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My first recollection of having an interest in art was at the age of 10 when I entered into a school Easter Card Competition and won first prize. This inspired me to carry on drawing, particularly incorporating my main interest at that time of aircraft and cars. Things changed when I was 12 – for Christmas I was given a set of oil paints and an easel (the easel I still use today 40 years later!). Painting in oil opened up a whole new world of colour and texture, as well as filling the house with the wonderful scent of linseed and turpentine.
I then enrolled in painting classes on a Saturday morning at the ‘Harrogate School of Art’, which I attended for about 2 years. I then took my art interest even further and attended a part time evening course where I was introduced to figure painting and also pop art. My high point at that time was a ‘pop art’ self-portrait, which was displayed as part of an exhibition in the Harrogate Art Gallery.
Due to the need to earn a living, painting unfortunately had to take a back seat for the next few years. I married and had 3 beautiful daughters whilst running my own small business for 25 years. For my own pleasure however, I did manage to continue to paint in my spare time.
It therefore wasn’t until the mid 1990’s that I actually went back to art more seriously and started exhibiting in the local galleries. I now have various galleries in the area requesting my work and I’ve had several successful exhibitions. Painting now takes up most of my time - I go to bed thinking of my latest painting and wake up with ideas for the next.
Finding a subject or idea for a painting can be a daunting task, and can often come from the most unlikely source. I remember once going to a Hockney exhibition, where a striking painting at the opposite end of the gallery caught my eye. I saw this painting as depicting a flight of stairs following up to some marble arches, through which I saw the sun sitting in a bright blue sky. As I got closer to the painting it became clear that it was actually nothing like that at all. It was in fact a wooden table standing on a veranda overlooking the sea. This later inspired me to paint the picture I first thought I’d seen.
When my youngest daughter, Stephanie was four years old she brought home a wax crayon picture of herself from playschool. As soon as she showed it to me I was fascinated by the way it had been drawn and by the colours used. I then began to look at other children’s drawings and found one main similarity between them all – the fact that nearly all children draw people full frontal; with either stick or fat arms and legs; and yet they nearly always draw animals in profile. I found it really interesting the way children tend to perceive and interpret things within their everyday lives, often in the same way. Although Picasso once said that when he was a child he could paint like an adult, and he spent all his adult life trying to paint like a child. This led me to thinking that some of the old masters - Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Da Vinci - would have probably drawn people in exactly the same way when they were about four years old. This subsequently gave me the idea of mixing children’s art, with no inhibitions, together with the carefully planned paintings of the adult artist. This style of painting has proved very successful for me and the more children’s art I study, the more I will be able to continue to find various ways of developing and combining the adult approach to painting with that of a child’s.
Over the last couple of years I have never actually been stuck for subject matter – in fact I’ve always tended to have plenty of ideas for my next few paintings already in my mind. And I still find that there is always a real sense of accomplishment on completing a painting, together with the excitement of beginning the next.
“Out of the ashes rose the Phoenix……” My palette is a mess, my paint box is a mess, I somehow end up splashing paint over everything including myself, and yet a clean, sharp picture emerges out of it all! That’s probably one of the reasons I enjoy painting so much - the fact that out of all this chaos, there’s really a hidden sense of order within it all.
I usually start with a very small rough sketch, which I then enlarge onto my full size heavy watercolour paper. I do very little pencil work here, just enough to mark out the perspective. I prefer to work freehand with the paint straight onto the paper and see what emerges.
A painting can take me anywhere from one afternoon, to 4 days to complete, depending upon the amount of detail. And these can often be pretty long days! But once I’m immersed within my painting, I don’t tend to realise what the time is! At various stages throughout a picture, however, I need to stop and take a step back from it, just to make sure that it is developing as I had envisaged. On the satisfactory completion of a painting I will give it a title and then finally photograph it for my own records.
How many people wake up on a dreary Monday morning feeling excited about going to work? And how many people enjoy what they do so much that they often don’t even take the weekend off?! Well, I think I must just be one of the lucky ones. I always seem to find myself looking forward to either getting back to a painting I’m already working on, or starting on the next and sorting through all the ideas going on in my head.
For me a typical day starts around 6:30am, when I get up and organised and see the rest of the family off for the day. I am then relatively undisturbed and usually begin painting at around 9am. I work in my studio, which is actually a conservatory at the back of the house. And when it’s windy and raining outside, I certainly feel very relieved that I don’t have to go out in it to get to my place of work. Usually if I’m in the middle of a picture, I can just sit down at my easel and get straight on with it, but if I’m starting a new painting I need to think about it and do some rough sketches. I work in short sessions, probably 2 hours at a time with short breaks in between, so I can evaluate the work I’ve done so far.
When I’m painting I like to have a cup of tea next to me all the time, although I usually end up drinking it cold as I get so absorbed in what I’m doing.
I try to put a little humour into my paintings and I know when I’ve succeeded when my family come home and it puts a smile on their faces. They are my greatest critics, so in the evening we like to view my days work and relax with a glass of wine.
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