The past year has seen many people across the world grapple with a very specific type of loss; the sadness of a trip not taken, and the yearning for experiences beyond the anomie of the supermarket. As that strong desire for, and impulse to, wander the world fell victim to the pandemic in a turbulent 2020, we seemed at one point to be surging toward an anticipatory dystopia. Who were we without travel? What do we have to look forward to when there is no international vacation booked for the summer?
Over the course of the past 12 months, we’ve been commissioning artists, painters and illustrators from different cities all over the world to paint a picture of what they see out their windows – either real or imaginary. Most artists have been confined to these cities during the global lockdowns, and all have a close connection to the place they have illustrated.
Each artist has a “GRAZIA At Home City Guide” perched on their window sill, insider guides to the cities you need to visit when the world re-opens. Each artist recalls moments past in these nooks of the world; how they drank in the palaces, how they wandered through the parks, and how they ate and ate and ate. There’s recommendations too – local dishes, phrases and lessons – so you can start imagining your own itinerary from the comfort of your own home. Today, we’re headed to London in England.
“London is a vibrant, energetic city,” says illustrator Allan Deas. “A city of contrasts, it is modern and yet is steeped in history. London is so much more than the picture-perfect palaces, union jacks, and red buses you see on postcards.”
Working in the design industry as an illustrator and designer for over two decades, Deas – a Scotsman who currently resides in Barcelona – called London home for more than 15 years. At the beginning of his career, Deas took a job in fashion and trend research in a well-known department store before spending several years working in the printing and graphics field for big brands. A short stint in Paris meant that when the illustrator returned to London, he saw the city with fresh eyes.
“London has something for everyone; world class museums, restaurants, bars, nightlife, shopping, an abundance of parks – it’s a melting pot of cultures and an inspiring and buzzy world capital,” he says. “It really does hold a special place in my heart and is a city I want to return to, not just to see my friends but to be inspired again.”
That busyness is captured above in Deas’ original window scene; a retro albeit contemporary take on the bold and charming characters and humour one might find on the city’s streets. While music, art, old posters, vintage packaging and stamps can inspire and inform Deas’ work, it’s his use of bright colours which inject life into the sketches.
“Colour sometimes comes midway and is almost always changed several times until I’m 100% happy,” says Deas. “I wanted to capture the feel of a typical weekend walking around the streets & sights of London; the colour and pattern of the market stalls with their vivid fruits & flowers, the quaint old English pubs and landmarks, and the river in the background.”
“Once I create my elements separately – whether they be figures, buildings or animals – I collage them together digitally to enrich the composition,” he continues. “It’s a way I’ve been working for many years and gives me much more freedom to move things about & make changes as required.”
For those making travel plans to London, Deas recommends beginning your morning with a walk around the trendy neighbourhood of Borough Market before working your way down Columbia Road to Shoreditch and Redchurch Street. “Stop off at the hipster shops and cafes – and if it’s a Sunday, Colombia Road also has a fabulous flower Market,” says Deas.
If you’re looking for a restaurant in Shoreditch for lunch, try Andina, “a Peruvian spot with great Pisco sours.” “During the afternoon, walk along the river from London Bridge towards the London Eye, stopping off to take in the sights of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and the Golden Hinde sailing ship,” says Deas.
Come nighttime, do drinks around Covent Garden or Soho – “it’s always buzzing with plenty options” – before a late night drink at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club. “Ronnie’s is a relaxed, 50s speakeasy-style bar serving classic cocktails til the wee hours.” (Editor’s note: times are currently restricted due to COVID, and masks are mandatory.)
Deas has been in lockdown in Barcelona and when he’s not sketching on his iPad, he taps into London’s culture through online screenings of theatre shows and gigs. He regularly calls his London-based friends via Zoom to stay in touch.
“Sometimes I imagine I’m working in the illustrations department on a film, and that helps with the narrative,” says Deas. “I suppose even though the majority of my work is static, it still has an animated quality. I’d love to work with animators to bring it to life one day.”
“One day” is an overused term at the moment, isn’t it? One day this window will be reality again. In the interim, you can capture a piece of London by adding a few things to your living room. See Deas’ edit below.
Follow Allan Deas @allandeas_illustration
Capture The City’s Scent
“If I had to bottle the city’s scent, it would be a mix of old books, new books, leather and gin!” says Deas. “A bit of tobacco smoke and wood. This candle is spot on.” This Earl of East candle markets itself as “a luxurious blend of leather, tobacco leaf and amber [to] create a feeling of being in an opulent wood panelled room of a Victorian town house.”
Earl Of East Soy Wax Candle, 170mL, £20 SHOP NOW
Buy A Fancy Teapot
“I guess the teapot is an iconic London item, or a full matching tea set. I like this Tom Dixon one. It has an art deco vibe,” says Deas.
Tom Dixon Form Teapot, £185, SHOP NOW
Drink the cocktail
While you can’t head to Nightjar in Old Street (one of Deas’ favourites), in his opinion gin is the quintessential drink of choice for Londoners. Try this recipe.
Cucumber Elderflower Gimlet, Cookie + Kate, SEE RECIPE
Follow Allan Deas @allandeas_illustration