Coronavirus: Kentish Town’s The Secret Artist on painting the lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 April 2020

Camden Lockdown by The Secret Artist.

Camden Lockdown by The Secret Artist.

The Secret Artist

Kentish Town’s anonymous illustrator of listed buildings has been taking people out of the picture, once again.

Iceland by The Secret Artist.Iceland by The Secret Artist.

For the last six years, The Secret Artist has been using her iPad to paint the houses, shops, churches, pubs, monuments and old industrial buildings of Kentish Town and Camden.

Focussing on architecture, her early pictures were devoid of people. But when it came to painting busy cafes and bustling locations such as Camden Lock, she saw that crowds looked natural and enhanced the scene.

Now she is revisiting those pictures by removing people, to illustrate London during the coronavirus lockdown.

The NW5 artist told the Ham&High: “it feels like a very odd thing to be doing – it makes me sad.”

Lidl by The Secret Artist.Lidl by The Secret Artist.

In the last couple of weeks the Secret Artist has painted three supermarket scenes and “fiddled” with six old ones on her iPad app to show the new stark reality.

The supermarket paintings – with their cartoonish bright colours – are done more rapidly than usual, “more like news items”.

“The interesting thing is the queues – that sums up the situation at the moment,” she said.

The Secret Artist takes photos on her daily dog walks, and works on the paintings at home.

Welcome to Kentish Town by The Secret Artist.Welcome to Kentish Town by The Secret Artist.

Immediately before the lockdown, she depicted how shops were adapting. Morgan’s Stationary has started selling loo roll, and Harry’s Fine Food Butchers has disinfectant bottles for sale.

While artistically “shutting up shop” on some of her local businesses – removing the tables from outside The Pineapple Club, putting shutters on Abba Electronics – her concern is clear.

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“I worry about who is going to survive this crisis,” she said.

Abba Electronics by The Secret Artist.Abba Electronics by The Secret Artist.

The Secret Artist is a long-term witness to change on the Kentish Town Road. Files of her paintings are available at the Local Studies and Archives Centre in the Holborn Library.

“Ordinarily, I look out for humorous things – a cat in a shop window, a champagne bottle in the street that tells of last night’s part,” she said. “At the moment not much is humorous.”

Despite reduced signs of life, for the Secret Artist, the paintings are “a way of having fun”.

Referring to David Hockney’s iPad drawings of spring awakening in Normandy, she said: “It is wonderful that Hockney has made digital art respectable.”

Abba Electronics in lockdown by The Secret Artist.Abba Electronics in lockdown by The Secret Artist.

See more of her work at and follow @secretartistNW5 on Twitter.

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