Behind the print: "Daily Express Building"

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

Peter Luty creates linocuts, etchings and watercolours that are an artistic interpretation and a recording of a building at a particular point in time. He braved the Fleet Street traffic and security officers to sketch and photograph the Daily Express Building so he could make this linocut. Peter tells us how he developed the idea, how he gets those clean, crisp shapes, and what he thinks of London’s evolving skyline.

"Daily Express Building", linocut, by Peter Luty

What was it about the Daily Express building that made you want to make a print about it?

I’m very interested in Art Deco. I like the stylishness of it. It represents a bridge between the more flamboyant styles of the past and the stripped-down look of modern architecture.

The Daily Express Building is a very good example of this, almost ‘modern’ but retaining some more decorative features, like the curved corners and the stepping back on the upper storeys. I think it’s a very stylish building.

(Click the arrow on the right of the image to scroll through Peter's initial sketches and see how he developed his idea for the "Daily Express Building" print)

What do you think your former career as an architect brings to your work?

I have an analytical eye for style and detail, and I look at buildings differently from other artists. My drawings, paintings and prints of buildings explore their structural and constructional qualities as well as their decorative effect.

Did you do the sketches on location or did you take photos and draw from them later?

Both. I couldn’t draw in the middle of Fleet Street, I’d have been mown down! I did some sketches for character and setting and took quite a lot of photographs – some while dashing on and off the road, in between the buses.

A drawing from Peter's sketchbook

I was warned off photographing in the lane next to the Daily Express Building (now owned by Goldman Sachs) by security because it’s private property. I think they thought I was a professional photographer.

Being warned off has happened before. I was stopped by police once while I was photographing Art Deco factories on the Great West Road. I obviously looked like a suspicious character. “Can I ask what you’re doing, Sir?” “Yes, I’m photographing these wonderful buildings. I’ve been doing it all day, I’ve hundreds of photos of them. Would you like to see them all?” “No, Sir, that’ll be fine”. There’s no point in getting cross, it makes the situation worse.

I’ve been stopped by security in Paddington Basin from photographing Thomas Heatherwick’s Rolling Bridge (private property, apparently), asked what I was doing when I was videoing ships passing through the Thames Barrier (terrorist risk, apparently) and best of all, told I couldn’t photograph Inspector Montalbano (a fictional Sicilian detective, for those who don’t know) as an episode was being filmed, despite lots of people photographing him with their mobile phones. I had my DSLR camera with a long lens, and must have been mistaken for a paparazzo.

Peter Luty is the featured artist at Greenwich Printmakers until August 23

You do both etchings and linocuts of buildings. What made you choose linocut rather than etching for the Daily Express Building print? How do you decide which technique to use?

Linocutting was perfect for the hard lines of the Daily Express Building. Etching is often better for older buildings. I decide depending on the building, my feelings about it, its condition and various other matters.

I did do an etching of another Deco building, the Carlton Cinema, because I wanted to hand-colour it to show a number of coloured tiles on the façade. The condition of the building was very poor, lending itself to the softer, greyer quality of etchings.

The Daily Express Building has sharp details, has recently been beautifully restored, and is mostly black and white. Linocutting was perfect for it.

Reflections seem to be an important element in this print. How did your portrayal of them develop from your initial sketches?