After I left school I applied to art college and was accepted, but in the end I had to turn it down and that’s where my art career ended for the time being. I would have been training to be a technical illustrator, but with hindsight I think it was good that I didn’t pursue that style of painting as within a few years computers would have taken over and producing technical illustrations manually wouldn’t have been in demand.
For the next 13 years I worked at an engineering firm and painted in the evenings. It was while working there that I met a girl called Sara who went on to become my wife and she has been a total rock in my life and certainly helped me get to where I am today. After we were married Sara became pregnant and it became apparent that she had a rare blood disorder which would cause her to keep having miscarriages. With the wonders of modern medicine there was a way around this problem and we now have two wonderful children. One week after the birth of our first child Sara had come off of the medication that had kept the baby alive and made the birth possible but stopping the medication caused her to have a massive stroke. My life went into turmoil, during the coming weeks I had totally accepted that I would never become an artist and I was preparing myself to looking after Sara for the rest of my years. The gods must have been looking down on us though as she made a full recovery and 5 weeks later came home from hospital to be reunited with our new baby. It still took many weeks before Sara was like her old self again and four years later we did a mad thing and had another baby. Sara is on permanent medication now and the threat of a stroke happening again is greatly reduced and the second birth went according to plan. An event like that really opens your eyes – it certainly did ours and now if we have a decision to make we just do it, life is way too short not to. One of those life-changing decisions came in 2002 when the engineering firm I was working for offered the chance of voluntary redundancies. I put my name forward and was accepted. The plan was to use the redundancy money and live off that for a year while I just painted and painted. It was a big gamble as we have two children to feed. Everyone was telling me not to leave work because of that and telling me that no one could make a living from art. My wife was the only person to back me 100%.
After leaving work my passion for realism took over and my works for the next 3 years were highly detailed. If they were to be categorised then it would likely be contemporary realism or photorealism. I was successful in that style and was represented in both London and America. In my spare time though I was developing an idea that has evolved into the landscapes that you see now. I toyed around with the idea for well over a year but it kept being put on the back burner. It however always niggled away at the back of my mind, I just knew there was something in it. So one day I sent off my ideas to Washington Green and they saw something in them too. That was it, I was released, now I could paint real brush strokes instead of hiding them, I had the freedom to create; I could drift off into another world instead of living in a world of realism. So, now you see how I got here, feel free to join me along the way, there’s so much more to come.
Ideas & Inspiration
Living in Poole, Dorset, means that I live only a few minutes from the countryside and only a few minutes from the sea so they will always be a feature in my paintings. The Dorset landscape is an area of great beauty and an obvious source of inspiration. Whenever possible I’ll take the family off to the countryside to explore nature; it’s something I always did as a child. My children are also an indirect source of inspiration as the programmes they like to watch on TV are great fun. The rolling landscapes in shows like Postman Pat, Bob The Builder and many more look so idyllic, they got me to see the world through a child’s eyes. I remember as a child that the Mr Men books were my absolute favourite and they also had those rolling hills, little cottages etc. At the other end of the scale I am inspired by paintings with good brushwork; I love traditional oil painting techniques and although I am self-taught I have always sought out information on such techniques. In my work I have tried to find the middle ground between a child-like appeal and good traditional brushwork and I think I am succeeding in doing that. I can’t really pick on any one artist whose work I admire, although I love to watch recent TV programmes by Rolf Harris – I love his honesty and can really relate to the ups and downs that that he goes through with each painting.
From Palette to Picture
I tend to have either sketching days or painting days. I rarely mix the two and instead prefer to channel all my creative energy into one or the other. Sketching days will be an all day affair where I put on my headphones, fill my head with my favourite music and the ideas start to flow. If nothings happening I’ll change the style of music, maybe some rock or something very soft – I have a very wide range in musical taste. Some days maybe only one sketch will be any good and some days I’ll scribble one after the other. Often I rub out lines and rearrange everything until I get a good feeling that the idea is going somewhere. My sketches are fairly complete and I often project them onto the canvas in the transition to starting the painting. Projecting the sketch onto the canvas allows me to copy all the lines and get the exact same feeling on the canvas that I originally had in the sketch. It’s a technique I used to use in my photorealist works for getting all that detail. Once drawn onto the canvas, which in my case is usually a smooth French linen, I then cover the whole canvas in red/brown wash just to get rid of all that white space. I find the wash is just a nice colour to paint over too. The painting is built up in layers of paint that are just scrubbed roughly onto the canvas. With each painting I don’t really have any preconceived ideas on a colour scheme, it just sort of happens along the way, almost sub consciously. I use a very limited palette of colours, usually just a couple of reds, a couple of yellows, one blue and white. From those limited colours I quickly get any colour I want. The painting builds up quickly, the layers go on roughly to get a rustic feel, I wipe colour off and blend them with rags. This goes on for around 4 or 5 layers, there’s always a definite end point when I just think yes, that’s finished. I never go back and fiddle with any part of the painting, I just sign it and then it’s on with the next one. Each painting takes on average four days to one week depending on the hours I can put in on any given day. I used to work on just one painting at a time but now it’s up to two. I stagger them slightly so that I have to mix a new palette depending on which one I’m working on and this avoids having them both use the same colour scheme.
A Day in the Life of
The start of each weekday revolves around our two children, so it’s up early and get them ready for school. At around 8.15am my wife walks them both to school and I make my breakfast and have a coffee. While eating breakfast I check my emails and then it’s off to my art studio at around 9.30am. Having an art studio sounds glamorous, but mine is just a small 7ft by 5ft space partitioned off at the end of my garage. It’s nice in the summer and cold in the winter when I often work in temperatures of around 5°C. I hope it won’t always be like that though. I work under simulated natural light supplied through a large daylight bulb. I have a break for lunch and then back to painting for the afternoon. Late afternoon I normally have a break for some exercise, I like to keep fit by doing my other love, gymnastics, as sitting or standing all day isn’t very energetic. One end of my garage is my art studio and the rest of it is my gym. Early evening I have a light meal, play with the children, get them ready for bed, read them a story and then if the painting is at a stage that allows it I may do more painting till around 9pm. I try and have weekends off to do family stuff and tinker around the garden, but I will paint at least a few hours in any weekend. Painting is just what I was born to do, it has been part of me all my life and I hope it never changes.