Born and bred in Burnley, Lancashire, after recently researching my family tree I discovered that I am Industrial Revolution stock through and through. All my ancestors were either weavers or coal miners. I’m not entirely sure where my artistic bent came from. My first taste of the art world was aged 7. We went to live in London for a year. The thrill of being taken around museums and art galleries must have awakened the latent creative soul.
From a young age I was always drawing or making things. I would draw on anything – the white card that came folded up in my grandad’s shirts, the oval bit you took out of a tissue box to reveal the tissues, cardboard toilet roll inserts; I created whole families out of them! So I imagined I would eventually study Fine Art.
Art was of course my favourite subject in school. It was on a school trip to the National Art Gallery in London aged 12 that my obsession for 16th and 17th Century portraiture began. I stood transfixed in front of Jan van Eyck’s ‘Man in a Red Turban’ and fell in love. Not so much with the intriguing, enigmatic looking man staring out at me, but with the mesmerising quality of the style. It still remains one of my favourite paintings to this day.
I did an art foundation course at Nelson & Colne College, Lancashire in ’84 to discover which art subject was for me. Strangely, this turned out to be Theatre. So at age 18, after being seduced by the theatre, I moved from Lancashire to Cardiff to study Theatre Design for 3 years at The Welsh College of Music and Drama. After graduating, I worked as a prop-maker and scenic artist for 10 years. I spent the first few thrilling years working for Talismen, a prop-making studio in a backstreet in Cardiff, then a precarious few years freelancing. But I returned to art after the antisocial hours and harsh chemicals took their toll. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to not smell of latex, paint and acetone, or always have polystyrene, glue, expanding foam (horrible stuff!) and plaster stuck to my hair and clothes. Not to mention the endless broken nails!
In the 90’s, I dabbled briefly in game development with a group of friends. Collectively we were ‘Hounds by the Basketful’ (we finally decided on this name after one or two pints of Guinness!). We created a video board game called GOOT! (Get Out Of That!) and various card games.
I got stuck using pastels for a while, too scared to go near oil. In the late 90’s I discovered (online) a collection of beautiful encaustic Mummy portraits dated from the 1st to 3rd Century Roman/Greek period called ‘Fayum’ portraits, and I decided to experiment with oils to see if I could replicate the style. Adopting my prop making skills, I painted my friend Bryan in this Fayum style as a birthday present. I split the wood in places, sanded back some of the paint to expose the surface, and stained the whole thing down to give the illusion of a painting removed from the burial linens of a mummy. After this first attempt I was hooked. I haven’t touched my pastels since.
Here’s what you find when you type Fayum Portraits into Google.
I honed my oil skills (preferring wood panel to canvass) by painting Tudor and Flemish style portraits, Holbein being my number one obsession. I combined my love of art history and Theatrical prop-making background to produce work which I suppose could be described as a sort of Ancestral portrait meets Historical film prop. I like to think they wouldn’t look out of place in a historic house or museum.
I mostly ‘paint’ digitally these days using Photoshop, but I have not, and never will, turn my back on oils! Although I do miss that tangible piece at the end of the project, Portraiture using Photoshop is an exhilarating and altogether enjoyable, creative process.
I plan to live in the Forest of Dean and keep pygmy goats, chickens, cats, and maybe 2 dogs. I will bake bread, grow vegetables, become a detectorist, and drive a Nissan Figaro (in Pale Aqua).
For the time being, I live in Cardiff with my cycling crazy partner and two mad as monkeys cats. Our home is full of weird and wonderful objects. If it’s kooky, rusty or nostalgic, I’ll probably buy it.
I love snow, walks in the country, forest bathing, car boot sales, flea markets, museums, art galleries, playing with cats, and painting. I collect skulls, freaky vintage toys, doll heads, Mexican Retablos, sleazy pulp novels and battered old portraits of strangers.
My ultimate dream (should I win the lottery, or a billionaire donates the funds!) is to buy and restore a crumbling historic building on the English Heritage at risk register (Extwistle Hall in my home town Burnley perhaps). This project would also entail attempting to live off grid, incorporating as many renewable energy systems as possible. I would spend my days with a metal detector on the land surrounding me.
N.B. Should any billionaires wish to contact me so I can realise this dream, please don’t hesitate to message through my contact page.