Tell us how you first started out as an artist?
I suppose ever since I was a child I have felt the need to draw and paint. I stumbled into adolescence clueless about everything but then I discovered oil paint at high school. That was it, I just loved painting and I think at the time I was good at it or so my teachers thought. To me the only path was to do a foundation course in art but it didn’t work the way I wanted. It felt that there was no course which would allow me to just paint.
After many years of work and bringing up kids the burning desire started to rise again. Not that I hadn’t painted throughout my life but this desire was different. I don’t know if it was a “midlife crisis” but one thing for sure was it was screaming at me inside to pick up my brushes and paint.
Around 3 years ago I made the effort to just go ahead and do it. The output was slow at first combining work and life meant I had to work late at night and due to the nature of my job it was reflected in my initial work.
In October 2018 I was made redundant from my job but I thought to myself that this is my moment, it’s my time. I had the cushion of some redundancy pay and probably more importantly my wife, Sharron, who supported me as well as good friends who also encouraged and kept me going.
What’s your background? What did you do before you were an artist?
Still wanting to be in the creative field I trained as an interior designer which opened up a new avenue to me. It was this new-fangled thing called computer visualisation. I would create 3d visuals of the team’s interior designs and even tried animated walkthroughs. This led to a job in Newcastle which is where I spent 19 years growing up with a young industry. We produced rendered plans, 3d visuals and animation, photomontages and Virtual Reality models. We were creating Virtual reality long before the headsets became mainstream; and in many we were cutting edge. It was exciting times but like all good things they come to an end. The last couple of years were difficult and I suppose helped re-ignite my desire to look at myself and think about who I was and what I could do. It’s funny how people define themselves by the job they do, where in reality they are more than that. It’s taken nearly 50 years to learn that lesson (think I’m a slow learner)
Why do you do what you do?
Why do I breathe, eat, sleep and wake up, it’s that same feeling when I paint, I simply have to do it.
As I said earlier my initial paintings were influenced by my work and it was this attention to detail in all the projects where everything had to be accurately modelled etc that I painted in the same way. Comments on my early work was “eeh I thought it was a photograph!” not that there is anything wrong with that but for me it became a mundane way of painting. All I seemed to be doing was painting a picture of something and that’s it.
It was only after visiting New York that things began to change. My senses awoke and I began to think more about what drove me to like a scene. How can I translate those feelings into paint and let the viewer experience what I felt. Soon my paintings became moments in time and light where I try and transport the viewer into a scene. The lights, noise, reflections exploded in my mind and I knew I had to paint in a way that would reflect all of this. I hope that when people look at my work they feel as if they are there or they read into the views a story in their mind which reminds them of something in their past. I remember one women commenting on my painting “Waiting at the Monument”. She said it reminded her of a time when she was stood up there but she didn’t mind as she got a new dress!
What inspires you?
Inspiration for me is a strange creature. I love how light and dark work together to create feelings in my work. Reflections create so much atmosphere and this is so inspiring. That’s the easy bit the hard part comes in creating a composition which I think works and conveys everything I have mentioned above but in a pleasing image.
I love watching anything about art and get so inspired by the masters of old and the movements that were created because they had vision to ask questions. I think to have a fraction of their talent would be amazing.
How would you describe your work?
It touches on impressionism as I think that was the first time in art history where every day moments were recorded and how light was such an important part of their work. My work also has its expressive moments where I only indicate with dabs of paint an object or light in my painting. There isn’t much detail I let the viewer sort that out which hopefully keeps them looking. It has its romantic moments such as “Sunset over the Tyne”
I also think it’s slightly contemporary where my chosen scenes are not the obvious views one would take but still engage with the viewer and allows them to talk about the work
Can you tell us what you aim to achieve through your art?
Firstly it’s my selfish desire to paint and want to keep painting. I want this to be my life.
On a different level I would like people to see the work I do and make them stop for a moment and at least make them feel something. Whether it evokes a memory or raises a discussion on the subject such as “text in the City” where I have painted the subject with little detail but to me at least it’s obvious what the person is doing.
I recently spoke to a couple who were looking at my work and they were picking up on moments I had painted and could see what I was trying to say. There was no prompting from me, they just got it and If I can get more people to look at my work and not just on their phones, tablets or computers but in the flesh then I will be on my way to achieving something.
How do you work?
Currently I’m in the corner of my loft where I have terrific light but the space is OK. It doesn’t help that I sleep there too but hey ho.
As much as I rebel against technology I use it for my own ends now and have my workstation beside my easel. I use photos for reference composing stitching and arranging them to create the base image I want paint from. I have hundreds of images most of them rubbish so the selective process is where the first part of painting occurs. This can take weeks. My painting “Hear Me” had been eating away at me since “waiting at the Monument”. I knew it was coming but how it would appear has taken months for it to actually take shape. Was it going to be a landscape with more of the city around the subject and telling a tale of being ignored or as I have done a square image just focussing on the subject so at least the viewer sees him.
Once I have the base image it’s transferred to canvas or board and I think this is where my painting can work or fail. If the skeleton isn’t there then everything else I do on top will fail. The creative process then takes over where I emphasise lights etc. Turning on the lights in my painting always makes me smile because that’s when it comes alive.
How have you developed you work?
As I have said earlier I used to be extremely technical in the work I produced and it was becoming boring to paint. Once I hit New York the real changes occurred. The painting style changed dramatically and I thought why not take the paintings I had done of that wonderful city and apply the same process to Newcastle. “A walk to the Monument” was the first painting of Newcastle I produced in the new style and it grew from there. I created my “Night Lights on Tyne” which has become a painting I have replicated numerous times.
From there I also built in narratives into the work with “waiting at the Monument” and “text in the City” the principle of how I paint them remains the same with simple marks indicating elements in the painting without being too detailed. Art history also comes into play with Hoppers Nighthawks scene reflected in the background part of the painting “Waiting at the Monument” The café lit with bright yellow and the haze of customers inside was fun to do.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
There is a whole world out there to influence me and I don’t just pin this on one artist or thing. My first real influence stemmed from school and “Leonardo Da Vinci” he was my foundation stone. His strength in painting and drawing was sublime and was technically outstanding. The first person to influence me where thought was required was I suppose Picasso. How a person can’t be moved by the story of “Guernica” and the emotion he put into that painting is unbelievable.
I loved the American illustrator Norman Rockwell and his painting of a child discovering Santa’s costume in a chest of draws hits so much of a nerve in telling a story without too much being shown.
I have started to use the Internet for my sources of influences and this allowed me to follow a New Zealand based artist “Andrew Tischler” and he has encouraged me on my journey happily responding to my questions etc. His Landscapes, portraits and seascapes are outstanding and he loves to share his experiences with everyone.
I listen to my wife which can’t be a bad thing! She isn’t afraid of telling me if something isn’t working but will also let me know if she loves stuff too.
My late father who passed many years ago knew what I wanted to do without me even saying and I know how proud along with my mam they are of me.
There are many more which I can name but don’t want to bore you.
What influences from The North East have inspired your work?
I think this question for me is more about who has inspired me to actually try and make it as an artist. I have a great relationship with the Artists at Tynemouth Market where I also sell my work and from Emily Ward a local artist who is a fine example of how talent combined with hard graft can make it possible to earn a living doing this crazy thing called art.
What work are you most proud of?
“Night Lights on Tyne” has to be the one which has flown the nest and been a massive success. I think it hits a nerve with people to the point I have painted three times already. I think Van Gogh had his “Sunflowers” and it feels like I have the Tyne Bridge and night lights.
What has been your most challenging creation?
“42nd Street” has to be up there. It was my exploration into my new style and was full of light energy and characters. To maintain the energy of the painting reflecting the atmosphere of New York was a constant battle and I wasn’t sure at times the direction it was going in. The satisfaction I had once complete was brilliant and inspired me to kick on with more.
What’s your favourite piece of artwork?
I would say purely on a selfish / personal point of view it would have to be “Text in the City”. The character in the scene is my son. I see his mannerism straight away as well as the activity of texting.
On another level it’s my protest against technology. Anybody who text’s, myself included only sees that little bright screen in front of them and the rest of the world disappears. So I thought that why don’t I paint the figure in a way which would be how the city sees the figure. If he isn’t noticing it then why should it notice him? Hence he isn’t fully painted his legs merge into the city disappearing almost.
Then there is the composition a square painting offering different but rewarding challenges and making the subject central to the view is a compositional trick which I think works in a painting
What are your ambitions for the future?
To be recognised more and to have this for the rest of my life. I am humbled by people liking my work and I don’t mean Facebook or Instagram I mean coming up to me and expressing their love of it. I want that to continue but on a bigger scale. It’s not that I seek attention it is more to do with if they love it then and it hit a nerve and I have affected somebody’s life in a good way.
What is your story with North East Art Collective?
Call it a bucket list or whatever you like but when I first saw them on the internet and their philosophy of how they want to show local artists work and sell it to the public I made it a mission to have my work shown. It wasn’t easy I had polite knock backs when I first e-mailed with early examples but I never gave up (stubborn) and it took the change of style, which would never have happened had I not been painting all the time, to get recognised.
Their reaction to my work is so humbling to me and to be accepted by them was a vindication that if you do try hard and believe in yourself then good things can happen.
They took my work and started showing it in August and now I’m artist of the month, so I can’t thank them enough.