April Painting of the Month – Ranger and Windrose chasing Velsheda
Ranger and Windrose chasing Velsheda, 2009, Watercolour on paper 30 x 40 inches
The Caribbean reagatta season begins in earnest this week, with the first gun of the St Barths Bucket on Friday 25th March. Fabulous superyachts shaking out the caution of winter for an exuberant, competitive and often dangerous melee in the azure waters of the French West Indies.
For us Europeans it is a welcome relief from the long gloomy winter, even as the first tinges of colour appear in the trees back home. Elusive green shoots of economic springtime, however, are easily forgotten in A-list St Barths with over a billion dollars’ worth of the world’s greatest yachts chasing each other around the capricious rock-strewn coast in a gorgeous symphony of excess.
The names and the superlatives are all there. The biggest, Maltese Falcon & Mirabella V. The fastest, Leopard. The most beautiful, J’s Ranger & Hanuman. The most elegant, Elena. The coolest, P2 & Twizzle. The newest, Christopher.
But not me. Sadly this year I’m not there to immortalise it all in charcoal and watercolour. Painting of the Month shows the great J-Class yachts Ranger and Velsheda, with Windrose of Amsterdam leading the field at Antigua. The location’s different but the spirit’s the same. No, I am focusing on architecture, on terra ferma, for now. I am moving into the revered surroundings of GF Watts’ Great Studio the very day the Bucket is won in St Barths.
I am embarking on a series of monumental watercolours, superworks the likes of which have never been seen before, breaking my own records in terms of size and impact, I will be unveiling my own symphony of excess later in the year – the biggest, fastest, coolest and newest – watercolours the likes of which the world has never seen. Then I’ll deserve a trip to St Barths next year!
Three Days Left.. Exhibition & Sale
There are only three days left of the exhibition, we have had a great response to the new site and huge support marking the big move into Watts’ Great Studio. To view the exhibition in full please click here.
Watercolour, reputedly the most difficult of artist’s media always appealed to me for that very reason: give me a challenge at which I can try to excel and I will thrive. Perversely watercolour appealed for another reason: having been completely out of fashion in the C20th, rejected and forgotten, watercolour was dismissed as a medium only suitable for Victorian ladies, not a medium for the consideration of great art, as Sir Joshua Reynolds had proscribed in the 1770s. So not only challenging technically but also deeply unfashionable. Even better.
Why is watercolour so difficult? Because mistakes cannot easily be remedied. Careful thought and preparation are necessary ingredients. An intent is vital. Not a medium suitable for wooly undefined creativity which so often disguises lack of ideas. As a translucent medium every mark made is there for all to see, every thought, line and hesitation is visible, naked…. (more…)
Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek – Painting of the Month
Temple of Bacchus, Lebanon, Alexander Creswell 2000, watercolour on paper 22 x 30 inches
Alexander Creswell’s Painting of the Month: Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, Lebanon
As fate would have it, I had planned to be painting at Leptis Magna this month. The Roman city of Leptis Magna is in Libya. Given the state of turmoil in Libya at this time, it would not have been the peaceful and inspirational expedition I had in mind. I thank fate for ensuring that I had changed my mind before the current situation blew up in Libya.
Unrest in beautiful places is not new. I had painted extensively in Cairo years ago and fully intent to do so again. Also in Baalbek, Lebanon.
This painting of the interior of the Temple of Bacchus was carried out some 14 years ago when I was able to go there with a team from the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture as part of an urban task force project in Beirut and Sidon. I knew the precariously dislodged keystone from a lithograph by David Roberts of the1840s and was delighted to see that it was still there. The delicately refined ruins of Baalbek were deserted when we were there. On the hilltop nearby the reason was clear; a fortified army encampment oversaw our every move. Hezbollah were watching us, sunlight glinting off the gun barrels. Baalbek, in the fertile Bekka Valley was part of the frontline during the Lebanese conflict which had only recently ceased. We were very fortunate to be allowed to be there. I have wanted to return ever since.
As the tremors of disquiet rumble around the Middle East today, I am not making any plans to return just yet, either to Libya or Lebanon, much as the cultural interplay between Classical & Islamic fascinates me. The window of opportunity will present itself again. I just hope that keystone will still be there, lodged precariously in the ruins of a previous civilisation.