By Louella Miles
Eleanor Crow is an artist who specializes in creating color-rich portraits, still lifes, and landscapes with oil on linen. She’s also creates watercolor illustrations, lettering, and book cover designs. In 2019, Batsford Books and Spitalfields Life Books published Crow’s celebration of small neighborhood shops featuring watercolor illustrations of classic shopfronts.
The book, Shopfronts of London: In Praise of Small Neighbourhood Shops, written and illustrated by Crow, features 100 watercolor illustrations of small, classic shops found in England’s capital city. It includes over 100 illustrations of London’s bakers, cafes, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, chemists, launderettes, hardware stores, eel and pie shops, bookshops, and stationers, accompanied by their stories.
A Return to Watercolor
The idea for the book came when she began to draw and work in watercolors again, about 10 years ago. “My travels around London over the years had led me to noticing a small number of small and beautiful shopfronts, like tiny landmarks in the city environment,” she says. “I began working on a series of shopfront watercolor illustrations from 2009 over a period of about 10 years. This eventually led to two exhibitions and Shopfronts of London.”
A Painterly Response
The book also reflects her conviction that, despite their working practice, all artists work best in series. “For some, it might be a cerebral or conceptual response. For me, it’s a painterly response to external things that interest me,” she says. “I’m working on a series of still life paintings, but will expand to interiors and landscapes, so that all of the series can run in conjunction.”
Variations on a Theme
“The shopfronts series — although my watercolors are very different to my oil paintings — are an exploration of the same idea: variations on a theme. I loved how each shop had a very particular look. But within an overarching theme, I wanted to show how much every detail of the lettering, coloring, tiling, and window displays, created by the shop owner or their forbears, matter to us.”
The exhibition was covered by the BBC In Pictures and on ITV News. The book has had both local and international success.
To learn more about Crow, check out the feature profile in the October 2020 issue of Artists Magazine, or visit eleanorcrow.org and eleanorcrow.com.