My introduction to art is a more modest and unexpected story.
THE INTRODUCTION TO ART
Although I had no formal training, it was obvious at school that I had a gift for art and crafts. I was happy doing bookbinding with artistic gold leaf lettering embossed on the cover and spine, but I was thrilled when it was the art lesson and always attempted more adventurous subjects. Drawing on location at a local farm was always a memorable time. Music and sport were other subjects that I excelled. Woodwork was a particularly favourite subject that I was skilled at, and making furniture was something I would have like to have done on leaving school. But things don’t always work according to plan and I suppose I am lucky just how things have turned out.
TIME TO REFLECT
National Service in the RAF was the first major step into the big world and this gave me time to draw and write music. As NCO in charge of the camp band (I played trumpet) I was able to spend many hours in the band room composing at the piano. Thinking realistically, it wasn’t an option on leaving the services to be a musician /songwriter or an artist. After my de-mob it was time to settle down in the real world and earn a living. Hope fully a little more than the £1:6s: 8d per week RAF pay. ($1.5)
THE FIRST PAINTING
Back in civy street I married my long-time girl friend Maureen and wasn’t she a pillar of strength when the rough got rougher. We built up a small shop into a double fronted Interflora florists business. Although we had up to 7 staff Maureen and myself worked 7 days per week because on Sunday we prepared floral tributes for Monday s funerals. But that was our job and we chose it. 19 years went by with hardly a day off.
During this time, we wanted a picture for our new house, so I decided to buy some paints and brushes to create my own painting. This very first painting, which we still have, is a reminder of how it all started. During this time, flowers were one of my popular subjects to paint. Later these floral subjects would become a trademark of my landscapes.
Unfortunate circumstances forced us into leaving the florists business and then, “what shall I do now” was the order of the day. Although I had sold a few paintings, it would be a serious move to think I could make a living with a wife and now two children to keep. We had a long talk and together decided to give painting a try for five years.
After then plan “B”. It took rather more than the five years but we stuck at it.
From the very beginning I found there was no substitute from painting on site. My first scenes were mainly townscapes; crowds of people would stand and watch me for hours. Solid buildings with colour, shadows and perspective I could manage, but people walking by were trickier as I had to draw them and add their clothing colour in just the few seconds they were in view. I was avoiding trees, so my next learning process was to spend every day in Sherwood Forest. I strapped my easel on my back (like Robin Hood with his bow) and trudged off into the woods.
Two hours on one tree then scrap e off the paint and move over to another tree and repeat. This wasn’t profitable financially, but rewarding in the skill bank. During these very difficult times, I gained my inspiration from J.M.W. Turner, Terrance Cunio Ben Maile and David Shepherd, with special encouragement from Terrance Cunio and David Shepherd to whom I will always be grateful.
Two years later we opened a small shop and converted it into an art gallery. This became our saviour. In the beginning I would sit in the window and do pastel portraits of people and pets but too many orders came in so I worked further to the back of the gallery and still the work came in. People just like to watch artists at work. Eventually I had to work from home to enable me to reduce the backlog. Maureen looked after the gallery and even then she would bring home up to 7 portrait orders per day. After about two years of working all day and most of the night I decided that enough was enough and changed back to my landscapes.
Locally, I was getting well known and my paintings were selling steadily. The press were always keen to publish a picture of me painting in the local towns or up to my knees in snow. At this time I bought a caravanette so that I could be on site all day and travel to all corners of the UK and very often into France. My favourite places were Derbyshire (local), Lakes and Scotland.. Then the Norfolk windmills; Constable country, Wales and Cornwall attracted me. I spent many days painting gypsies and their bow-top caravans, I wanted to paint everything and I seemed to have an eye for that interesting view, avoiding that popular scene that everyone paints. Returning to a location at a different time of day or time of year I could always spot something I had missed before.
I printed some of my local scenes as open editions and these proved extremely popular. The next step was to branch into limited editions and these brought my work to more people and to date more than 100 of my paintings have been reproduced. Again after 19 years those “unfortunate circumstances” re-appeared and we had to leave our gallery, but this time we were on our feet so the shock didn’t hurt us like before.
DETAIL AND STYLE
Nowadays my work is far more detailed, and may take several weeks to complete a painting. So after being on location, I return with my references to remind me of the finer detail. My style has developed into “realistic yet painted.”
My usual day at home often begins by taking our Border terriers, Moss and Freddie into the woods (they sometimes feature in a painting) and don’t they enjoy it, rain or shine. For serious studio work I only use natural light, but when the light fails I stretch and prepare canvases or apply background tones. Of course Maureen keeps me well fed and watered. We are a good team.
When the weather is fine I take my mountain bike on the back of my Jeep so I can really reach those remote sites.
My paintings feature in collection private, corporate and national, all over the world from Alaska to Australia and Hawaii to Hong Kong My exhibitions have been from Henley to Wilmslow.
To carry on painting while ever I enjoy it and one day to write two books. One to help new artists without any formal art education and his would incorporate digital photographs that I take daily of the progress of my work, with simple explanations.
The second would be my biography and then if time allowed I would like to re-kindle the music writing.
Circumstances, good and not so good changed the direction of our life but we always made the best of it.