I always knew that I wanted to paint. Art was my favourite subject at school and I still remember the exhilarating smell of the art room.
It wasn’t until I was 60 that I had space to go back to art studying Fine Art at the University for the Arts, Wimbledon. Disappointingly the course was very conceptual. The time at art school opened my mind to many different ways of making art but experimenting on my own, away from other influences, turned me into an artist.
I work from my studios in Surrey and Devon and I donate the proceeds from the sale of my paintings to charity. Being able to do something I love and at the same time being able to contribute to causes that I care about is very fulfilling. I teach art workshops and I love introducing people to the joy of painting. I run an art group – the Wildwood Artists – teaching and mentoring artists who want to develop their art practice and exhibit together.
My paintings are abstract and my approach to painting is expressive. I paint intuitively using my imagination and expressing memories, feelings and reflections on what I see around me. My inspirations are usually quite specific, something I have seen in the countryside close to home or on trips abroad. Although I don’t paint what I see literally, observation is very important to my art practice. Most often my camera is my sketch book but I also sketch and make comments on what I see, recording ideas for composition, shapes and colours.
Painting for me is similar to the improvisation of a jazz player: a kind of riffing and experimenting around an initial idea – colour, shape and texture. As in jazz, I look for discordant elements to highlight the visual harmony. I’m looking for vibrant but subtle colour and rich textures to evoke a feeling, a place, a moment in time.
My favourite medium is oil paint, it is viscous and flexible creating beautiful blends of colour. These days I mostly paint with oil and cold wax on cradled wood panels. Squeegees, palette knives and big brushes allow me to achieve rich, thick textures and to keep the image unstructured. In many cases I create an underlining layer of collage which adds to the texture and peeps through into the painting.
Each painting involves many stages, progressively building up the image. As I paint the painting develops a life of its own and the meaning of the work evolves. Echoing the jazz analogy, I choose music tracks to name each painting, not just jazz also rock, pop, blues, folk, country – whatever I feel captures the spirit of the work.
Since September 2017 I have been teaching an informal and flexible programme of art to a group of local artists who seek to develop their art practice. I feel strongly that art is better taught in a group which allows for cross-fertilisation of ideas.
Members of the group are talented and enthusiastic about their art, Several of the students have been to art school but left feeling dissatisfied at the level of training they received in the basic skills of art practice – understanding colour, guidelines for composition, how to approach abstraction. Art schools today take very conceptual approach in order to encourage creative thinking and new ways of thinking about art. This is a great aspiration but students often leave without the practical skills to develop a professional art practice. Others in the group are keen amateur artists now looking to develop their art in a professional way.
- To provide a programme of art learning – art concepts, skills and practices
- To enable those in the group to find their ‘style’ of making art and help them to develop it
- To introduce and experiment with a wide range of art mediums and materials
- To learn from other artists, contemporary and historical, famous and not so famous
- To put together exhibitions of work created by the group
I am an abstract artist and I paint expressively. The teaching is set in the context of abstract art with an emphasis upon drawing and painting expressively and with imagination. But this encompasses a very broad spectrum, across abstraction to semi abstraction and expressive figurative painting.
Wildwood Artists run exhibitions, branded ‘In My Mind’s Eye’ also inviting guest artists who live locally. See them at the West Horsley Place Christmas Fair and summer exhibitions at Place Farm Barn, West Horsley Place.
Tujatane Trust School (£32,500 raised so far) – I have been supporting Tujatane Trust School in Zambia for many years sponsoring children at the school. The school was set up in 1996 by Vanessa Parker, wife of the owner of Tongabezi Lodge on the Zambezi river, to educate her children and the children of the staff. A teacher before her move to Africa, Vanessa quickly realised that the children from poor families in the surrounding villages had no access to schooling. The school has steadily grown in size and stature, now schooling nearly 300 underprivileged children up to age 15. When I again visited in 2016 they had recently built an Art and Craft classroom but they had no art teacher and only very limited art supplies. Since then I have sponsored and mentored the art teacher and provided art materials to create a visual arts programme for the children. We are now running art competitions each term with certificates and prizes to motivate and inspire the children.
Textile crafts have become part of that programme involving women in the local community and we the opportunity to build a Textile Centre for the children at the school and adults in the area. Generous donations and funds raised by myself and glass maker Adam Aaronson in the recent “Shape of Colour” exhibition mean that we have the funds to start building the centre but we need more to complete it, equip it, supply it with materials and pay for teachers.
For more information go to their website www.tujatane.com.
Home-Start Guildford (£11,500 raised so far) – A fantastic charity local to me, which addresses a very real need close to home. Home-Start supports families who are finding it hard to cope and who are exhausted or overwhelmed by the challenges of family life. They may not be coping due to post-natal depression, isolation, illness or disability, multiple births, bereavement, abuse, family breakdown … or any other situation life throws at them! Home-Start’s trained parent volunteers give them the help they need to get back on track and give their child the best possible start in life.
I am now a patron of Home-Start Guildford. For more information go to www.hsguildford.org.uk
The Art Room (£5,895 raised) – which provides art therapy spaces for 5 to 16 year olds who are experiencing emotional or behavioural difficulties.
Challengers Guildford (£6,500 raised) – dedicated to providing exciting and challenging play and leisure opportunities for disabled children and young adults.
The Eve Appeal (£8,325 raised) – supporting the better detection and treatment of Gynaecological cancers through awareness and research.