It feels like a lifetime ago that I started to produce art. In fact, it is 32 years ago. My career was in advertising, where I worked for a local newspaper in Kent, as a telephone sales executive.
During the 12 years, I achieved the position of advertising Manager and went on to manage the sales of national magazines. For a break, I travelled across India and settled in Goa for four months. That was when my life completely changed!
One of my friends had given me a small sketchbook and a set of watercolour paints. One day I decided to give drawing a go. My first painting was of a man hiding behind his home shaving, seen on the side of a road and remembered.
Now many many years later, I still can still recall to joy drawing and painting brought to me. At first, I was surprised by what I had produced I did it again to see if it was a fluke. It wasn’t and I was quite chuffed so I painted again and again. Until my book ran out.
It was a feeling of empowerment of being able to communicate in another way.
Upon returning home from Goa, I quit my career, then got a part-time job in the local harbour which had a weighbridge. It was my job for four hours a day to weigh the lorries before and after loading of Tarmacadam. This meant all my time could be devoted to art. I drew a lot and painted like mad. After deciding to commit to my chosen new life, I contacted the local college in Canterbury, to be told that I would need to present a portfolio of work. Nervously, dressed in a long blue velvet dress, the sort that one would wear to a ball, I attended an open day with my little book of watercolour paintings, a paper mache vase and a coloured knitted jumper. A lady tutor gave me the news that I had a place on a BTech Diploma in Art and Design. After four years, three of them spent at college, having completed HND in painting, I ended up living in a tiny cellar on a main road in Canterbury, Kent, with an ambition of doing a degree at the Glasgow School of Art.
After being shortlisted for Glasgow, applying twice, I decided there was time another day for my degree, It could wait. Due to the lack of space and light, it was only a matter of time before I was mad enough to draw outside. I took myself onto the streets as a pavement artist. Travelling around Kent, with a friendly one-man-band busker who became my best friend until he sadly passed away. Sitting cross-legged, working on paper with charcoal and pastels depicting various Pre-Raphaelite transcriptions, as well as my own interpretations of the artist’s role in society. Drawings of the Butcher, Baker and the Candlestick makers, as well as all different people from all walks of life.
One sunny day in Ramsgate High Street I was drawing outside of the bank, as usual, I placed paintings that I had previously produced around me to one side. One of them was Charlie Chaplin’s portrait and another of him in a funny pose, stick in one hand hat in the other. We hadn’t been there long and a lady came up to me and said do you know that there’s a Chaplin’s restaurant up the road she said he might buy your paintings! Thinking it was an excellent idea, I walked to Chaplin’s, carrying the paintings.
Asking to see the boss, I was told that he was out until later. At the end of the day, my busker friend packed away, stashing his equipment on the top of a supermarket trolley and me carrying my rolls of paper walked into the restaurant. I said to a greek looking pot-bellied chap, “I’m here about the paintings!”, “I don’t want them!” he was mumbling as I was walking away. He eventually said how much and I explained that the paintings were worth as much as he could afford to pay. He looked at me, then my friend and bellowed “two steak and chips!!” I said, “he’s a vegetarian”. “One steak, One scampi” he barked. I then said throw us in a couple of teas and it’s a deal! We both sat munching, me the steak and it was the best steak I had ever eaten, paid for by my art. It was a day that we spoke about with laughter for many years afterwards.
It was 1999 when I was invited to join a Busker bus touring Poland. Two busloads of Musicians, Street Performers and myself as a Pavement Artist. We filled the streets with music and I did my best with the art, drawing portraits of people in the street, which I gave them, as well as other drawings, mainly in charcoal and pastels. It was a wonderful time which included several newspaper articles. A radio broadcast followed upon my return to England, where I told stories of my experiences. I must admit I was pleased to get home after the long trip which on a bus, seemed never-ending.
On Christmas Eve, 1999 I moved to Herne Bay, which is a small seaside town near Canterbury and settled down to a prolific time of producing art. After the bustle of the streets and the companions at Art College, time in Herne Bay seemed to be going backwards. I was so lonely but I had my art so I completely committed myself to producing art like it was going out of fashion. With all the experiences I had had at college. I was so full of ideas. I was used to working from briefs at college so I set my own.
It was very difficult to establish a routine, so I didn’t bother doing that and found that I spent half my nights up paintings as it was the quietest time of the day. All I wanted to do was paint and draw so that’s what I did. Believing that drawing is the most important tool, I drew with paint.
Vivid colours were essential to me. At first colours, straight out of the tube no mixing, no white. Just mad crazy paintings born from the mind, from what I call the subconscious, which told stories from the dream state. Figurative expressionistic paintings followed some adopting symbols which reoccur occasionally throughout my work.
I started to do tonal paintings as I didn’t have enough money to buy numerous colours of paint, which turned out very well as I quite like them. When I can afford it I like to use a pallet knife, producing large expressionist paintings but they are very rare, as it is quite expensive. It is very difficult to describe what I do, as I like my work to be varied. When I can’t make up my mind about what colours to do I line my tubes of paint up like soldiers, then I shut my eyes to choose, finding it easier to reject a colour rather than to choose it. It is about quick decisions. Painting and drawing are making one decision after the other, if you think about it each line on a drawing is a decision. Informed subjects are paintings like portraits of still life, landscapes and life drawings which I have done for hundreds of years.
I attend life drawing classes every week where we draw from the model. We start with five-minute sketches to warm ourselves up then 10 and fifteen minute poses, sometimes longer. Feeling that it is an honour to draw from the model, what I enjoy is the challenge of getting it right. I try to draw the whole body in as few lines as possible, Starting with the top of the head working downwards.
I do measure sometimes but most of the time it is pure eye-hand coordination. What I like about drawing this way, is that it is of the moment. Sometimes in life, things work out right and other times it doesn’t. Poetry is also something that comes out of my paintings on occasion. Because I sometimes work from the subconscious, I have no idea of what is going to appear, so what I do is I look to the negative space. The blank area surrounding, to see what I can see than I paint it or draw it. This sometimes shocks me but it is all in the mind.
What inspires me is life! All parts of it, what we look at, what we think and how we feel. I think that colours improve the state of our minds and that is why I love colour so much. To me, art is about showing the beauty of the world, the depths of feelings and the struggles of the human mind.
I paint the Universal Truths of life. If I have felt it or witnessed it, then so have others.