The Royal Crescent… Eight months in the making.
When I set out in August 2017, I had no idea of the task ahead.
I could not ignore the Royal Crescent, daunting in size and detail, it had to be done. My personal Everest.
First, the size of the final drawing… the shape of the building envelope is to put it mildly, slightly awkward. Very long and not very tall.
So to get in any level of detail it had to grow as wide as possible — and that limit I found by using the largest flat and stable surface I could lay my hands on.
An internal door bought from a local building supplies.
Then the door had to be sanded and made at the very least water resistant. A warped and twisted drawing surface was not going to help.
So, several coats of Yacht Varnish later and I had a decent drawing surface. The interminable drying times between coats was a real test of patience. But around 10 days later it was cured and ready to go.
Meanwhile the paper was chosen.
Well, luckily my favourite paper, Saunders Waterford HP Watercolour, is also supplied in a huge roll — 1.524m x 10m (60” x 33’).
Theoretically a sheet of paper, 210cm x 75cm sounds doable. Until you find there is little flat space that can accomodate the roll to cut it accurately. Anyway, the kingsize bed did duty.
Since I always stretch my paper before I start, another challenge. The bath tub is not big enough — in fact it is barely large enough to soak an Imperial sheet. So while I stood in the shower holding the sheet up on tip toes — my partner used the shower head to gently spray the paper… as I held it by the corners. A good 5 minutes of soaking and the paper was heavy and truly sodden. It is after all 100% cotton.
Nothing lightweight about this!
Dripping we manoeuvred the paper on to the board. And of course as soon as wet paper touches a surface it wants to stick. Anyway, we managed it and it was finally laid out, more or less square.
Running a sponge over the gumstrip sealing tape I glued the edges down, keeping all fingers and toes crossed that it would hold! Or not over stretch and split.
Fortune favours the brave I suppose, and the glued edges held. The paper buckled and heaved up — but then settled down and comfortably stretched itself drum taut, flat and smooth. The most wonderful drawing surface you can imagine.
A true testament to the quality of paper St Cuthberts' Mill produce.
So let the drawing begin!
18th August, 2017… first lines laid down.
2nd March, 2018… drawing is complete.
To be fair I did the Hot and Cross Baths during the same period, so not all my time was spent getting cross eyed at 114 Ionic columns… countless windows and chimney stacks.
Oh, and of course all drawn on the elliptical curve of the facade. So as the Crescent curves towards you, the windows and elements all shifted slightly, deeper into the fabric, closer together…
2nd March, first wash over the sky.
Payne's Grey washes to the sky… 14 graded washes in total.
Then on to the Umbers and Greys of the ashlar. Bath stone changes under different skies, so I had to stick one image in my mind, and try to reproduce that.
24th April, 2018 I sliced the drawing off the board.
To reproduce the drawing it first had to be scanned.
Most professional scanners balk at the size — few have the equipment and expertise to do this.
Niche Editions in Bristol came up with a solution — and a great job they did too.
Again the proportion of the drawing was causing problems. But we got there in the end!
I love working with local suppliers and printers. Everything just a short walk or car ride away.
So there it is… a potted history of my ink and watercolour rendering of this astonishing Georgian building. One of a kind.
I have been very pleased with the response. It is my second most popular drawing — that remains the Tower of the Winds, Athens.
When I finally managed to create a greeting card and a decent size and an affordable cost, I was over the moon when No. 1 Royal Crescent gave it the thumbs up and added it to their shop.
Thank you Mari-Liis for the enthusiastic response!