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Born in Liverpool in 1965, I remember spending much of my childhood with my head buried in a comic usually The Beano. I would often relish being sent to bed early as a punishment for some misdemeanour so I could read the latest escapade of The Bash Street Kids. From an early age I loved to draw and as I grew older, I began to use this passion to unleash my elaborate imagination to create games for me and my neighbourhood friends. Fortunately, my father was a painter and decorator so my earliest canvases were the backs of rolls of wallpaper that were supposedly for his customers.
Living on the edge of the city, I was fascinated by the surrounding countryside and would slowly venture further and further out on my pushbike. I ended up spending most of my teenage years travelling around the country on marathon cycling holidays with friends whenever the chance arose. It always occurred to me that there was so much to see on my bike that you would never notice when travelling by car.
Art was my favourite subject at school and when I left I served an apprenticeship as a sign-writer at nearby Aintree racecourse. I am sure that this period in my life much influenced my animation and graphic style of painting.
Inspired by Liverpool's marvellous range of architecture, in my spare time I would paint nostalgic landscapes of the city in watercolours for family and friends. Encouraged by this, in 1999 I left the sign-making profession and became self-employed, combining my increasing painting commissions with an innovative bespoke gift idea. This would provide customers with a framed presentation that displayed my paintings with the names of the inhabitants of a given Liverpool street. I received a business award for this and also for my design of a football board game.
In 2005 I married Katie who has influenced me considerably with her younger outlook on life. She inspired and encouraged my contemporary style of painting which has since been rewarded with a publishing contract with Washington Green.
I am constantly surrounded by potential ideas and inspirations for the next coming painting. I now live and work in the village of Burscough Bridge in West Lancashire which is surrounded by endless fields of cows, sheep and horses. We always head for the coast or the hills whenever we holiday or take days out. A great source of inspiration comes from the nearby Lake District where I see the warmth and humour of the North - a spectacular mountain view can be softened by a washing line of the week's underpants and bras! The Lake District in particular is a rich hunting ground for my ideas - bleak and barren landscapes broken by trees, gnarled and twisted by the wind.
Scotland, Ireland's west coast, and Cornwall have also influenced me over the years. A particular favourite area of mine is the Tweed valley in Southern Scotland, it is as beautiful, unspoilt and dramatic as the Lake District, but without the visitor and un-commercialised too. The solitude and raw beauty here is most apparent at dawn and when dusk is approaching - when the wind whispers and birds call to signal the start and end of the day.
I love the humour of birds congregating in huge numbers - sometimes on a telegraph wire or a tree - and yet go unnoticed by most people passing by. I imagine that they must really like each other to hang around together so much. I think the humour of my childhood comics is sometimes evident. I don't want my paintings to be too serious and would even like to make the viewer smile a little bit. A completed work will often give me a feeling of deja-vu. It's as if I've visited the view before, perhaps I have and it has simply faded from my memory.
My work has been likened to the American artist Eyvind Earle - like him, I am fascinated by the shapes of shadows, particularly in the twilight of the day when they become elongated and stretch the view into the distance. This is why the cropping of my finished painting is important to me too. If I can somehow draw the viewer in, it will leave them wondering what lies just outside the view of the painting.
I produce preliminary sketches whenever the mood takes me. I often find I can visualise new ideas for paintings when very relaxed and closing my eyes to go to sleep although this can often result in a very sleepless night! However, I have always felt it important to get as much sleep as possible before painting because I like to feel relaxed and calm when putting brush to canvas.
From many rough sketches I will select my favourites which I think will make the grade as a finished work.
A quick roughing out on the canvas will lead to painting sky, background and foreground in that order, usually in the first day. The second day, I will paint figures, shadows and adjust the composition of these if necessary. The third day is left for adding and tweaking the more detailed parts of the piece.
Sometimes the finished work can vary considerably from the initial sketch. I can fall in love with one painting from the beginning and remain happy with it to its conclusion and yet with another the pieces only fall into place at the end.
After an early morning jog with Mavis my pet Labrador, I settle in to work from my studio at the back of the house between 8 and 9am.
Strangely, although I usually paint natural landscapes of tranquillity - I like background noise when I am painting and Mavis provides an occasional distraction throughout the day. The radio, i-pod and having no door on my studio all contribute to the sound which keeps me working at my best.
Some days I can feel really loose and the paint just flows from the brush, others can be much slower and I cannot develop a rhythm - but that's the way it goes!
I usually stop painting once my wife returns home from work when I take a break to eat and take time out with our baby Nancy. Only after that do I revisit the painting but I don't spend too long at night as I like to unwind enough to sleep.
Then it's off to bed - pausing to give baby Nancy a kiss goodnight and remind myself how lucky I am to have such a special wife and daughter and that I also get paid for doing a job I really love
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