My main pre-occupation as an artist is with the construction of an image and how it breaks down into shapes and colours to create the overall design. My work is largely 2D and consists of architectural paintings and portraiture in various media. In my architectural paintings I am attempting to synthesize what I see into their “significant forms” so that my work, although being very neo- realist in character takes on elements of formalism.

My fascination with architecture is probably the result of an urban childhood in south London where houses and streets were the landscapes of my daily walks to school and where, as I grew into a teenager, my weekend exercise was shopping in newly built centres. Green spaces were regulated gardens or commons where the horizon was broken by nearby Edwardian terraces and council flats. Now when I see a terrace of solidly built houses or the regular patterns of rows of windows and balconies, I want to record their symmetrical patterns which give me a feeling of solidity and security that no doubt stems back to those early safe and happy days.

Another pre-occupation of mine is light, particularly the light of strong sunshine and the shadows it creates. Recent holidays in Tenerife have provided me with some wonderful material; buildings glowing in the strong sunshine, showing off their cleverly designed colours against azure skies. I get the same thrill from reflected light on local windows and some of my paintings include these, best captured on sunny winter days or late summer afternoons, when the low sun turns them into mirrors of the immediate vicinity.

My main consuming passion however is colour and design. I have always been seduced by gorgeous fabrics in wonderful rich colours and have devoted long hours to making curtains and cushions for the many homes I have lived in over the years. I had a passion for William Morris fabrics when younger and am probably influenced very much by his colour sense and symmetry, finding that I often want to re-create a flat print-like quality in my paintings which are often mainly about shape and colour. Other artists and designers that have influenced me include Patrick Caulfield, with his interiors of simple lines and flat colour and more recently the portrait painter Jonathan Yeo, whose collaged faces have won great media acclaim. I remain fascinated, however, by the creativity of the early Modernist artists of the early twentieth century when Cubism turned perceptions of art on its head and exciting new movements developed as a result including the Vortists in England and the later Precisionists in America. Much of the art that inspires me today can trace its roots to that time including the American Photorealist movement of the ‘70s and its more recent post modern revival.



I use a variety of different paints in my architectural paintings. When I wish to emphasise texture and detail I use oil paints, as detail is easier to work into the paint because of its slow drying and blending qualities. Many of my paintings concentrate on the colour and shape of buildings using strong shadows to create depth. For these works I use acrylic paint or, more recently, emulsion paint, applied in several coats to give flat, opaque colour that adds to the solidity of the images. These types of paint have the added advantage of being quick-drying and can therefore be used with masking tape which is useful for long straight sections especially on larger canvases.

I often choose to use deep canvasses and extend the image onto their sides in order to emphasize the solidity and 3D quality of that particular building.

The dimensions of the image are also important to me. I frequently paint an image on two canvasses which creates a large image that is easily transportable and versatile. Occasionally I like to create unusual orientations by placing them end to end. The colours that I use are also extremely important. Often I change the actual colour of a building to negative or monochrome colours using digital photographic techniques. This works well on older buildings where the colours do not create the essentially modern feel I want for my paintings.

My aim in creating these architectural scenes is to try to simplify or synthesize the world around me in a similar way to artists like Julian Opie, who reduces architectural forms to simple black and white shapes which can create a 3D feel like the patterns of the Optical artist Bridget Riley. I do not want the viewer of my work to have to struggle with hidden concepts but rather enjoy the image as an immediately aesthetically pleasing experience that somehow draws attention to the ordinary and familiar turning them from solid imposing landscape features to attractive designs. To me, a carefully executed picture of a building can be just as visually satisfying as a painted landscape of outstanding natural beauty. Indeed, as our population becomes increasingly urban, the hard landscape of walls is becoming more comfortingly familiar than the wild beauty of the natural world.


Rosemary Tolkien