Crowning London With Landmarks

Crowning London

The birth of Prince George has the world abuzz (with sales exploding for the same swaddling blanket used to wrap the newborn prince), but it’s also been 60 years since Elizabeth II was crowned queen in the summer of 1953 (although technically queen since 1952 after the passing of George VI). With the world enthralled with all things royal babies, we spoke with Gail Armstrong, the award-winning illustrator and artist behind Where London’s recent cover that featured a London-inspired replica of the Queen’s crown.

Using the Queen’s crown jewels as her source of inspiration, Armstrong cut and sculpted the intricate cover design cover out of paper. She has worked freelance for 20 years and for clients including the United Nations, Kleenex and Midwest Airlines. Here, she tells us about what it was like creating art for a Where magazine cover.

What was the inspiration behind the artwork?
The idea was to link the recent anniversary of the Queen's coronation to London. What better symbol of coronation than a crown and the use of the recognizable landmarks make it distinctly London. By using a skyline to look like the crenelations on the crown it becomes a key part of the decorative quality of the crown.

Describe the process of creating the cover. 
The very first thing I have to do is some visual research. There's always a first reaction to a brief, but as I dig through reference, my ideas develop and new concepts often emerge. In this case I was researching the crown jewels and London landmarks and trying to work out the right level of detail on both so that they would look convincingly one object and not have one idea dominating the other.

I work in drawings first, composing the image but also simultaneously planning the construction. The drawing then goes to the client and we can discuss any changes or addition. Once we are all happy with the drawing, I use it as a template and start making and cutting the piece in paper. In this case, it became clear that too much decoration would overpower the concept—a true example of "less is more."

How long did it take you to create it? 
I believe it was about a week from start to finish—give or take a bit of time for discussions.

What was the most difficult aspect of creating it? 
The most difficult part was definitely the London Eye. It was by far the most fiddly to cut but also the most difficult to create a convincing perspective on—the whole piece is built in a false perspective.

What is your favorite part of the cover? 
I think that would be the London Eye, partly because it was so tricky to get right, but largely because I like the way it catches the light and the shadow it casts. But I have to say it was a very enjoyable piece to work on all-round.

What is the most rewarding part of the process? 
For me, the most rewarding part is always other people's reaction to the piece. If I get a "wow!," I know I've done well.

Gail spent many hours working on the fine details of the crown, like the complicated miniature of the London Eye.

With the art created, the "crown" was photographed in the studio for the Where London cover.

What's the fun of having a crown if you can't wear it?

See the Real Jewels
If you’re inspired to see the real crown jewels, visit The Tower of London, the famous fortress, palace and prison. Learn about the history and mystique surrounding the jewels, from how they were pawned by Charles I’s wife to how they were almost destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.

Kohinoor Sahota
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