A few words with a royal artist

Alexander Creswell was saying he had drawn while bouncing in a speedboat alongside a yacht and while hanging out of a helicopter

Written by New York Times | Published:October 7, 2012 2:24 am

James Barron

Alexander Creswell was saying he had drawn while bouncing in a speedboat alongside a yacht and while hanging out of a helicopter. So the watercolour showing what happened on April 29 of last year—something that happened indoors,that did not involve splashing or motion sickness—must have been an easy assignment,right?

“No,” he said.

Creswell is a British artist with 38 watercolours in the Royal Collection,which has its Rembrandts and Vermeers,and also the crown jewels—and which has been making acquisitions since the Middle Ages. That’s a lot longer than April 29 of last year.

Why April 29 of last year? For people who do not memorise important dates in the royals’ lives,April 29 was the day on which Prince William married Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey. And Creswell’s maquette—in effect,the final draft of the larger one that went to the newlyweds—is on display in New York.

Back to April 29 of last year. For Creswell,it was a workday. “I very nearly didn’t get there because of the crowds,” he said. As it was,he was in his seat,sketching,“two hours before and four hours after.” He said he covered 25 pages in his sketchbook. “I was drawing as all the guests arrived,” he said. By the time the ceremony was over,he said,“I was drawing without looking at what I was drawing. You download from your eyes. You’ve got to get it down while you remember it.”

Prince Charles visited Creswell’s studio. What was the prince’s reaction to the maquette? “I survived to paint another day.”

At the time,Creswell was working in the studio of the late-Victorian painter George Frederic Watts for the way G.K. Chesterton described him: “He may not be certain that he is successful,or certain that he is great,or certain that he is good,or certain that he is capable: but he is certain that he is right.”

Creswell has said he finds watercolour appealing because it is considered the most difficult medium. “You cannot make mistakes” in a watercolour,he said. “Well,you cannot correct them.”

Creswell has been closely associated with the royal family for more than 20 years,but said he had not met William or Catherine,the Duchess of Cambridge. The royal family and the House of Lords commissioned him to paint the lying in state of the Queen Mother after her death in 2002. What he was doing at the royal wedding? “The tradition in the Royal Collection is they commission artists to record events,be they happy or sad,” Creswell said.

He mentioned the painter and printmaker John Piper,who was appointed an official war artist in World War II. “There are millions of photographs” of London during the blitz,“but the idea is you get something more than the literal truth of the event.”

What if there had been an official artist in Las Vegas in August to document the party at which,judging by cellphone videos that turned up on the celebrity website TMZ,Harry lost more than his shirt at strip billiards?

“I would have done a much better job than an iPhone,” said Creswell,who is 55,“but I’m too old to go to that kind of a party,I suspect.”

For all the latest News Archive News, download Indian Express App

    Live Cricket Scores & Results