continuing with my use of a splash of ox gall in my water bucket, the fully wetting the paper before starting to apply any paint. Its meant that I’ve found it easier to build up from light to dark in the skies, while always working wet in wet but the paint seems to stay ‘alive’ for longer – so I have feel I have more time to play around with it all before letting it dry. It’s not an approace that will work for everything but I’m enjoying it for these types of skies.
      As for that middle painting… I think you’re right. The water and sky don’t work sufficiently well together. After doing the third painting, I did think that I should return to the middle one and make the water a lot darker, but before I got round to it, I’d already moved on to something else and I’ve had to take it off it’s stretcher to make way for a new effort! (Oh, and it certainly hasn’t sold!)
      Thanks for the congrats on the Heart Research UK auction – I was pleased with how it all turned out, but hope to have more to say on this next week! Many thanks Rob

  4. A wonderful group of paintings John. I absolutely love the skies and the subtle lighting. Congratulations on the sales and the new followers. Of late I have been getting followers who are looking for romantic intrigue, suffice to say I have been doing a lot of blocking, haha! Enjoy your well earned attention. Cheers!

    1. Hi Margaret and thanks so much for this – so pleased you like them! I also wouldn’t want to give you the wrong impression, when I say new followers, I mean maybe as many as five! (And so far, not a jot of romantic intrigue!) The other day, I scrolled back through your entire Instagram feed. Your approach to painting seems to me to have developed massively and the work you’re producing now is, to my mind, really magnificent!

      1. Ah thank you so much for your kind words, though with that growth goes hand in hand a certain need for excellence which can be a hindrance…… five new followers during these crazy times is fantastic! Cheers

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