Architecture Artist Draws Amazing Palaces, London Bridge, Louvre With Obsessive Detail—Take a Look

Architecture Artist Draws Amazing Palaces, London Bridge, Louvre With Obsessive Detail—Take a Look
(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Courtesy of Max Kerly)
Michael Wing
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I could do this if I wanted to.

The claim was tossed flippantly by the critic to Max Kerly, who felt the need to defend his sprawling pen-on-paper artwork he'd spent months creating. He draws large-scale pen portraits of London’s Tower Bridge, the Louvre, and odes to classical architecture. Their level of detail and accuracy is obsessive, down to the tiniest tile and decorative fig leaf.

Today this actual affront to the 31-year-old London-based artist’s labor of love still stands out in his mind.

They went on.

This is not art, they ripped. I think this is maths.

“I was like, ‘Okay, all right, elaborate on that,’” Mr. Kerly, an architectural artist of 10 years, told The Epoch Times. It’s only measurements. That was the gist of the appraisal they gave, so the artist thought about whether his critic really could do it, and in his mind, he reasoned: they could.

With some conditions.

“The Bronze Door, Milan Duomo” by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
“The Bronze Door, Milan Duomo” by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)

“Potentially you could,” he thought. “But are you willing to give up the hours to do it? It’s all good saying you can do it, but it’s going to take you 100 hours. Are you committed enough to do that? Patient enough to finish it? Or, if you make a mistake, are you experienced enough to know how to get through it?”

Some of Mr. Kerly’s pieces have taken him months to finish. It took him five to draw a rapture of encircling winged angels with Christ’s lifeless body at the center, capped by a pyramidal hovering Mary, robed, grasping him and looking down from above. This awe-inspiring detail adorns the bronze doors of a magnificent cathedral in Milan.

Spending 200 hours drawing during off time, Mr. Kerly says the “The Bronze Door, Milan Duomo” was personal for him and remains his favorite.

“It was nice to be able to zoom in on that and really capture the curves of figures,” he said. “A lot of my buildings, they have sculptures in it, [but] I can’t get too detailed in, because it’s the size.”

Something beautiful shines through in his cathedral doors drawing, despite the tight lines, the measurements, and even the “maths.”

"Palace of Versailles" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
"Palace of Versailles" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
"Paris Opera House" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
"Paris Opera House" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)

Naturally enough, other wonders of architecture have also been a wellspring of inspiration shining through for the artist.

The Londoner travels to different places for his inspiration—besides Italy, he’s drawn the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles—but sometimes he needn’t jaunt too far from home. There’s plenty of architecture to marvel at in the City of London.

On the streets of London, Mr. Kerly puts step to cobblestone and admires the good shadows on old buildings on a sunny day. His fine pen drawings find inspiration from here. Some are his own and some commissions. He tells the newspaper, “Getting out there is always the best way.”

In London, scale became his muse.

The ghost of an ancient Roman palace—from this the rows of columns and façade of Buckingham Palace were reborn in the minds of English architects of the neo-classical movement. Today, we think of the iconic Queen’s Guard dressed in red with their imposing “bearskin” caps standing at attention. All of this became what is Mr. Kerly’s grandest drawing yet, “Buckingham Palace,” over a meter wide.

Max Kerly working on “Buckingham Palace." (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
Max Kerly working on “Buckingham Palace." (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
“Buckingham Palace" displays gold leaf. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
“Buckingham Palace" displays gold leaf. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
“Buckingham Palace" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
“Buckingham Palace" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)

“It’s got gold leaf elements to it,” he said, referring to his venture to enrich his work with mixed media. Occasionally, he will use watercolor. “It’s almost a black and white drawing, but it’s got four guards, four sentries, which have just got a pop of red, and two carpets at the end.”

The frontal of the palace is ginormous.

Especially considering that every brick, shadow, wrought iron bar, and bit of masonry was drawn with a Fineliner pen—Mr. Kerly uses Staedtler or uni PIN—with nibs sized no larger than 0.8 inches and some as fine as 0.03 inches. He chooses a smooth paper, Fabriano Accademia, which he buys on a roll and allows his pens to roll nicely.

And when people admire his work at exhibitions, it’s all the little details he really hopes they'll zoom in on and savor. “I want you to come in close, want you to have a look and really engage with the piece,” he said, because often “people only give an artwork sort of a second to three seconds.”

With thousands of flawless lines, one false stroke could be devastating.

"Tower Bridge, London" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
"Tower Bridge, London" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
"Postcards From Fashion Week, The Four Fashion Capitals" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
"Postcards From Fashion Week, The Four Fashion Capitals" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
"Pavillon Turgot, The Louvre" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
"Pavillon Turgot, The Louvre" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)

People often ask Mr. Kerly whether he makes mistakes.

The truth is surprising.

Pen being pitilessly unforgiving, it’s easier to not make mistakes at all, he says. “And the only way you don’t make mistakes is by concentration.”

When the hour is late, the mind whittled down and dulled by being so engrossed, he “won’t force more drawing,” he says, “because you will just make more mistakes. So if I think, ‘Okay, it’s 10 o’clock,‘ I’ll leave it there. Come back in the morning.”

Artists and illustrators traditionally place a premium on looseness and freedom of hand. But Mr. Kerly says he’s tight, detailed, and slow. He studied under an architectural illustrator in university but says it wasn’t until he visited Italy that he realized his passion to pen meticulously accurate classical architecture.

His creations depict London’s Hamilton House and Santa Maria Della Salute cathedral in Venice. His works attract admirers at exhibits and on Instagram.

Oh, you’re amazing, lad!

This is what Mr. Kerly hears most.

Every now and again, though, some critic will have their say about his rulers, measurements, and maths, toward whom the passionate draughtsman bears no hard feelings.

“I don’t take it to heart,” he said.

"A View Towards Santa Maria Della Salute" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
"A View Towards Santa Maria Della Salute" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
"60 Victoria Embankment, London," a recent commission by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
"60 Victoria Embankment, London," a recent commission by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
Detail of "Hamilton House, London" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
Detail of "Hamilton House, London" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
“The Bronze Door, Milan Duomo” by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
“The Bronze Door, Milan Duomo” by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
Detail of "Palace of Versailles" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
Detail of "Palace of Versailles" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
Detail of "Tower Bridge, London" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
Detail of "Tower Bridge, London" by Max Kerly. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
A recent photo of the artist. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.maxkerly.co.uk/">Max Kerly</a>)
A recent photo of the artist. (Courtesy of Max Kerly)
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