The London Commute 1 Studio Culture

The London Commute

The commute to work, for a lot of us, is something that takes up a big chunk of our working week. I have recently come back to London after spending the last three years in rural Denmark, where the commute was 5 minutes of cycling from door to door. As such, the 50 minutes on the overground each morning came as a bit of a shock, and took some getting used to.

The commute is also very different from what I remember in London. There has been a big push towards bikes, with the introduction of Barclays Cycle Hire and the Cycle to Work tax exemption scheme. The increase of cyclists is noticeable. So noticeable, in fact, that I thought I would dedicate my Art&Graft intro film to cycling, especially given our own Mike Moloney’s fondness for his bike. It’s great to see this push towards a greener and more healthy method of transportation in the capital, as I have become very fond of cycling in Denmark.

As a people, the Danes are fanatical about cycling. 52% of Copenhagen’s population cycles to their place of work or education everyday, compared to only 3.9% of London. It also makes sense – Copenhagen has very high tax rates on cars, and much wider streets with well established cycling infrastructure. This is  what it feels like London is still missing – more bike lanes, traffic lights and that sort of thing, even though it’s difficult with our tiny streets. The amount of traffic and disregard for the rules is terrifying, and even though I’ve definitely cycled home in high heels after a night out in Copenhagen (feeling very Euro-chic), I don’t think I’m ready to cycle to work in London, despite the new notable lack of exercise in my daily routine.

That said, there’s also something about the traditional commute, the magic of that hour of freedom that nothing like a train ride can deliver. With more and more of our time swallowed up by the internet, TV and oh-so-easy-to-plan-with-a-smart-phone commitments, I like to use my new found commute for sketching, observing and reading. The latter of these has always been popular on the underground (unless you’ve fallen victim to the iphone crowd). A previous blog post by Stephen saw him sketching people at the National Portrait Gallery, and there are so many people on the tube everyday, that it feels like a waste not to use the opportunity to capture so many different characters. It also helps me get warmed up for a day at the studio.

The consequence, of course, is that my sketchbook is now full of people looking at their phones. I haven’t drawn an open eye in months, as everyone's are downcast and focused on their laps. A little depressingly though, I’m getting very used to drawing hands holding phones. So, whether you cycle to work, take the tube, bus, walk or even (gasp) drive, appreciate that little slice of freedom in your daily life that is already starting to get swallowed by the new internet on the tube. If you are on the underground, take a moment to look up and around, and if you see someone staring at you with a pencil and sketchbook in hand, I’m sorry. It might be my only chance to draw some eyes in the next month, and I’m going to take it. 

Tags: Studio Culture

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