Me and My Practice
Broadly speaking I draw on three areas as inspiration for my painting. Landscape, usually wild exposed places, Urban Landscape and the human figure. Each of these areas offers it’s own scope for exploring ideas, themes and influences which in turn play into and inform the other areas of inquiry. It’s like playing in different pools, taking a little water from each pool and carrying it to mix in with the next. The conversation goes back and forth.
Essentially all the things I am looking at are ways and means of exploring the expressive potential of the medium of paint (or, more latterly, etching) and developing my vocabulary in the language of abstract mark making. The medium is the means through which I translate and communicate my experience.
My explorations are almost exclusively carried out within the British Isles and Ireland. Shetland has featured heavily in my work since my first visit in 2011 when I rented a studio in Scalloway for a month. So successful was this initial trip that it lead directly to my first major solo exhibition in Shetland a year later. 30 Days of Light’, at the Lerwick Museum and Archives in 2012. Two years later in 2015 Bonhoga Gallery hosted my second Shetland exhibition, ‘Between Rocks and Hard Places’.
A few weeks each year are spent in Shetland
’30 Days of Light’ exhibition at Lerwick Museum
Examples of my college work
Fine Art drew me like a waterfall down stream. For years I resisted, furiously paddling my kayak against the flow. Initially I thought my future lay in graphics but by the end of my foundation at the Storey Institute, Lancaster, I knew I wasn’t going to be a graphic artist either. The answer seemed to lie somewhere in between with Illustration. It was during my time at Falmouth School of Art studying Illustration that an interest in the Old Masters was born in me. There was an old boy that taught on my course who practiced many old master techniques and I would glean as much information as possible from him, keeping a separate journal of his advice.
After college, having well and truly started on my slippery descent (or ascent. It isn’t always possible to tell which) into the world of a fine artist, I was mentored for a while by a practicing artist and graduate of the Royal Academy. My interest in fine art broadened and my understanding of what art meant deepened. Around the time I was introduced to Cezanne it were as though ‘the scales fell from my eyes’ and suddenly I could see right through surface tricks that had previously had me in their enthrall. I’d gained backstage access.
Getting out there in the elements, painting and sketching direct, is integral to my working practice. The information available via the senses is unequalled by any other means. It’s around this point that I usually start talking about Aldous Huxley’s illustration of the mind being like a restrictor valve (see ‘Doors of Perception’) only allowing in that which is necessary for biological survival whereas the information that surrounds us every moment of every day is vast and if we could see/experience it all at once we would be rendered incapable of functioning effectively, our minds blown.
Simply put, direct observation is the single best way of exploring your subject and your relationship to it, it is a key that gives access into the world around you. This questioning of the outside world through the medium gives insight on the inner world. It can be as though the barriers between inner and outer fall away. It is a process of self discovery, like performing archaeology on your self. The visual imagination is fed and you replenish the well pool of experience which can then be drawn on to feed into the work produced in the studio. Though I am a figurative painter I believe everything is in essence abstract. For me, to paint figuratively with any success is to understand something of the abstract nature of the universe.
Sometimes the pressure of looking for subject matter gets in the way of seeing. It is as much of a discipline for me NOT to look for subject matter and just explore; we tend to see more when we’re not looking for something. This is how I approach my trips to the Scottish mountains where the technical demands are greater than in the Lake District. Often my focus is to just get up and down safely, especially during the short days of winter. Even so I keep a journal on all my explorations, the criteria being that if I choose to sketch, I do so for the pure joy of it. Just so long as all my attention isn’t taken up trying to keep a calm head whilst straddling a knife edge ridge in the Cuillin or I’m not being frightened off some lonely summit by thunder and lightening; so long as I’m quite sure I’ve enough daylight hours to get through all the main technical difficulties, that’s when I might settle down and record my time.
My work can be seen with galleries across the UK from Shetland to Cornwall. I am represented at Art Fairs in London and elsewhere. I have had work frequently included in exhibitions at the Mall Galleries, London. My paintings are held in collections worldwide.
Brief history of my commercial endeavours
Since 1999 I’ve enjoyed over thirty solo exhibitions including shows in Dublin, Cornwall, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Shetland. I’ve also taken part in well over fifty mixed exhibitions, many of them at various galleries in London including the Mall Galleries where I’ve had work exhibited in the Threadneedle, New English Art Club, Royal Institute for Painters in Oil, Royal Society of Marine Artists and Discerning Eye exhibitions.
Awards include First Prize at the inaugural ‘Open Up North’ competition at The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, in 2011, ‘The Stanley Grimm Memorial Prize’ and ‘The Le Clerc Fowle Medal’ at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in 2014 and a regional first prize at the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, also in 2014.