Homage to the Garden in Warwick Square
from Sandor P Vaci RIBArt
Now that I have completed some fifty sketches of the Garden and its flora it is only fitting that I write an introduction of what brought it on and some thoughts on the connection between the actual and the perceived.
Drawing is part our training of becoming architects, the essential means of conveying designs to our clients which once approved are turned into technical information for construction. Even now, when everything is done on computers, the challenge of seeing or imagining the vision onto paper remains. The close observation needed to draw from life adds an innate truth that clicking away simply cannot replicate. I have carried sketchbooks on my travels from early on and still have one from my journey to Greece in 1961. It was one of those travels that make a lifelong impression, the something to return to for inspiration. The Rowney spiral bound sketchbook stood the test of my rough travel. The leaves in 60 lbs. Imperial, have yellowed, the edges slightly torn but my sketches of Corinthos, Navplion, Olympia and Delphi are still there thanks to using pen and black ink, the medium for lasting statements. I have half a dozen other sketchbooks, but I only thought of rekindling the sketching skill when going to the Loire Valley in September 2019. At the airport bought a handy sketchpad with smooth paper and Stabilo coloured pencils. The satisfaction of drawing came back during that week, even the nosey waiter had a thrill seeing what I produced.
One can assume that the enforced idleness of the lockdown has produced thousands of autobiographies, completed half started novels, prepared innovative dishes, inspired endless water colours cum paintings and definitely in my case colour pencil sketches. Almost on the day I started a self-imposed daily regime of doing a sketch in Warwick Square after lunch, later walking to my office to exercise the legs and completing the evening with a glass of Côte du Rhône. The weather has been unusually kind, no rain just brilliant sunshine, a few clouds floating in the azure blue skies. Besides the clubs and libraries, the Garden in Warwick Square is one of those spaces of exclusivity that London excels at. The Garden is flush with endless varieties of plants from around the world, a throwback to the Empire when returning colonists brought back exotica that thrived in England’s mild wet climate. The large plane trees were thinned out during the 1987 storm allowing more light into the garden, nature taking the drastic step that could have never happen for felling a tree is almost viewed as moral degeneracy. The timing of the lockdown coincided with spring when nature wakes, trees sprout leaves, blossoms burst open to shed petals around in a luxuriant sweeping skirt, and most important for my family, delicate Blue Bells show themselves. So, my sketching started with bare trees that became lush with leaves.
The Square presents ready-made vistas, to the West the stone spire of St Gabriel’s and in the opposite direction the rather undersized but enchanting statue of Andromeda against the backdrop of Cubitt facades. There are a number of timber benches that can be moved for a preferred view of the chosen subject, indeed garden members have been most helpful lifting them for just the right position. My impression of those who use the Square is very favourable but then this is one of the most expensive, privileged places in central London where cosmopolitan civility prevails. Young children run around happily, chatting shouting, their voices add to the general ambiance of contentment. So, this was the background of my almost daily involvement with sketching. It took about an hour of intense concentration to produce each drawing. I realised early on that what I drew was based on what I saw but could not be a replica of it. This merely states the obvious, but one can be too involved, frustrated not following exactly on paper what is there. Each time I finished a drawing I was not quite satisfied but then at home looked at it again appreciating the sketch on its own merit. Each had an existence by now independent of the subject and of me, they were sketches that could have been viewed anywhere without even being aware that Warwick Square existed. I was also ruthlessly critical of what I did cutting out several with scissors, tearing them up. I cannot keep anything I consider second rate and anyway the greatest critic should be the self. This whole effort was my admiration for, enchantment of what the garden offered so decided to call it Homage to the Garden in Warwick Square hoping those who see the sketches will get some of the joy I had, of being lost in the marvels of the garden. I must pay my respect to the gardener, Sarah S, without whom the place would not have its floral magic.