International Women’s Day

‘Inspire Inclusion’ is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. A worthy cause during a time of such divisive politics and religious intolerance.
I wanted to use the occasion to post something about a remarkable woman with whom I was fortunate to share my life. Sadly for too short a time.

Veronica’s Story

portrait of woman with gold earrings
That Creeping Shadow

Veronica was my partner and my muse. She suffered serious ill health from her youth, with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis. When I first met her, she had received a liver transplant, and was constantly living under the spectre of the return of her disease.
Despite that, she had an incredible joy for life. She greeted every day with a smile and a plan for what she wanted to do. There was always a plan.

painting of mother and her daughter
Mother and Child

It is a remarkable thing observing how fiercely a woman will fight for her child. For most of my years spent with Veronica, she was fighting in the courts to win custody of her daughter. First in Barbados, where her violent, abusive former partner had taken her daughter. And then again in the UK, where he returned with her child once he faced defeat in court.
The courts let Veronica down terribly. In Barbados we were assured that it was a simple case that would take just two weeks. Two years and thousands of pounds later, Veronica finally won in court only for the father to abscond to Britain with her child, and claim he was the victim of a racist judiciary.
Again in Britain, the courts seemed entranced by the manipulative liar. Maybe money trumps a woman’s inalienable right to care for her child, or maybe there was an element of racism involved, with old white male judges believing the lies of an old white wealthy businessman. I was shocked to see how proceedings unfolded. I always had faith in the British legal system. Not anymore.

winner of the frank todman award for portraiture
Portrait of Veronica won the Frank Todman Award for portraiture

Fortunately a very senior judge took over the final round of legal proceedings.  Maybe it’s because this judge was a woman, but for the first time in many years this judge was able to see through all the outrageous lies of the child’s father. At a stroke Veronica was reunited with her daughter. Over seven years after first going to court in Barbados.

painting a naked man and woman sitting on bed
man and woman

I would like to say that was the end of this story, and we all lived happily ever after. But we continued to suffer years of harassment, despite the protection of court orders. In the meantime Veronica’s health was now in decline. The liver transplant had given her a new lease of life, but her years of good health had been spent on a gruelling battle to be reunited with her daughter.
I look back with sadness. One evil vindictive man has robbed me of the best years of my relationship with Veronica. When we should have been planning holidays, or even starting a family, our every waking moment was consumed with this endless court battle. Even worse, Veronica’s daughter has been robbed of her childhood.
So approaching International Women’s Day 2024 I want to tell people about this remarkable woman who fought so bravely for her daughter.
She taught me so much. Most importantly, she taught me how I should not let my anger consume me. I think that’s a lesson for all of us today.

Portrait Artist Studio in Eastbourne

portrait artist Peter D'Alessandri in his Eastbourne studio

So now I am an Eastbourne portrait artist. After a few studio moves along the coast, spending time in Whitstable and Ramsgate, I have now settled in Eastbourne. I am setting up my studio space ready for portrait commissions.

It seems a nice place. The nearby Towner Gallery is hosting the Turner Prize 2023. For anyone planning a trip, Eastbourne is a seaside town in East Sussex, on the south coast. Brighton is just twenty miles along the coast, and London a 90 minute train journey away. It’s a perfect location for anyone wanting to fit in a visit to the seaside along with their portrait sitting.

portrait artist Peter D'Alessndri infront of his two large portrait paintings

Available for Portrait Commissions

If you are looking for more information on portrait commissions, I have a dedicated page on How to Commission a Portrait.
I have a price guide on my page How Much Does a Portrait Cost?

I can have portrait sittings here in Eastbourne, or as more often is the case, I can travel to you for a sitting. If you would like to discuss commissioning a bespoke work of art, I’m happy to talk over the phone or arrange a studio visit. First please get in touch via the email address on my Contact Page.

You can see a selection of previous portrait paintings on my gallery page here.

details from portrait paintings by Peter D'Alessandri
details from some of my portrait paintings

I have listed below some articles which might be helpful for anyone interested in commissioning a portrait:
Why Commission a Portrait;
Portrait Case Studies.

towner gallery in eastbourne, hosting turner prize 2023

Turner Prize 2023 at Towner Eastbourne

Art and War

artist in front of his painting alleged assault on pax by mars
detail from Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars

The Disaster of War.

Art and war – can art make a difference?
Aside from my portrait practice,  war and conflict has been the subject of much of my recent artwork. The unchecked march of ISIS across Iraq and Syria in 2014 first prompted me to address this subject. The current preparations for the impending war against China reinforced my interest. The political climate that was feeding this frenzy was the inspiration behind my painting “Alleged Assault on Pax by Mars” (shown above).
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine I felt compelled to work full time on “Men Wrestling” and “The Disasters of War”.  Even though I was neglecting more commercial work, I felt it was so very important to make a statement with these paintings. Now I am wondering if it was worth it.

detail from painting men wrestling, with two naked wrestlers clinched in combat
detail from Men Wrestling

What was the point?

The Israel-Hamas war has left me feeling empty. Its brutality has shocked me, and I have been appalled by people’s reactions to it. I have no desire to pick up my paintbrushes and say anything about this war. Other than it disgusts me. I am disappointed in humanity. It seems we are no more than beasts.
So in this dark mood I heard an interview with legendary war photographer Don McCullin, where he spoke about how depressed he was with the present conflict.

‘I am slightly depressed in a way, because I think everything I’ve done concerning international conflict, everything I have contributed to showing how awful it is, I think has been a waste of time really.’

‘I’ve looked at so many wars, I’ve been in so many wars, and nothing has changed.’

The BBC interview: Acclaimed war photographer: ‘I don’t believe I ever made difference’

bombardment by philip guston
Bombardment, 1937, by Philip Guston. A reaction to the bombing of Guernica

He summed up exactly how I was thinking, and got me wondering if art really can make a difference. I’ve started looking out for paintings about war in my gallery visits. At the recent Philip Guston exhibition at the Tate I saw his painting Bombardment (photo above). It’s a reaction to the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. I hadn’t realised that many artists responded to this event. I was only familiar with Picasso’s masterpiece. Clearly none of them made any difference at the time. Instead of significantly influencing public opinion, they instead became just another record of the atrocity.

Producing my anti-war paintings may be no more than a cathartic experience. If that is the case, what really is the point in painting them?
I suppose it’s a bit like joining a protest march. Each little voice might not make much difference, but it helps make that call for change a little louder.

You can see and read about my paintings about the Ukraine War in the posts below:
An awkward conversation about my Ukraine War painting
The Disasters of War

Nude Art

nude art paintings

So, why do I paint nudes?

Why do I feature nude figures in so many of my paintings, from my Relationships Series to the recent Disasters of War? It would certainly be easier to market my artwork if I just painted landscapes: no more polite rejections from venues; no shadowbans from Instagram. But no subject interests me quite as much as the human figure.
I have always been fascinated with depictions of the human form in art. Maybe it started with my early love of comics, and the idealised perfection of superhuman figures cavorting across their pages. It might have been when I first set eyes on Tintoretto’s or Titian’s glorious mythological masterpieces in the National Gallery. It was a fascination cemented by my introduction to life drawing at art school.


detail from painting woman on bed

The depiction of the nude is a complicated subject in the 21st Century. It would be naive to suggest we can continue to paint the nude figure as it has always been painted. Many of the naked figures that now adorn the walls of our galleries were originally produced as thinly veiled titillation for their wealthy owners. I have started to question my own motivations for painting certain figures nude. When I work on paintings about the “male gaze” I cannot ignore the fact that, as a man, I might well have the same predilections that I happily mock in other people.

The Nude in Modern Art

Edouard ManetOlympia 1863, possibly the first modern nude in art
Olympia by Edouard Manet, painted 1863

I was taught at art school that Manet’s Olympia (shown above) was one of the first modern nudes in art, and it is probably the single strongest influence on my artistic development. With no pretence of being an otherworldly goddess, this was a contemporary naked woman staring right back at the viewer. It is a naked portrait.
Manet was probably prepared for the outrage it caused, having provoked a similar scandal with his “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe”.  I read an interesting article about that painting and the controversy it caused on
When looking at the nude throughout the history of western art, you have to consider that the perception of the naked body in art depends on when and where the viewer was from. The nude becomes more like a dynamic idea, and the forces that alter our perception of the nude are changing all the time. In my short career as an artist I have had to reassess my approach to the subject a couple of times.

Artists will always push boundaries

entrance to Marina Abramović exhibition, where visitors have to squeeze between two naked figures
Photo: Royal Academy of Arts/David Parry

Just as Manet created a stir in the Salon, artist Marina Abramović recently caused some discomfort amongst visitors to her Royal Academy exhibition. by making them squeeze between two nude models to enter it (as in the photo above). It’s an interesting idea – remove the option for the viewer to remain a detached observer; force them to confront the nakedness of the models’ bodies. In news coverage of this long awaited retrospective, this unusual entrance has unfortunately become the headline: “Visitors invited to squeeze through naked models”
In a world awash with pornographic images on the internet, I wonder what boundaries artists have left to push in visual art. Good art should challenge us, and should test our sensibilities. But gratuitous nudity can be tiresome, and it is something I try to be alert to in my own work.

Relationships Series

detail from painting of nude man and woman sat on bed
Detail from Relationships Series painting

My professional art practice started with my Relationships Series paintings, where I explored the relationship between two figures within a composition in both a spatial and an emotional sense (examples shown above and below). This series began as an honest portrayal of my own relationship with my partner and developed into a broader examination of relationships in general.

painting with two nude women

I became aware that the interpretation of most viewers was overwhelmingly sexual, which wasn’t really my intention. Although as the artist I don’t have much control over how the viewer will interpret my work (some people will always associate nudity with sex), it did give me pause for thought about how I wanted to develop this project.
You can see paintings from this series here: Relationships Gallery

Objectification and #selflove

painting of nude woman
Exercise in Objectification

Over the years I have received various commissions for nude portraits. The main motivations for women were self-empowerment and body positivity, which I respect and admire.
I started a project called “Unnamed Portraits” which I thought might facilitate the same outcome for anyone who wanted to pose. With these artworks  I would purposely crop the faces from the paintings, focusing instead on the naked body. I had a good response from potential models willing to pose for me . I suspect the readiness to pose stemmed from the same motivations as my nude portrait customers – essentially wanting to feel good about your body.

two naked portraits, unnamed portraits shown at the london ultra art exhibition
Unnamed Portraits on show at the London Ultra 2018

The risk with this project was that instead of enabling female empowerment, my paintings were instead reinforcing male objectification. It’s that thorny old problem of interpretation.
My biggest takeaway from this project was that I missed painting the model’s face. I have always considered my nude paintings as an extension of my portrait practice, and the headless nudes felt somewhat diminished.

#metoo and the male gaze

painting of men in suits with nude women
Men in Suits

I have already written at length about my experience painting “Men in Suits”, so won’t repeat myself here. The original post is here: Men in Suits.
I mention this painting as it was a defining moment in my artistic development, where I identified the themes that I wanted to explore with my art, which I went on to develop over the next couple of years. This painting took so long to finish that the main motivation behind it – the #metoo movement – had long since disappeared from the headlines.

Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Andrew

detail from the judgement of men
Continuing the theme with The Judgement of Men (detail)

Misogyny and male menace are still pervasive in our patriarchal society. #metoo might not be on the frontpages now, but the underlying causes for the movement are still there. Recent court proceedings have put Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein back into the headlines. They were the subject of my painting The Judgement of Men shown above.
You can see more of my paintings that deal with these issues here: Recent Work

Nakedness and Vulnerability

a painting inspired by Goya's the disasters of war, with putin and prigozhin overseeing atrocities, with naked bodies hung from trees
the disasters of war

So why did I include so many naked figures in my latest painting The Disasters of War? The keyword here is naked. These figures are naked, exposed and vulnerable. Their nakedness has been forced on them as an act of humiliation and degradation.
But despite this and their terrible situation, they preserve a sense of quiet dignity; there is a beauty about them. The figure on the left is based on Rubens’ Christ Descending from the Cross.

Although the naked figures are in no way sexualised, I wanted there to be an erotic undertone to the masked female figure wielding the knife. This alludes to the base instincts and urges that are feeding this awful war. When I witness the raptures of joy displayed with every killed soldier, I wonder just how close sex and violence are on the spectrum of primal instincts.

Male Menace and Future Work

The theme that I keep returning to in my recent work is male menace, and male objectification of women. These character traits (or flaws) have always been around. I cringe when I think about what was considered acceptable behaviour when I was young.
I have featured the likes of Prince Andrew in a number of my paintings, calling out his bad behaviour. But these paintings are really about all men.  We are all culpable, including myself. This is why in my painting Men in Suits I included myself in the back, amongst the various sex pests and offenders. I also added a masked figure, who could well represent you, the viewer.

layout of artwork inspired by the rite of spring
Proposal for artwork inspired by the Rite of Spring

The layout above was my proposal for the Concord Art Prize – a competition for artworks inspired by a piece of music. My proposal was inspired by The Rite of Spring – a composition that has everything. Starting with a joyful innocence, it builds up slowly, ending in a dizzying climax – a frantic menacing finale. It was going to be the convergence of a number of themes that run through my work: beauty; sexuality; lechery; male menace.
It was disappointing that my proposal wasn’t accepted. I am confident that it would be an interesting project, and haven’t ruled out developing it further. I wrote more about the painting here: Rite of Spring

Pictures of People

The art that excites me most and the paintings that I like to create all feature people. I am fascinated with how artists over the years have depicted their sitters, whether it is a society portrait or a painting of a hired nude model.  Although my most recent anti-war paintings may have intended to shock with their use of nudity, most of my earlier nude paintings were meant as sympathetic portraits. My art practice now is more focused on portrait painting, but going forward I don’t really see a clear distinction between that work and my paintings of the nude.

nude portrait of artist model
portrait of a model

Working Methods – Underpainting and Glazing

two recent portrait paintings with one unfinished, still in underpainting stage
Two portraits – one unfinished in underpainting stage

Painting Technique: Glazing

I often bore people with long conversations about my use of glazes, without realising they don’t know what I’m talking about. So I thought I’d write a post about this wonderful technique, and how it has transformed my art.
It’s not complicated. Glazing is applying transparent layers of paint over another dried layer of opaque paint. One benefit is that highlighted areas retain their saturation and luminosity, and don’t turn chalky, as is the case if you mix colours with white. Shadow areas can achieve a depth of colour you can’t achieve with a simple layer of opaque paint.
The disadvantage in using this technique is it relies on some forethought in preparing a suitable underpainting, and that underpainting has to be allowed to dry before applying the glazes.  This obviously slows down the painting process.

Note: I use oil paints, and everything I say applies to that medium. You can just as easily use glazes with acrylics, but I’m not qualified to advise on which mediums to use.

details of two paintings demonstrating use of glazing over underpainting
Underpainting stage compared to a finished painting with glazes applied

Grisaille Underpainting

Traditionally a “grisaille” underpainting was monochrome, but I tend to add a little colour during this earlier stage. I am careful to keep the tonal value in shadow areas fairly light, as glazes will deepen the final  tone.
The most difficult thing is anticipating how the glazes will look, especially as I might end up with six or more separate layers of glaze, to achieve the desired effect.

two paintings demonstrating the use of glazes

How Glazes Transformed my Art

When I studied at art school, there was no instruction in painting techniques. We were left to experiment and find our own means of expression. I embraced speed of execution and painted in an “alla prima” technique – wet paint onto wet paint. It was fine for landscapes (yes, I used to paint landscapes) but I became frustrated that I could not achieve the effects I wanted when painting portraits and figures.
It wasn’t until I resumed painting years later, that I took the time to study traditional painting techniques. It was a revelation. Now I had the tools to create the paintings that I wanted, and it has allowed me to explore portraiture and nudes, which have always been my first love.

painting demonstrating use of glazes
When applying glazes, you can use a cloth to remove the glaze from small areas

Glazing can be spontaneous

Having written about all the methodical preparation required in using this technique, I should add that they can be applied as freely and loosely as you like. The only limitation is the need then to allow each layer to dry. But if use an alkyd medium like liquin, or just add some to a traditional glaze medium, it will speed up drying times considerably.
Technically you should only use transparent or semi-transparent paints with glazes (transparency/opacity is marked on every tube of artist oil). You can use the same technique with white or opaque colours, but it will give an entirely different effect. One example would be using a thin glaze with zinc white to paint the bloom on grapes.

If you like the effects achieved with glazes, you will find that all the paintings in my gallery pages have been painted using this technique.

Gallery Page

If you want to read more about the use of glazes, there is an interesting article about how Vermeer used this technique in his paintings: