Charting a new course in London

I traveled to Trinity Buoy Wharf to sketch London’s only lighthouse, Bow Creek or Trinity Lighthouse, a day before my visit to see the paintings of JMW Turner in the Tate Museum in London. I admire the art of Turner and was excited about my upcoming visit to the Tate Museum. There was much to see-Turner bequeathed over 300 paintings to museum.

But first I was headed to the lighthouse. As we got off the Tube, we followed the directional signs to Trinity Buoy Wharf. Once there, we happened upon a lightship, in addition to the lighthouse. Two light vessels at one stop! Amazed, I hurriedly sketched the lighthouse. As the wind flipped the pages, I quickly sketched the lightship while my daughter took shelter in a nearby restaurant.

As I sketched the lightship, I thought about Turner and pondered how I could pay tribute to him. Pausing for moment, I became spellbound by the lightship that was now converted into a studio. It seemed pregnant with stories of its past.

Back in the United States, I looked at my yellow foreground and became inspired when I read how much Turner used yellow. According to the book How to Paint like Turner, “Some of Turner’s most daring and experimental innovations centered around his use of yellow. It seems to have been his favorite color and he used it liberally…For more than thirty years his use of yellow became one of the most frequently mentioned aspects of his art, with critics variously accusing him of ‘yellow fever’…”


A Picture is Worth A Thousand Tweets 

Lightship 95 on the River Thames in London.

The  recent public outcry about the Obama’s official portraits has generated a lot of social media buzz. People seemed puzzled and even angered by the artists, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald.

I’m not sure there’s anything the artists could or should say to the critics. They’ve already said it. I mean a picture is worth a thousand words or in today’s vernacular a thousand “tweets.”

Artists are accustomed to being misunderstood and misinterpreted. I find that often in my personal life.

I discovered this recently after I wrote a feature in the United States Lighthouse Society News in early February. After reading the article my sister said, “Now I understand why you paint lighthouses.” Initially, I was a little taken aback because she has been with me on at least four lighthouse trips.

Yet perhaps I took for granted she understood why I painted lighthouses. We visual artists aren’t always adept at verbal explanations because we rely on our paintings to be our voice. In any event, I hope my article amplifies what compels me to paint lighthouses. You can read my article entitled “Lighthouses as Inspiration” posted on February 2 on United States Lighthouse Society News at

Preservation 50 Friday: London’s Lightship

Trinity House Lightship

Trinity House Lightship, London UK copyright

I admire the art of JMW Turner. When I visited London this past winter, I stopped by the Tate Britain Museum. I was excited about the museum because Turner bequeathed over 300 paintings to the Tate.

A few days before visiting the Tate, I had traveled to Trinity Buoy Wharf to sketch London’s only Lighthouse. While there I also sketched the Trinity House Lightship. As I sketched, I thought about Turner and pondered how I could pay tribute to him.

Back in the United States, I looked at my yellow foreground and became inspired when I thought about how much Turner used yellow. According to the book “How to Paint like Turner”, “Some of Turner’s most daring and experimental innovations centered around his use of yellow. It seems to have been his favorite color and he used it liberally. ” “For more than thirty years his use of yellow became one of the most frequently mentioned aspects of his art, with critics variously accusing him of yellow fever”…

Should BP Stop Pumping Money into the Arts?

Self portrait of Turner.

Self portrait of JMW Turner at Tate Britain.

British Petroleum will end its sponsorship of Tate Museums in London. Activists are applauding the end of the relationship. Its seems like a “catch 22” situation. Corporations who don’t give to back to the community are called greedy and insensitive.

Death of a Pale Horse.

Death of a Pale Horse by Turner.

Not sure I agree with the environmentalists on this one. I visited the Tate Britain Museum which offers free admission. How will this impact the museum’s ability to offer free admission to the public?

Waves breaking on a Shore.

Waves Breaking on a Shore by Turner.

Tate Britain has a large collection of paintings by JMW Turner. Britain’s greatest artist bequeathed over 300 of his paintings with the stipulation that they be exhibited for free.

Oil blackened waters of Mississippi.

The oil blackened Gulf in Biloxi, Mississippi.

I understand the outrage over the Gulf Coast Oil Spill. I’ve visited Mississippi and I’m from Florida so I’ve seen the impact. I’m just not sure how this really makes sense to penalize Cultural Institutions.

The Best Guide in Europe

A view of Madrid.

The most distinctive geographical feature of Spain is its mountains. Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe besides Switzerland.

I dreamed of painting picturesque lighthouses on mountains in Spain but found no guide to take me there. Like most of my life, my plan to paint European lighthouses did not materialize.

In Great Britain, Trinity House, overseer of most of Britain’s lighthouses, had no organized guides for tours to all of their lighthouses.

Disappointed, I scratched my plans and settled for two lighthouses. Trinity Lighthouse in London and St. Catherine’s a few hours away from London.

St. Catherine’s Lighthouse at the Isle of Wight soars above the British shore poetically. Day trips are only $100. With that in mind I made plans.

To my dismay, two weeks before my trip, the ferry port for the Isle of Wright caught fire. All trips were cancelled. I considered that a spiritual red flag and reluctantly made plans to just paint the Trinity Lighthouse.

My daughter who made the discovery about the fire consoled me and said “Maybe things will change by the time we get to London.” However, when we arrived in London, things changed from bad to worse. The storm Imogene was brewing off the coast of Isle of Wright making the day trip impossible.

Thankful I could at least visit one European lighthouse, we caught the London Tube to the hamlet of West India.

Sign for Trinity buoy wharf.

Trinity Buoy Wharf awaits.

My heart raced as we walked a few blocks to Trinity Buoy Wharf to the lighthouse.

Trinity Lighthouse

Trinity Lighthouse.

While I sketched, my daughter sipped hot chocolate at a quaint diner nearby. Reading the lighthouse signage, I glanced at another one about a lightship. Funny I had not even noticed the lightship behind until I read it. “Wow, two lighthouses,” I thought. God had quietly guided my steps.

Signage for Lightship.

Signage for Lightship.

He has a better plan if we allow only allow Him to unfold it. I did not have to travel far and wide to find two European lighthouses.

Lightship at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Lightship at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

God guides and orders our steps even when we are unaware of it. When pass we pass through the fire and the storm, He is with us.

Later, leaving London and grasping my bible, I heard a Brit say “you’re following the right guide.” I gave him a hug and agreed I was.

The Royal Treatment in London

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace.

I love tea. My son has running joke about how I once said in one of the low points of my life “tea is the only thing that makes me happy.” I said that while warding off my daughter’s attempt to grab my tea.


Walkway to the “Orangerie.”

So it came to as no surprise to my daughter that a “High Tea” was on my list of priorities when visiting London. My daughter is a savvy budget traveler. Not eager to pay the hefty prices I had settled for, she a found a moderately priced “High Tea” at the “Orangerie” in Kensington. It was off a busy street, nestled behind Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace. What a royal setting!


Menu for the “Orangerie.”

We walked through the gardens, entered the “Orangerie” and asked to be seated at a table with a garden view. After looking at the menu, we selected the cheapest offering. We talked to the server about my daughter’s citrus food allergies and I asked about vegetarian options. To our surprise, the server said my daughter would have to talk to the manager before ordering food. The manager had a serious but cordial discussion with my daughter about available food options and the possibility of cross contamination. After she agreed on substitutions, she ordered her food.

Inside the orangerie

Inside the “Orangerie.”

When the food arrived I reminded the server that I was vegetarian. A few minutes later a side platter of delightful sandwiches arrived. We had the most flavorful mint tea seeped in mint leaves. Looking at the elegant setting and our food my daughter remarked that she didn’t know any guys who would enjoy a “High Tea.” I made a mental note to add this my checklist of things for her potential suitors!

Afternoon High Tea.

Samplings of an Afternoon High Tea.

I was really happy with the tea, sandwiches, scones and desserts. My daughter didn’t think the food was extraordinary stating that is was not like the brunches in America. Of course not, I thought, there is nothing like a fine English High Tea! After all even now in the best of times “tea is one of the things that really makes me happy.”

Picture Perfect Stay in London

Big Ben and The London Eye.

Big Ben with the London Eye in the background.

What you see is what you get at the Nadler Victoria in London. I found that to be a rarity in most hotels. The promises on the website and the realities on the ground often bare little resemblance at other hotels.

The Nadler Hotel.

My room at the Nadler Hotel.

To my delight our room was exactly like the picture on their website. I had read the reviews before booking a room for a four night stay. It was our first stay in London and I didn’t want to take any chances with a shoddy hotel.

Nadler Victoria Hotel.

Outside the Nadler Victoria Hotel.

I had booked rooms before that were recommended on Tripadvisor and had not been disappointed. My room at a B&B in Brooklyn was outstanding and my rooms at Pensacola and Daytona Beach Shores were great too. Forty four customers rated the Nadller Victoria outstanding and one customer had rated it excellent. At the time of my booking, the hotel was rated 5 out of over thousands of hotels in London in customer service. By the time I arrived it was rated number two in customer service.

Lobby of the Nadler.

Cozy lobby of the Nadler.

The Nadler Victoria Hotel also had a certificate of excellence from Tripadvisor. With such a stellar rating, I felt assured. My daughter prepaid the room on the Nadler’s website saving 30% off the hotel bill.

Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey.

When we arrived, the desk clerk at the Nadler escorted us to our room and explained all the features. The room was well appointed. The sumptuous towels and shiny silverware were warmed. We sunk into our luxurious bed with plush pillows.

Changing of the Guards

People gather for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

The hotel was less than five minutes away from Buckingham Palace, restaurants and the London Tube. Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were a 15 minute walk away. I was a short cab ride away from the Tate Britain. It was the best of all worlds for me.

Tate Britain Museum.

Tate Britain Museum.

There was a bakery next door. The surrounding area was pleasant and appeared safe as well. While there was construction across the street, our room was pleasantly quiet.

We did have a problem with our thermostat but the staff responded quickly and reset it downstairs. Other than that our stay was uneventful. The staff was attentive and helpful throughout our stay.

Kitchenette at the hotel

Fully equipped kitchenette at the Nadler.

The room was equipped with a kitchenette that had a microwave, electric teapot and expresso machine, kitchenware—all the conveniences needed for a picture perfect stay.