For an aspiring young artist, London meant independence. Even if the surroundings and my student digs were a bit bleak, my student life in London was fun, and I could always go home to my parents at weekends and in the holidays. I enjoyed walking or taking the bus to my Battersea pad despite the dreary post-war streets around it, and in 1951 the Festival of Britain’s modern design and summery optimism was exciting. I was sent on exploratory architectural trips with fellow RCA students to look at Wren’s St Paul’s and Greenwich Hospital, and to get to know London’s art galleries better: I saw my first Henry Moore work, a trio of standing women, at an open air sculpture exhibition in Battersea Park, went to the Tate (now Tate Britain) to see Mexican sculpture and American art, and enjoyed the view of what then were still industrial buildings across the Thames.
These early years taught me how to choose a possible subject and then decide on the most interesting point of view, both of which can take a while but waste less time than drawing the wrong thing. Avoiding the most obvious and therefore the most hackneyed subjects sounds sensible, even when they were what first caught your eye, but first impressions matter too and can be the truest and most vivid.
(an extract from David Gentleman, 'My Town', Penguin Books, 2020, p.11)