I left a Quaker school in Reading, Berkshire to go to the Berkshire College of Art. After two years wonderful training under Norman Griffiths and Carlos Granger I gained a place at Chelsea School of Art. Henry Moore was a governor, David Hockney a visiting tutor. Robyn Denny, Patrick Caulfield, Allen Jones, Howard Hodgkin and Craigie Aitchison were some of the permanent staff. My biggest influences at the school were probably John Hoyland, who was Head of Painting, and Norman Blamey in the Life Studio.
After graduating with an Honours Degree in Fine Art, I went to Sussex University where I studied to be a teacher of Fine Art and Art History. On leaving Sussex I had several jobs: I worked a bit in animation; illustrated a few books – Usborne Publishing asked me to illustrate a few pages in their new series of children’s natural history guides. As a boy I had a love of insects and a fascination for all creatures that live in their own small worlds, I still do, so being allowed to draw and paint them for money was perfect for me. Unfortunately, income did not match my happiness or my bank manager’s expectations. It was when this most amiable of men asked me in the nicest possible way whether I was banking with him or he with me, that a more stable career of teaching suddenly seemed wise.
After a few years teaching in London I eventually found myself at Friends’ School, Saffron Walden in charge of the art department where, since 1978, I have worked until my retirement in 2013. Teaching has allowed me time for my own work but, perhaps, just as importantly kept me fully involved with ideas and development in the art world. Saffron Walden is less than an hour from London with its galleries, museums, exhibitions, art events and young art students want to see them all which has hopefully left me broad minded and receptive.
My own work has moved much more towards landscape with a growing interest in people. Drawing and painting have been my main media but I’ve always made prints as well. My art department had a wonderful Alexander block printing press which I often made use of. I have been lucky enough to have been given a small lithographic press and my engineering brother in law has rebuilt me an old mangle as a lino and etching press. I have just finished building a new studio space so I’m now set up for the future.
Thoughts on My Art
Chelsea School of Art was in the heart of the swinging London of the sixties. The tutors there made up a significant part of the avant garde art scene and we students generally wanted to emulated these exciting, increasingly successful role models. My paintings then were large scale acrylic works on raw cotton duck as were most of those around me, nothing else was deemed cutting edge enough; oil paints and watercolours were not cool. Working large scale in the small London flat I could afford after college was not practical and caused me to rethink my art. Gouache at first and then, for a brief spell, watercolours, and, yes, oil paints crept in. And thank goodness they did; the control, depth and subtleties I can achieve with these fabulous media opened up so many paths for me.
The non figurative modernist artists' work of the seventies and early eighties gradually lost their edge for me. A need for greater content and more accessible references grew in importance. Klee and Kandinsky seemed to have the answers both in their visual work and their writings. I found myself looking more and more to the natural worlds for inspiration – London was not the place to be. I tried to move to Ireland in the early seventies but family illness and other complications made this far too difficult at that time. Then a job came up in Saffron Walden. I moved there in 1978 which gave me the environment I needed.
Towards the end of college I had discovered William Blake and Samuel Palmer. They seemed to me to fit in with and extend my thinking about Klee and Kandinsky. The natural progression from this was some of the Neo Romantics and, moving to the countryside made their ideas even more relevant. Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and, to an extent, Stanley Spencer were then to become my main influences.
It’s taken a long time for me to realise what I’m really all about. Trying to fit all these influences into my work and struggling with the skills needed but I think, at last, I’m getting somewhere now.
Landscape alone has proved not to be enough for me. So far I have spent my time in Essex painting almost topographically the landscapes around me – but my real interests are linked to the many aspects of the human condition. Not the mysticism of Blake and Palmer, although I love the ways they visualised their parallel worlds, displayed with such powerful imagery. I am much more pragmatic in my thinking. I do want to inject an emotional dimension that affects the viewer but my feelings are for man on Earth, the time he has, the moment of his being, the significance and the insignificant, the substance that is living and the spirit and consciousness that that supports. Man’s inhumanity bothers me greatly; materialism and the greed that that instils is sadly in most of us. But man is also capable of great compassion, far reaching kindness, selfless sacrifice and deep, undemanding love. We are so complicated and full of contrasts and it’s these concerns that I want to express in my paintings. Constable painted trees that show his emotional response to that specific tree whilst capturing, in his lovingly painted images, the essence of all trees and what they mean to us; their strength, their longevity, their purifying breath, the warmth of their timber, their protection from sun, wind and rain, and much , much more. Palmer, with his fruit laden, God given trees, transports us to another world of safety and plenty or perhaps he just shows us the beauty and plenty of this. Kandinsky’s blossom covered trees encourage us to view the world of, as yet, undiscovered knowledge with excitement and wonder. These artists, among many others, have discovered and created images that have universal meaning, helping us to see the tangible and the spiritual world we live in with much greater clarity. I hope that my paintings might eventually come close to achieving something similar – we’ll see.
sale of work
I do work to commission. However I don’t like working from
photographs so if a particular landscape etc is required I do like to visit the
site and work in situ. I don’t mind traveling but obviously time, cost and the
weather are some of the considerations. If you would like a portrait, then
sittings need to be arranged and all that entails. Please contact me and we can
work something out.
Work for sale Prices are shown below any of my work that is for sale.
I make a number of new prints each year. These are always in
small editions but seldom has an edition sold out. I have numbered, signed prints
available of most of my images. Prices, whether framed or unframed and edition size are shown below each work.
Sketchbook work is generally not for sale as I don’t like
taking pages out of them unless there is a very good reason – money usually