Why don't you paint one for him

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Why don't you paint one for him

I was asked recently to say write an article about how I got into art, for Shropshire's Visual Art Network newsletter. This was the result

Sunset Storm Surge Aug 2019 Sold £290 to AS

‘Paint one for him’ ‘Why don’t you paint one for him?’ So began a joyful journey of discovery that’s lasted thirty years, and continues with every new painting I create. The ‘Him’ in question was my son; then still a toddler, he would bring me drawings, and I would dutifully try and guess what the latest was; then Paula, my wife, suggested I paint him; I nearly said no, feeling unable, killing the journey before it had even begun; but, for Michael, I would at least try, using his poster paints; to my astonishment it ended up remarkably like him! Encouraged, I continued painting mainly family members, in watercolours, over the next decade or so, branching out into watercolour landscapes, even cracking horses, which previously always looked like dogs, one holiday in York. The biggest breakthrough came for me when I started life-drawing lessons with Mark Warner three years ago; trying all sorts of media, eventually coming to oils, through a one-day seminar. My subject, after another forty hours of painting became my first oil portrait based on a famous photo (1), looking back at me on my study/studio wall. I’m an ordained priest, and each Easter I produce a piece of artwork for myself, during Holy Week, large enough to use in my churches, but now working on two to reflect what the Diocese is calling ‘Creationtide’ to raise awareness of climate change. Climate change has been huge in my life, since I worked for nine years as a hydrologist with Thames water, thirty five years ago, following a childhood passion for water. One of my biggest challenges was representing my favourite subject, waterfalls; I love their power, colour, endless variety; It was only with oils, then acrylics that I got the hang of this and they have become my speciality for the last two years, apart from more drawn family portraits. Over those two years I’ve increasingly tried to bring out their wonderful colours, especially of peaty rivers, including my favourite, of falls on the River Wensley after a week of heavy rain. (2) More recently I’ve enjoyed the challenge of sea storm waves with (3) ‘Sunset Storm Surge’ my favourite. It’s a long time since I lived by the sea, but have always loved really tempestuous events . Then last month I heard about an exhibition to honour the wonderfully coloured Ironbridge cooling towers, due to be demolished next year; I’ve wanted to paint these for some time and, remarkably, produced (4), ‘Sunset Falling on Towers’ in less than three days! Posting on Twitter, Facebook and Painters-Online gives me helpful feedback I receive; it’s also been the source of a few of my sales of prints to America. Contributing to exhibitions or competitions is now a regular part of my life, with paintings in six in late September alone. Careful admin that few artists want to talk about, or love, now consumes more of my time; that’s without my own website, relying on the Van website to reach a wider audience. I’m waiting for my next posting after finishing covering the last parish vacancy, and wondering how on earth I had time to do even half-time church work! Painting is both frustration and joy! I enjoy every new challenge even ‘though, at some point in most paintings, I feel like giving up, but perseverance nearly always pays off; surprisingly warm responses came from one-offs, like cliffs from the tiny Davaar Island, or close-ups of the stream that runs through Carding Mill Valley, ‘Racing Through Rocks’ on, or the Easter Tomb, or less surprisingly, beautiful ancient buildings, including the stunning stairwell in Wells Cathedral. I sketched for years before, mainly people and buildings, but the real journey of discovery really began with ‘Why don’t you paint one for him’ and that journey continues to open up new horizons. Although I’m being increasingly creative, the painting of the Ironbridge Towers relying on no less than five photographs to produce the image I sought, I continue to be guided by the one lesson from art at school that I remember: ‘Paint what you see, not what you think you see’. And the struggle to do that continues with every new challenge… but it is, as my daughter would say, SOOOO worth it

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