Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral in ink with watercolour washesOne of my commissions this year was a gift for a couple who live in Ely, and the Cathedral is the obvious choice.

For those who don’t know, it’s an ancient gothic hulk that has been in danger of sinking into the swamp it’s built on for several hundred years. Back when it was built, the town it was in had a three figure population. It’s a landmark over the flat fenland that you can see from further than you can walk in a day, and its existence scuppers any hope of ever dealing with traffic flow in Ely. Some of it’s fallen down, and some of the bits have been replaced in wood, while other bits just haven’t been replaced. It’s amazing.

The ‘gothic’ part will have you cringing if you are an artist. There’s no easy way to do this. It’s a matter of balancing which lies you tell against the effort of telling those lies; in this case, I drew a quick version of it in pencil to work out which parts were dark and which parts were light, and then I did an under-drawing to let me paint that, with all the plane changes and details I could manage within a half day. Then, because the answer to that was never going to be ‘enough details’, I went over it with ink pens, using a thicker one on the near parts and fading out the thinner one into the distance. I left out the surrounding buildings and foliage, although I added a tiny bit after I took this photo. The result says ‘Ely Cathedral’ pretty well.