“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo
Painting on Hadrian's Wall at Crag Lough.
I spent my first eighteen years living in various outposts of the retreating British Empire including Singapore, Aden, Cyprus and Germany, and many parts of England with my R.A.F. family before settling in the north east of England. After eighteen years in Newcastle my wife Julie and I moved to a 17th century farmhouse near Allendale in the North Pennines where we lived for fourteen years and raised five free range children and had a menagerie of animals. When they became teenagers we moved to the market town of Hexham nearby.
Originally studying graphic design at Lincoln College of Art from 1976 I then worked as a graphic designer in Newcastle. However I was drawn towards art and did a degree in Creative and Performing Arts at Northumbria University specialising in printmaking and graduating with a 2:1 degree in 1984. I have been a self-employed artist for thirty years and for many years was a part time lecturer at Newcastle College where I ran the HNC in Fine Art and taught the graphic design component for the BTEC Design for Print, amongst other courses and colleges.
I had a gallery in Hexham market place for a few years which I closed in January 2016 and now exhibit in London, Newcastle and Northumberland. I have often worked to commission and have paintings in many private and corporate collections in Britain and abroad, including that of the Royal Family, Lord Dearing, Sir Peter Carr, Sir John Hall, Cherie and Tony Blair, Northern Rock, Barclays Bank and Northumberland Water.
Interests have included playing football and other sports for forty years and playing guitar and singing in various bands over the years. The last of my children are still at home, but I have much more time and freedom now to travel and paint.
Recently I have been working on some still life oil paintings. Currently, after a long break from graphic design, I am working on a commission by the National Trust to design the information brochures for all of the rooms at Wallington Hall in Northumberland. I am also working on a portrait commission of Colonel Bates in his ceremonial uniform who has recently retired from the army. Following that I will be working on a series of watercolours based on a road trip through France and Italy at the end of last summer.
I enjoy the variety, fortunately.
Shortly after completing a watercolour sunrise over Cannes Bay on location. It was bought while I was painting it by a Dutch lady to give as a present to her niece that afternoon at her wedding!
I prefer painting directly from life as much as possible to experience the subject fully and enjoy the day, whatever it brings. The subjects I am interested in are mainly places and people; landscape, cityscape, portrait and the figure. More important to the subject is the form; the colours, shapes, composition, how the paint is applied, mark-making, texture and other formal elements which figurative and abstract painting have in common.
I usually start with sketches of a new subject in graphite or charcoal to become familiar with it and play around with the composition. I then sketch in the composition using diluted oil and block in the basic shapes. I follow the traditional approach of working from dark to light and thin to fat (thick) paint, trying to keep the paint fresh, loose and alive. As a painting progresses, however, it suggests it's own approach.
I paint things which excite me, for whatever reason. I want to distil and intensify what it is about the subject that most interests me, which I often only discover through the process of working. Along with portrait commissions I increasingly paint landscapes, but also enjoy the figure and still life.
In the past I have had a long phases working exclusively from the imagination and ideas, and another working with abstraction, but I now find more interest and freedom in observational drawing and painting of the world around me.