Alexander Creswell

Painting of the Year 2014 – New Horizons: A Ceiling Painting

After what has been a progressively uncomfortable year, I have both pleasure and relief in revealing a painting which has been the product of much thought, deliberation and soul-searching in the quest for a meaningful direction for my future: I take pleasure because the painting is almost finished, and relief because it seems to have been successful, at least as far as I had intended it to be.

A year ago I had an interesting discussion with a collector in New York who lamented his lack of wall space as hinderance to enlarging his erudite collection. Perhaps cheekily I had suggested that he had unadorned ceilings which could be employed to display works of art in the eighteenth century manner, in keeping with his collection of European paintings of the period. The resulting conversation concluded with a commission for me to undertake such a painting, in watercolour and on a significant scale.  This would be a first, both for watercolour and for contemporary art. It would be new ground for me: I relished the idea and rushed off to Italy to consult the masters of the settecento.

In the first instance this picture – now almost completed – represents a new horizon for me, perversely for the simple reason that it has no horizon. Being a view upwards though an imaginary roof to an infinite sky, it has a perspective which relies on the third dimension of the vertical, a perspective cut free from the merely terrestrial.  Secondly this view has no subject as such, no representation of reality other than the sky and sunlight above an invented architecture which departs from the observance of reality. Thirdly, and importantly for me, this view is not factually representational but borrowed in part from history, then adapted and invented. Fictitious in this architectural tableau is the population of what appear to be ghosts whose only function is to represent those tenets and disciplines of life which we, the viewers, might have taken for granted: faith, toil, sagacity and fecundity – in common parlance: confidence, hard work, knowledge and productivity.

But what is the purpose of this painting, I hear the muttered question tinged with cynicism?  Well, I’ve been loyal to the representational for most of my painting life, faithful to place and light, to truth and to the actuality of the subject. Occasionally however the truth is awkward or uncomfortable. During my career I have painted beauty, elegance and grace in architecture. I have also painted fate as manifest in the destruction and neglect of ruins.  Sometimes the inspiration comes from unlikely quarters: over the past year my path ahead has been at times tangled and obstructed, calling for diversion and courage, flavoured with sadness and reflection – a landscape of Dante as I am reminded. With encouragement I found the leap from the familiar to the unknown in this work to be daunting and yet inspirational. It required courage in the confrontation of possible – or probable – failure. Rather like leaping from a runaway train, escape was the principal motivation behind this painting.

Although not quite finished, today we installed this painting in the ceiling of my studio, in a proper place to test its efficacity before the final details are elaborated in preparation for its dispatch.

Some remarkable things revealed themselves: floating overhead the picture morphed into a completely fresh image, unencumbered by accuracy and correctness. Let me explain: we are accustomed to the terrestrial world with a horizon, we gape up at skyscrapers in Manhattan or peer down into the Grand Canyon, but from the safety of our horizon-based world – terra-firma. Everything is related to the horizon, our level, our balance.  We might look out of the window of an aircraft at 35,000 feet but always with the horizon to give us a fixed point: remove that horizon and we suffer from vertigo, dizziness and disorientation. Looking up at a ceiling painting we can feel the ability to fly into it and soar like a bird, freely but with our feet still firmly on the ground.

Given freedom from our earthbound horizons we loosen our reliance on accuracy and on truth. We can twist and turn to look at this view from varying angles without questioning, simply enjoying the gift of flight, at least momentarily. We are looking at a picture which is not a view in the conventional sense, more of a virtual reality which we can enjoy without cynicism, not requiring the affirmation of being ‘correct’.  As a representational painter I find this departure very exciting.

So what of this image on the ceiling? At worst it’ll be a talking point, a curiosity: maybe it’ll challenge the condemnation of representational art as somehow shallow and passé. Maybe it’ll start a trend. I would hope it might encourage other enlightened patrons to ask me to do more, far larger ceilings to be installed in places where they can be seen by the world.

Under the archway furthest from the sun in the painting, a cartouche bears the following inscription:

“Beviamo profondamente dal pozzo della tradizione e nutriremo l’arte del futuro”
(tr. “We drink from the well of tradition to nourish the art of tomorrow”)

The sentiment is entirely mine and the observant viewer may recognise a veiled reference to Andrea Pozzo whose huge fresco ‘The Apotheosis of S Ignazio’ adorns the nave vault of a church close by the Pantheon in Rome, which provided me with the inspiration and model for this painting, together with the courage even to imagine that I could actually achieve it.

I would be delighted if you forward this to anyone who would value the message or who might simply enjoy the painting.

With best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and many thanks to those who have encouraged me through a difficult year.

Alexander Creswell, Christmas 2014

New York Calling: September 2012 Painting of the Month

Washington Arch, New York, 2012, watercolour on paper 40 x 30 inches

After the dullest British summer in living memory, I begin to understand why landscape painters often used titles to describe the weather or to make excuses for light conditions.  It suggests that these might not have been entirely natural or believable, or that they were contrived for theatrical effect.  Turner and others added epithets such as “sunrise after a blustery night” or “thunderstorm approaching at sunset”.  Weather is always at the forefront in Britain; never to be taken for granted, frequently surprising and often hostile. We keep a close eye on it and we discuss it freely with complete strangers.

‘Fire & Light’ is the title of my forthcoming show in New York which opens on the 13th of September.  This title describes less the conditions in which the subjects find themselves, and more the elements of which they are made up, a true description far from the purely geographic label, and a hint of what the painting is really about.  Washington Arch, here, could well support the title “Late Sunlight reflecting off Glass Towerblocks”  because that is indeed the case.  When looking at a painting we think we need to be told what the subject is, even though in this case George Washington is clearly recognisable there on the plinth, and the Stars & Stripes is a clue.  The fact that it’s an arch, in reverence to the triumphal precedent of ancient Rome, is also fairly obvious.  The title becomes a distraction to the nub of the painting, which is the interplay of light on surfaces.

Also in this exhibition I have a sequence of paintings of Rome, details of ancient stonework, highly refined designs carved by craftsmen, eroded by centuries and animated momentarily by fleeting effects of light today.  These are glimpses which I have chosen deliberately, and at times waited for expectantly at particular times of day, returning again and again to get the moment right.  Some I had journeyed specifically to witness and to paint, as seen in a series inspired by a firework display over Venice, part of the annual Festival of the Redeemer – Il Redentore.  It matters not when the festival takes place, nor indeed that it’s Venice; what these paintings are about is the extraordinary explosions of light generated by artifice and the effects on the architecture and water below.  These works have the titles of “Sound Study 1” or “Nocturne 3”.  No need for anything more.  They are not about geography.

On a recent expedition to the north of England I was anxious to set eyes on those subjects depicted by Cotman, Girtin and Turner – the “rough-hewn matter” of sublime landscape which is now bypassed on the motorways.  We enjoyed places with names like Snake Pass, Gordale Scar, Hardraw Force, Dunstanburgh, all painted by Turner, Girtin and others.  What impressed me was the monumentality of it all: ruined castles, gorges, waterfalls, and dramatic weather and light, not the names.  Of course those painters had exaggerated what they saw, inspired to develop their feelings of awe at the sublimity of the subject as they saw it.  None of their subjects is disappointing in reality today, but what we see through the lens of a camera or a car windscreen, is sterile.  Reality needs a title, because the smell has gone, the spirit is inaudible and the genius has evaporated.

Reality is not art.  Art is what you do with reality.  Turner & others interpreted the monumentality of British landscape because they were unable to travel freely across the European landscapes of Claude and Poussin.  Napoleonic Europe had been enemy territory then.  Instead the rugged discomforts of northern England would be elevated to Arcadia and imbued with the mythology of history.  Turner’s Dunstanburgh Castle is a gaunt tower at dawn standing guard over a rocky shore, or the backdrop to a foundering ship vainly being towed off the rocks by a steamer.  His paintings are about poetry and sublimity, not history.  In my latest works I have depicted the sediment of history animated by fire and light.  Enjoy the exhibition but please don’t bother to read the titles!

“Late Sunlight reflecting off Glass Towerblocks” and other recent works will be unveiled at my New York show:

Alexander Creswell: Fire & Light

Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York   September 13th – October 13th 2012

To view Fire & Light:

Diamond Jubilee Pageant: June 2012 Painting of the Month

The Procession of the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant, 2012

24 x 40 inches / 60 x 102 cm

Not being a person who likes to miss out on a spectacle, I was thrilled to be able to witness at first hand the glorious Pageant on the Thames in London to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. And not being one who enjoys a crowd, I was particularly happy to be able to sketch the event from the deck of the lovely yacht Mariquita (19m gaff cutter by William Fife of 1911), moored just below Tower Bridge.

In the days leading up to the Pageant, efforts to get my last-minute security clearance provided a strangely exciting frisson of uncertainty which ensured that the thrill of actually getting on board was an achievement in itself. That and the disappointment of a lousy weather forecast made the odds on my being able to produce a painting of the event fairly unfavourable. With my drawing machine, watercolours and a set of dry clothes I clambered aboard Mariquita at 9.30am. The procession was not due to begin for another six hours. I settled down to sketch my surroundings: downstream the replica of Cabot’s 1497 ship, the Matthew, then TS Royalist, Amazon and Belem. Upstream the three-masted schooner Kathleen & May, then the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s tall ship Tenacious which was moored further into the river.

I had been anxious to avoid referring to Canaletto’s concoction of a pageant of 1750’s, a painting which had become the yardstick with which to measure the impact and drama of today’s pageant. Canaletto had been meticulous in his accurate portrayals of architecture but had not been shy of twisting the truth when it suited his composition.  I wanted to capture the mood and spirit of the Pageant rather than be bound by documentary precision.

When the Pageant had begun and the flotilla’s approach was heralded by the drone of low-flying helicopters beyond Tower Bridge, I began to realise the full complexities of the event. There would be no one moment to record. It was going to be a visual story-board, with hasty glimpses of boats, people, flags and colours, all urgently noted. And rain.

The first boats rounded the corner from the west as a heavy curtain of rain moved in from the east, meeting at Tower Bridge. At the head of the flotilla was an armada of rowers led by the beautiful gilded Queen’s Rowbarge Gloriana. The sight of this phalanx passing beneath Tower Bridge with its bascules as yet unraised, brought a lump to the throat. A mass of small boats; skiffs, canoes, gondolas, dragon boats, fours, gigs, wherries, shallops and surf-boats, all brightly coloured, and flying flags some larger than the boats themselves and with everyone in elaborate costumes. This opening flotilla provided an image so intricate as to be impossible to draw fully in the time it took to pass by, and yet I realised immediately that this was the image I needed to paint. The rain soaked my paper and blurred the vision as I worked feverishly in ink and watercolour. Once again I knew I would have to store all this in my eyes until it was possible to get it down safely on paper.

I continued to sketch in wet charcoal on dripping paper. Next came smaller Trinity House launches, naval cadets, escorts and picket boats before the over-festooned prow of the Royal Barge hove into view. This ungainly elongated tripper boat dolled up for the day to carry the royal party – caravan dressed as fairy carriage – drifted slowly beneath the now fully-raised bridge and performed a long and clumsy pirouette mid-river before mooring delicately on the north bank from where the Sovereign would view the passing pageant.

I sketched the Dunkirk Little Ships proudly flying the cross of St George, the coal tugs belching steam accompanied by whistles and pips of excitement, the Black Country narrow boats and Cornish fishing luggers which steamed and shantied, gilded slipper launches gliding past in Edwardian elegance, muscular river tugs and workboats rumbling by like thugs off to a football match, aloof MTBs and gunboats sliding past like spooks. A fireboat wailed and squirted water like a clown and a retired ambulance boat nee-naah’d to the amusement of the crowd, while anything that could make a noise was blown or let off and the air wafted with the smell of coal smoke. Orchestras, bands and choirs passed by as it rained harder, but nothing could dilute the sheer pleasure of the spectacle. At the end, a great glass covered bateau-mouche housing the London Philharmonic Orchestra hove to opposite the Royal Barge and played a crescendo medley of ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ as the crowd roared as one in accompaniment, with rain and tears running down their faces.

My painting evolved later from my drawings and memory, aided where necessary by the BBC’s footage. The image it represents is not slavishly accurate but it recalls the spirit of the day, a truth of experience rather than actuality. To paraphrase a saying my father enjoyed, “rules serve to guide the wise man and to bind the fool”, I would want to replace ‘rules’ with ‘facts’. Painting is not photo-journalism. I wanted to paint my experience of the day and the pleasure of being there, soaked to the skin.

DON’T MISS the sketches and drawings please visit


The Birth of a Watercolour

Millenuim Gate, Atlanta

Painted in Great Studio, 2011.


Film produced by Art Below Ltd

Westminster Abbey – Overnight

‘Westminster Abbey – The Quire’, 2011
Watercolour on paper, 22 x 30 inches

They say that no-one has spent a whole night in Westminster Abbey other than the monks of old, but last month I was given the opportunity to do just that having been invited to an all-night event to mark the 400th birthday of the King James Bible. The 66 books of the Bible interpreted by contemporary writers, poets and musicians to be performed over 12 hours in the Abbey, Friday night into Saturday morning. This was to give me the opportunity to sketch through the night, experiencing the Abbey in its hours of rest.

A year ago I had embarked on a long-term project to paint at Westminster Abbey, providing a challenging seriousness, both as the repository for so much of our national history, and as a complicated subject to paint. It also appealed to me because it has been painted by few artists in the past. Refreshing when many of my recent subjects – like Rome and Venice – have been painted by everyone. I would be able to explore the spirit of the Abbey without seeing it through the eyes of others.

It is certainly peculiar, a Royal Peculiar – part church, part royal palace. It’s the final resting place of kings, the place of coronations and state funerals. It is the ancient seat of the church and of parliament. In short it is a massive history lesson. I had a lot to learn. Where to begin?

I had visited on several occasions over the last year, to sketch and paint while the Abbey is quiet between services on Sundays and in great contrast during the celebrations of the Royal Wedding last April. I had completed my first work, a large view of the interior of Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, quite to my satisfaction and had taken great pleasure in recording the Royal Wedding service in sketches and as a large finished painting. I also completed a few smaller paintings of details around the Abbey.

In truth I was uncertain about the overnight session. I felt that Westminster Abbey still wasn’t quite my place. Not yet. We weren’t on first-name terms. I had only prodded the creature with a long stick, so to speak.

We arrived wrapped in warm coats with pockets full of biscuits anticipating a cold hungry night.  In the nave a stage had been placed on the north side, with chairs arranged for the audience, three sides of a square. The lighting was subdued, spotlights on the performers and darkness hanging overhead. The vaults disappeared, night invading the volume of the tall space.  It was too quiet to start sketching, scratchy noises on hard paper. I rather wanted someone to play the organ loudly. I sat and gazed up, unsure how to begin an all night conversation with the great Abbey.

“The Basilica of Maxentius in Rome” – October Painting of the Month

Watercolour on paper 24 x 40 inches – 60cm x 100cm
On show at Watts’s Great Studio 12th – 23rd October

The purpose of my time spent working in Watts’s Great Studio during 2011 has largely been to explore the idea of magnitude in painting. G. F. Watts who painted some of his greatest works in this studio before his death in 1904, had built the space specifically to work on paintings whose magnitude had outgrown his London studio. Watts wasn’t afraid to tackle paintings whose size and intent were massive.  The knowledge that he had carried out such work in this space gave me the idea that working in his shadow, so to speak, would enable me to think on a much bolder scale than before. The confines of my domestic scale working environment at home hadn’t prevented me from painting some very big watercolours in the past, but working in Watts’s studio would give me the opportunity to explore a grander intent in a larger space. Magnitude is the word of the year.

I had various subjects in mind, so as a family we went back to Rome in the early summer for a visit. There are several Roman buildings I had painted before and now wanted to explore again – the Pantheon, the Arch of Constantine and the Basilica of Maxentius. All are monuments to magnitude and I looked at them afresh. Too often we are distracted by superficial questions when appraising a work of art or architecture. How big is it? How long does it take? How much does it cost? Great works of art and architecture are quantified by lifeless facts while their artistic and cultural value are missed. Big and expensive are good, apparently. But magnitude is something else: magnitude is the impact of the idea rather than the scale of its execution. A large painting or building is not good simply because it is big, but maybe its intent or inspiration needs to be big in order to be good?

I tend to measure impact by the experience of the building or place or event.  It’s the experience which first grabs my attention and causes me to sketch.  If the sketch is good it doesn’t represent so much the place as the experience – the light, the movement, the beauty, the sensory thrill of just being there.  That’s the inspiration. A work of art is capturing the experience not just the representation of the place. The character not just the face.

Since Rome I’ve been painting large scale explorations of the experience of the interior of the Pantheon, in the contained volume of light and air, and I’ve worked on these in Great Studio with increasing magnitude. I’ve worked on exteriors of the Arch of Constantine, with its detailed carved panels telling the story-board of the emperor’s conquests, which to me involve delightfully complex passages of light and shadow – cartoons in stone and light – also explored on a growing scale.

Here at the Basilica of Maxentius I’ve explored the dichotomy of interior and exterior in a subject which is actually both. Once a vast interior, these towering ruined vaulted apses are open to the air, like massive theatres of light. These apses are vast and echoing, hard to quantify unless you can see the diminutive archaeologist’s ladder propped up against one wall.  In contemplation of ruins, we contemplates the future, the fragility of the present, and the futility of the past. In painting the Basilica of Maxentius I am contemplating magnitude as an element to inspire and uplift the human spirit. Magnitude, like beauty, can’t be measured but it can be missed. I think I understand what drove G. F. Watts in his time. For our time, I think I’ve realised what – together with beauty – has been missing for the last century. Magnitude.

The Basilica of Maxentius and other new works, together with some important commissions, both completed and in progress, are now on view at Great Studio from 12th – 23rd October. Please do come!

Great Studio, Limnerslease, Down Lane, Compton, Surrey, GU3 1DJ.


September Painting of the Month: “Pendennis Cup, Falmouth – Mariquita & Mariette”

A maquette, watercolour on paper 15 x 20 inches

August is holiday time. Time to get away from it all. Here in England much of the population rushes lemming-like to the coast, enduring serpentine traffic-jams in overloaded cars, greasy egg sandwiches and warm fizzy drinks on the way. The exodus is powered by reverence to a quasi-folkloric tradition and fuelled by an innocent optimism which is capable of turning grey skies blue. On arrival – finally –  the cars disgorge their occupants who, with puppy-like enthusiasm overcoming tiredness, are immediately ready to plunge headlong into a pool of activities never undertaken at home in everyday life. Yipee it’s the holiday!

For our family Cornwall is the grail, the south coast, Helford River near Falmouth. Weeks of waterborne thrills replace the trudge and onus of the rest of the year. On anything which floats we escape from land-based reality and navigate the waters of adventure, doing, well, nothing really; picnics on a beach, exploring rock-pools, fishing and sailing, rowing to the pub, and back again. Boats and I go back a long way. My first boat (a 36-foot motor-sailer) had the foreign-sounding name Gafita. I took this name to be an omen of adventure and sailed her to France and to the Med and back. Much later I discovered Gafita was merely a prosaic acronym for Get Away From It All. I’d done that. For years I ‘d got away from responsibilities like work and earning a living. It didn’t work. I sold her in 1988. Ever since then I’d limited my sailing activities to vacation rather than vocation.

Twenty years on, that all changed. I started painting classic yachts racing alongside my usual subject of architecture, discovering the vigorous similarities between the two and enjoying the challenging differences between them, the static and the active. It had been in Cornwall, on holiday – getting away from it all – that this discovery had presented itself; the first regatta for the Pendennis Cup was in full sail in Falmouth Bay and I’d followed these beautiful yachts – huge over 100 foot in length –  bouncing along in a RIB while trying to sketch. The resulting watercolours were shown in London and New York to great acclaim. Last year the second Pendennis Cup took place and I played a more active role presenting a number of works as prizes to the class winners in the regatta, while also showing paintings at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth and at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes.

As a result of the Pendennis Cup I was asked to put together a set of paintings of the big classics racing in British waters, a group of large watercolours which would form a narrative of iconic images in the great tradition of British maritime painting. These were commissioned as a group by a family. Like members of the family the paintings would be closely related to one another even if they don’t all live in the same place.

This Painting of the Month is one of the small maquettes made to establish the form of the set. It shows the beautiful Mariquita (who celebrates her centenary this year) being pursued by the schooner Mariette, four years younger but equally sprightly.  They are shown charging downwind in a north-westerly with Pendennis Castle in the background, a wonderful English summer scene, Cornwall at her best. I am looking forward to working this collection of paintings. It’s unusual to create a family of works which will remain together, related, of the same blood.

I love to work with my subject and being in Cornwall is where it’s at; with the smell of the sea in the nostrils, blustery showers rattling the windows, maybe a little sail on the Helford in the evening to feel the tug of the wind.  A fresh crab from my pot for dinner perhaps. Just as fish tastes better when eaten in sight of the sea, so these paintings must be shown in sight of Falmouth Bay. They’ll be an impressive collection. Maybe we’ll show them at the 2012 Pendennis Cup where I will be chasing these beauties again and with them the J Class who will be in Falmouth. We’ll certainly show them on the website. Meanwhile the set of maquettes will be shown in my October exhibition alongside work from my recent Italian adventures to Rome & Venice.

August Painting of the Month: ‘Redentore – A study of Fireworks’

Venice Redentore - Fireworks Study 3, Watercolour on paper 22" x 30"

There is a great sense of liberation when painting fireworks. Beyond the oohs and aahs is a curious profanity about the spectacle: at first you sense a childlike fascination with flashes and bangs, then as the spent sparks fall back to earth and the smoke clears, a carefree disregard for order and correctness fills the night.

Evidently Whistler felt this freedom in 1875  when he painted ‘The Falling Rocket’ and when Ruskin later accused him of “flinging a pot of paint in the face of the public” by exhibiting this painting, Whistler felt compelled to sue for libel, and to strike a blow for artistic freedom. It was actually a great painting, entirely free from the confines of veracity or what we would call photographic accuracy today.

I have been commissioned to paint a large portrayal of Venice lit by the massive firework display which marks the passing of Saturday night into the Sunday of La Festa del Redentore. Traditionally the people of Venice mark the day by giving thanks for deliverance from plague, crossing to Palladio’s church of the Redeemer on Giudecca island. To get there they would lash all their boats together to form a bridge across which the populace could walk. Now a floating bridge is installed, and the night before the festival the Venetians take to their boats to celebrate out there on the water, between San Marco and San Giorgio and along the Giudecca. It is the most important evening in the Venetian calendar.

Eagerly we got our little boat ready, stowing an anchor, torches, chairs, a mattress for sleepy children and a bucket…. also my drawing machine loaded with dark blue paper and some vivid crayons.  Then we loaded up with good Venetian dishes of marinated sardines, some crab pasta, pimento salad with pecorino cheese, plenty of wine and some grappa for emergencies (e.g. running out of wine). Then we dropped anchor in the best spot to dine and cheer with the locals as the sun went down, waiting for the fireworks to start at 11.30pm.

I had painted fireworks before in Venice but from on land, from rooftop vantage-points and once from the terrace of the Cipriani, but to be on the water right in with the action was breathtaking. I wanted a clear view which stretched from the Salute on the left, past La Dogana, The Doges Palace and around to San Giorgio on the right. This was a tough drawing which I worked on in daylight, with plenty of detail and accuracy necessary. But when working on the colour sketches and larger watercolour studies (such as this Painting of the Month), I discovered that the light effects and the drifting smoke of the fireworks allowed, even encouraged, a disregard for the detail. So the sacred reverence for architectural precision to which I had become entirely loyal in the development of my work, was beautifully corrupted by the profanity of light and colour. And no critic could accuse me of rendering the Doges Palace in the wrong colour, for example, or getting the light wrong on San Giorgio. I was free to do what I liked. And if I felt like leaving out some building or part of the view, I could obscure it with smoke or with the gouged flash of an explosion as another salvo of rockets fired off the firework barges. In short, Venice was merely the context or backdrop, the subject of the painting was light and colour. This was liberating! I scratched away with a razor blade slicing the exploding trails of fireworks across the night sky.

When I had been painting the ruins of abandoned country houses, twenty years ago, I had been similarly liberated. Ruins allow the loosening of the facts in order to place the emphasis on the mood of the painting. The absolute truth is rarely poetic, and reality is seldom lyrical. Turner reputedly berated a spectator who had been dismissive of one of his landscapes, suggesting that they had never seen a sunset such as the one Turner had painted; his reply was along the lines of “ah yes, but wouldn’t you love to?”.

If you’d love to see Venice as you’ve never seen her before, I should have the finished painting ready in a month or so. It will be the largest representational watercolour ever painted, at ten feet by five, just over three metres wide! In the meanwhile some more of these firework studies can be seen here.

Buona Festa!


July Painting of the Month: ‘Porta Maggiore, Rome’

'Porta Maggiore, Rome' 40" x 60" © Alexander Creswell

A trip to Rome is, for the artist – well, this artist at any rate – a necessary ingredient in artistic good health; like regular tooth-brushing, it helps prevent the onset of decay, of the eyes, the brain and the soul.

It had been some years since my last visit to Rome so in June I took the family for a week, a trip to revisit old architectural friends for us and to introduce our children to the origins of our culture and architecture. On arrival, our first point of pilgrimage was to the Pantheon, that perversely simple and geometrically charged temple to whichever deity you revere. Ours rewarded us immediately with a surprise treat as, while gazing upwards into the dome, we physically bumped into our great friends from New York, Richard & Alexa Cameron, also gazing upwards in awe! This serendipity set the tone for our peregrinations over the week together, around the Eternal City, to Hadrian’s Villa and Tivoli with the Camerons, then north to Villa Lante, Bomarzo and Caprarola on our own.

Sketchbooks in hand, this tour spawned a fresh series of large scale watercolours of my core subject – the ghosts of great architecture. This image is the first painting I have completed since my return. On Richard Cameron’s suggestion we had driven out of Rome by way of the Porta Maggiore. Hidden in a scruffy area on the wrong side of the tracks, (more…)