As a teenager in the 1970’s I was very aware of the decline in mining and shipbuilding. Having said that my first job was in a shipyard in Jarrow, cleaning welds ready for testing. Ten hours a day, covered in sweat and grime, sparks showering your back, a shocking introduction to working life. Things did not improve much after that, my uncle got me a job loading ships with coal for the NCB. These jobs are long gone.
There are now houses on the banks of the Tyne where I used to work but strangely I look back on how things were with a nostalgic affection. It was vibrant and gritty; it had an energy that I sadly don’t feel any more when I go back there. I mention these details because for better or worse I believe that those early years have had strong influences on my art. Some of my paintings can be quite dark for which I make no apologies.
Over the years I have lived in about ten different counties across England. I have landscaped gardens, looked after sheep, worked in factories, warehouses, hotels and pubs. I am now lucky enough to live in Devon with Dartmoor on my doorstep and fantastic bays and coves to swim from. It has a much calmer influence on my art, but I embrace all of my life experiences and apply them to my painting in varying measures depending on what I want to achieve.
I taught myself to paint about 16 years ago whilst living in Cornwall, my style is mainly impressionistic and sometimes abstract. I often use a painting knife to layer the paint on then scrape back to create form and texture. I try to work freely and not be afraid of taking risks. I have great respect for Joan Eardley, the freedom she expressed in applying paint without fear was inspirational.
Painting can be bittersweet; it can be physically and emotionally draining. Spending hours at an easel forgetting to eat and drink and then at the end of the day realising that the elusive glimmer of something special you created a few hours earlier has gone. Luckily, the times that you do succeed are uplifting and wonderful and the need to create draws you back time and time again.