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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Alexander Creswell

Fiesta del Redentore, Venice, Alexander Creswell
What happens when a mural painter, use to painting in oils, decides he's come to prefer watercolors instead? At face value, that question seems deceptively simple; the artist simply buys some really, really big brushes then locates a supplier selling watercolors in ten-gallon buckets. That's fine, insofar as it goes. However, until 2006, the largest sheet of artist grade watercolor paper available was 30 in. x 22 in. That's relatively large by watercolor standards, but not if you wish to create seamless watercolor paintings for ceilings or to cover entire walls.
How does an artist handle a roll of paper weighing close to a ton? Sweep the floor, unroll the paper, then snip, snip, snip.
Thus was the plight facing the Alexander Creswell, one of Britain’s most successful living representational artists. However, in moving away from the traditional “easel” painting to monumentally scaled works on paper has presented Creswell with major challenges during the past few years. The greatest change in his technical accomplishments over the years has been facilitated by the recent availability of rolls of watercolor paper 60 inches wide by 120 feet long, enabling him to custom-size works to fit his subjects and his clients' wallspaces. Such massive rolls of 300 pound watercolor paper were, of course, never intended for use by artists, but instead to feed the massive digital printers used to create art prints of their work.
A glance inside at the Hirschl and Adler Gallery in London gives
some idea as to the immense size of Creswell's watercolors.
Creswell asked himself (and, no doubt, the trucking company), why not? He soon found out. Due to the nature of these larger works of art, Creswell had to developed an entirely new working process, assisted, in part, by a custom hydraulic easel and a self-designed palette fashioned from an autopsy table. Needless to say, he probably does not paint en plein air. Creswell had never previously exhibited works of this scale in public (neither had any other watercolor artist, for that matter). Previously, most of his works had been private commissions.
Creswell works to complete one of his massive watercolors.
Alexander Creswell has a natural fluency with his medium which, along with his extraordinary knowledge of architecture and history, makes his paintings timeless and captivating. He was born in 1957 in Helsinki, Finland. Creswell was educated at Winchester College, England, Byam Shaw School of Drawing & Painting, London, and West Surrey College of Art & Design, Farnham. After graduating, he served from 1991-99 as tutor at The Prince of Wales' Institute of Architecture.
Creswell is quite fond of painting Venetian interiors. His
massive scale allows him to include architectural
details other artists might omit.
Creswell has emerged from the great tradition of watercolorists, and has doggedly pursued the time-honored values of integrity, artistry, and painterly quality now often eschewed by the modern art establishment. Despite his reverence to the past, the result is not old fashioned nor does it appear outdated. Creswell’s technique is a rare combination of traditional values and a fresh contemporary approach to the application—and in some cases the removal—of color. By layering his pigments and then literally scratching deeply into the paper. In effect, Creswell daringly “sculpts” his compositions, enhancing the magical quality of the light which gives each view the spontaneous feeling of a fleeting moment.
Alexander Creswell has painted bridges all over the world.
Creswell is, perhaps, best known internationally for his watercolors of Windsor Castle, a series commissioned by The Royal Collection. Creswell has long been associated with the Royal Family and Prince Charles with whom he has traveled, on several occasions, as his official artist. In fact, much of Creswell’s previous work has been in the role of “artist-traveler,” a position held by watercolorists for over 250 years, by artists such as J.M.W. Turner, David Roberts, Edward Lear, and John Singer Sargent—all of whom have influenced Creswell to some degree.

If it floats, Creswell has probably painted it
...or a close facsimile, at least.
In addition to landmark bridges and opulent palace interiors, Creswell is also fond of painting ancient mid-east ruins and has a special affinity for the sea, especially racing yachts as depicted in the works above. Likewise, if there is architecture involved, ancient or contemporary, Creswell has probably painted it too, as demonstrated by his Constitutional Hill Gates, designed by John Simpson Architects (below), or William Randolph Hearst's Neptune Pool at his California estate, San Simeon.

Constitutional Hill-Gates, John Simpson Architects,
by Alexander Creswell

Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle,
Alexander Creswell

Oh, did I mention? Creswell also
paints cows, but only for Royal


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