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After studying art at North Tyneside College, I became self employed as a professional artist in 1984. I used this time to experiment with all medium including glass engraving, printing and painting, but always seemed to be drawn back to oil paint. Even as a child I can remember my grandmother using oil paint in a paint by numbers set. This caught my attention and I was fascinated with the medium. I always tried other mediums because I found the process of art exciting. At this time, I had a scatter gun approach to art, working in all areas and not really having any one medium to learn my craft. Times became difficult and I had to re-train. In 2000 I did a HND in advertising/illustration as a visualizer, studying at Newcastle. While there I worked on many live briefs and was successful in winning a NEPA award (North East Print Association).
After graduating and looking for work, I just could not keep away from art. I wanted one more try at being successful in art. After exhibiting in a Northumberland gallery, my artwork was taken to the London Affordable, where I had a sell out in one day. Things began to snowball. I exhibited in Edinburgh and in Dublin with equal success. Over the past two years, I have witnessed a change in my work. I feel that I have honed my efforts and skills into compositions that really express and convey a certain atmosphere or moment.
I like to let the viewer of the painting make their own mind up about what is happening with the characters in the composition. I like to add street signs pointing in two different directions suggesting that these two people are coming together, or are they splitting up? Maybe they are having an affair; is their love a secret or are they simply going back to the bar where they first met? This is also helped by composing the painting on a street corner. A view of two roads meeting or two paths crossing. In their relationship, has the bar become ‘their bar’? The viewer has the answer.
As part of the working process, I am always inspired to experience what I am about to paint. I remember Billy Connelly saying that he hated songs about Scotland that were written by men in London: men who had never even seen the Highlands. In other words, if you are going to do something creative, get to the very heart of it first.
I did a series of paintings about Trawler men some time ago. I researched the project by going out into the North Sea with the men, on a trawler and sketching them while they worked. They thought I was mad, getting soaking wet, freezing cold and stinking of fish…but I loved it. I now use this approach to my rain paintings.
Living on the North East Coast we get our fair share of rain. When it rains, I feel the need to get out there and sketch. Look at how rain can bounce off the ground and car roofs; the reflection from car lights and street lights.
The paintings can be set in any city: again, it is up to the viewer. However, I do like to add a personal touch to my bars. My family tree stretches to Ireland on my mother’s side and Scotland on my father’s, so I like to name the bars in either an Irish or a Scottish name. I quite simply have a passion to paint and if I can get the audience to imagine a scenario of their own, then I feel I have achieved a connection between canvas and viewer.