A little about me

I have an affinity for buildings born from an earlier career in architecture and later in architectural illustration, with watercolour being the medium of choice for most illustrators for reasons of speed and convenience. I am entirely self-taught, both as an illustrator and artist.

But my paintings are quite separate from my illustration work. Although they share the same medium, with the former I am free to explore the medium to its limits without the constraints of a client’s wants and needs. I found this freedom quite daunting initially and, in my experience, even good illustrators rarely make good artists because of the difficulty in breaking away from the habit of drawing the lines and “colouring in”.

My approach is quite dynamic, applying paint at speed, moving and adjusting washes as I progress. I am happy to use white pigment for small highlights and never use masking fluid, which to me is akin to applying the final decorations to a cake before it has been baked.

The architecture itself is of secondary importance in my work. It is just a vehicle for the effects of light and shade, and I approach a streetscape as I would a landscape. I use colours for dramatic effect rather than trying to reproduce them literally, thinking mainly in terms of warm and cool, and often working with a simple triad of primary or secondary colours.

I find watercolour a medium of endless possibilities and feel as though I’m just scratching the surface. I play with it constantly, trying different brushes and exploring ways of applying paint (as well as removing it), although I’m not obsessed by technique as such and shy away from “tricks” such as sprinkling salt, or sponging-in foliage; they can look too mechanical and decorative. I feel I’m taking the first steps on a journey which will last a lifetime. Knowing that I shall never reach my destination, I look forward to the changing scenery along the way.


1952   Born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, UK

1987   Began working with Architects

1989   Began architectural illustration

1990   Elected a Member of the Society of Architectural Illustration

2000   Made a Fellow of the Society of Architectural Illustration

1989-present           Architectural illustrations for high-profile projects including Chateau Latour for the World Atlas of Wine, the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, “The Palm” and “World” islands in Dubai, palaces for Middle-Eastern Emirs and Princes, flagship stores for Louis Vuitton (two of which were used for postage stamps in Germany) and many prestigious hotels and resorts worldwide.

2010-present           Began painting in earnest, demonstrating watercolour to Art Societies and Universities. Exhibiting at local and London galleries and a member of the International Watercolour Society exhibiting world-wide and twice selected for the judging panel.






21 thoughts on “A little about me

  1. Hey Keith , I am currently doing a artist research about your art , I would just like to know more about your technique and the use of water colour when it comes to your art pieces, thank you.
    Nada Hussein


  2. Hello Keith, do you paint commissioned pieces? I am looking at having an iconic london building painted in A3 size but only have 3 weeks to turn it around (by end of September 2014). Your speedy reply would be so greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!



  3. Dear Keith – am truly stunned by your watercolours! Especially admire your “simple country scenes” – a cottage here, a barn there. Your brushstrokes look so effortless, the decor left uncluttered, but the scenes work incredibly well! (yes, as you might deduce, I am a ‘holiday dabbler’ myself, and since having attempted watercolours have developed a deep respect for artists who really understand how to turn pigments into works of art.) Best wishes, David


    1. Thank you so much David – I appreciate your comments. I have all but abandoned this blog now; my newer blog is at http://keithhornblower.blogspot.com/ where you can see my more recent work. Even more up to date is my Facebook page; I spend more time on this than anything else! http://www.facebook.com/keith.hornblower. Even better, join me in Tuscany for the ultimate painting workshop! Details on blogspot. (Sorry if this is starting to look like an advertisement)


  4. Hi Keith,

    I really impressed by your work. So much so, that I would like to use some of your work on my new website. Please could you supply further details regarding this?

    Kind regards

    Ray Martin


    1. I have replied to Ray personally regarding the use of my images on his web site. As a general rule, please ask me if you want to use my work for professional purposes as unauthorized use would be a breach of copyright. All I would ask for is a small fee and and acknowledgement in the form of a clickable link to my web site.
      Thanks for your interest, Ray. I shall be posting more images very shortly!


  5. I have fond memories of Ayot St. Lawrence and your lovely paintings really capture the beauty of the area. Are they for sale? Thanks for sharing them.


  6. Hi Keith,

    I found you via the FSAI site. You’ve some amazing work!

    I’m interested in learning more about architectural illustration and I had a question – I hope you don’t mind.

    I’ve tired some basic watercolours from 2d architectural plans and I’ve run into complications with perspective and lighting, once I’ve put down the basics it’s hard to change. Is is better to use a basic 3d model constructed by the architect as a starting point and if so what’s the likely hood of getting an architect to provide this. I’m not sure if this is a well used practice but I presume it makes sense! Is this something you prefer to do and find advantageous? Or is it something you just have to work out from scratch.

    Thanks in advance. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Keep up the great work.



    1. Hi Josephine. Thanks for your kind comments. However, I think you’re missing the point of the SAI. The whole reason for it’s existence was to translate architects’ plans and elevations into 3D, i.e. to produce perspective drawings. This is still a fundamental part of the process albeit a much easier one now that we have so much 3D software available – FREE if you use Sketchup (as I do). Now fortunately, most architects have cottoned on to this fact, and many are capable of producing a 3D model, and although it would be considered bad form to ask the architect for a model, if one is offered then I will gladly accept. Very often I will end up re-modelling it though…..

      So the whole process is a little more than just colouring in, although, God knows, that can be difficult enough! You already mentioned the problem of lighting. This has to be considered very carefully, taking into account global location, time of year and time of day. Fortunately, Sketchup can do that for you too! Then you need to take into account the context – what surrounds the site? You need good site photographs; generally it’s best to take them yourself…. Then, of course, you need details of bricks, tiles, finishes and colours, as well as hard and soft landscaping details.

      Once I have a decent model view, I print it off and trace over it (freehand) onto watercolour paper using a light table. Then it’s ready for colouring.

      Goodness – I hadn’t realised what a complicated business it all is! I’ve been doing it so long I don’t really think about it too much. But if you’re really serious about getting into architectural illustration, the SAI are running courses – details on the web site at http://www.sai.org.uk/index.php5?page=education&language=en. I see they’ve used one of my paintings on the page! Or you could join the forum and harness the combined wisdom(?) of the entire membership!

      Good luck in your endeavours.


  7. Hey Keith

    I really like the painting you have used in your header – the glow of the house lights and the idea of lit rooms is brilliant – this is clearly not the work of a beginner –

    thanks for sharing your paintings



    1. I really like the painting you have used in your header – the glow of the house lights and the idea of lit rooms is brilliant – this is clearly not the work of a beginner –

      Thanks Stephen. The house is so beautifully lit at night that this was the obvious view for me to paint. I love so-called negative shapes – the whole building is defined by the darkness around it. The lights in the windows just add warmth; they are in fact the warmest colours in the picture and the idea is to invite the viewer inside. The dog on the steps is called Bentley. He’s huge.

      And no, I’m not a beginner. It just feels like it.


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