By Anna Malpas
LONDON, UK — Lydia Wood sits opposite The Atlas pub in west London, meticulously adding detail to her building design and stopping only occasionally to sharpen her pencil.
The 28-year-old artist has built a sizable following on TikTok and Instagram with his detailed sketches of beloved London pubs.
He has set an ambitious goal but, in his opinion, not impossible, designing all 3,500 of them.
He has so far managed “a few hundred”, many of them near his home in Catford, South East London, he told AFP.
The project originated during the coronavirus pandemic, when the lockdown meant it was unable to work providing after-school art classes for children.
“Somehow it came from being, you know, a pub person, like that’s where I socialize with my friends,” she said.
Wood’s drawings get thousands of likes on Instagram and TikTok, where he posts short videos about the process, then displays the finished sketch in front of the pub.
The freelance artist had always drawn pictures of pubs to sell at Christmas markets.
But when he announced his plan and asked for commissions to design the capital’s pubs, “things went a little crazy,” he admitted.
Now creating art is his full-time job, mainly running individual errands, including pubs and houses.
It also sells prints on the Etsy e-commerce craft site.
“They feel so typically British. I think whether you are a pub person or not, they are great buildings to look at or to be in.
The Atlas pub near Earl’s Court was suggested by a TikTok follower and is located on a quiet side street next to a tree-lined cemetery.
But Wood still has to endure the passing screeching ambulances and a plumber’s van parking unnecessarily in front of the building.
Some tax collectors gave her a warm welcome when they realized she was designing their buildings.
But L’Atlas, with its shiny red painted bricks and vine-covered upper walls, is closed until late afternoon.
Inside, the Victorian-era pub has carefully preserved period features such as wood paneling.
It is now a “foodie” pub serving dishes like risotto or confit duck leg for dinner.
“It looks pretty elegant,” Wood said.
While she doesn’t see the project as an excuse for a pub crawl, she likes to go to the places she designs to get a feel for their vibe.
A ‘club’ with regular drinkers has a completely different vibe to a central London pub with its passing trades.
“When I’ve been to a pub after drawing it, there’s definitely a different kind of feeling of ‘oh yeah, I know that pub and can recommend it to someone’.”
A few days later, Wood is in busy Soho to design a very different pub, The Coach and Horses on Greek Street, which she has already been to.
“When you’ve been inside the pub you have some kind of connection with it,” he said.
She chose the pub because a commentator on one of her TikTok videos told her about a family connection with the pub.
Their grandfather, Norman Balon, was famously known as “the rudest landlord in London” and ran the pub for more than 60 years.
“I loved that kind of anecdote,” Wood said. “It immediately drew me to it.”
The pub in central London, in a historic 19th-century building, had a lively clientele, including journalists from the satirical magazine Private Eye. AFP
Other regulars included legendary alcoholic journalist Jeffrey Bernard, who was immortalized in a Keith Waterhouse play “Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell”.
It is now run by a chain of breweries.
On Saturday afternoons, there is a steady stream of passersby and drinkers sitting outside with pints.
“It took almost three hours,” he said he finished drawing an “iconic part of Soho”.
“It’s fun, there are so many people around, but it was actually quite a peaceful design.”