Painting has been a bit of an/off activity for me. I got interested in birds around 14 years old and started drawing them. A bit later I remember working on a drawing of a bird nest at school one day and some other kids were impressed. I was very much a “crumbs from the table” kind of boy, and I think this was the first time I had every experienced positive attention from my peers! (Usually attention meant trouble, and sometimes a lot of trouble). At the same time I was getting interested in 19th C. landscape painters, and the impressionists, Fauves and cubists, German expressionists, and so on.
My other enduring interest was games and game structures, and I loved to invent games and rules and systems. And then this was the 60’s and I was waking up to a different way of living and losing interest in my studies, and getting interested in my own kind of metaphysics that combined my interest in systems and art.
So when I left school at 18 I really just fell into the local Foundation course in Art and Design. After that I just wandered round for a few years, but always with this underlying fascination with systems, and structure, and pattern. I started reading books like The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse, The Masks of God by Joseph Campbell, the Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, and the Tao of Physics by Fritjof Kapra, and I got very interested in number systems and symbol systems. This all related back to my interest in abstraction, game structures, and rule based systems. It’s worth noting that this was long before the advent of personal computers, and later these interest all coalesced when I studied for a Master’s Degree in Systems Science, and began programming.
Next I went to to Art College in Sheffield and my interests evolved into some minimalist and conceptual constructions and drawings. I became very interested in vertical and horizontal separations (walls and floors), and corners, and continued to work with number systems and concepts related to measurements and associations between geometric absolutes and nature. Privately I would still paint and draw, much more loosely and expressively than my more formal student work. It think this focus at college was a manifestation of my lack of self-confidence: I felt that my more system-based, conceptual interests were more “serious” and would be more acceptable as valid work, unlike my other work that was more joyful and celebratory of nature. But then when I graduated I found myself with work too large to keep. I had to destroy everything I had done, except for my drawings. I also started thinking about the justification for taking up space on a shrinking planet, which turned me off the idea of making objects for quite a long time. .
Soon after Art School I married an American, Cheri, and moved to the US, where we both became involved in running a small community art center, The Oswego Art Guild, in upstate New York (Oswego lies on the shores of Lake Ontario, north of Syracuse), where I continued to paint and started taking photographs, and teaching art. I later worked as an exhibitions designer in a University Art Museum (at SUNY Binghamton), where I was first introduced to computers and created a database of the Museum’s extensive Art Collection. And then, in the early 80’s, computers showed up! I got hooked, switched gears, obtained a graduate degree in Advanced Technology (!) and began a professional career, teaching computer science and becoming an evangelist for online learning and instructional design, all of which is documented elsewhere on these pages. So .. not much very artwork during this time, which spanned some 20 years!
It wasn’t until my late 40’s, teaching in Asheville, North Carolina, that I started painting again. I no longer thought of myself a a “serious artist”. I just went back to my early love of landscapes and watercolors. I still love the “almost nothing” nature of watercolor painting, the medium agrees with my spirit and the challenge keeps me humble. I mostly just wanted to try to capture my love of of nature, and, while I had some thoughts of making a living by selling my work, I never had enough time to become as skilled as I felt was necessary. I loved the mountain forests and creeks around Asheville, covered with rhodedendron, azalea and mountain laurel, and fileld with the songs of the Carolina Wren, Towhees, and the Pileated Woodpecker.
At 60, I retired and moved
back to the UK with my then wife and still friend Constance. We settled in Durham. Even after the intense beauty of the American wilderness it was a delight for me to come back to the English landscape and the subtle colors and gentler weather that I grew up with. I continued to paint with watercolor and loved trying to capture the most simple things like a mud puddle, or hedge in the mist,and of course those wonderful English paths that lead you through fields and woods, by rivers and streams, over the hills, and beyond..
Sadly my marriage came apart and after an attempt to rebuild, back in the US, I came back to the UK, this time to settle in Scotland, first in Dumfries and now on the Isle of Bute. Recently I started painting with acrylics, and I’m still getting used to the medium and finding my own style. Maybe I will go back to watercolor, we’ll see..
I’ve come to realize that painting is simply a form of meditation for me, and a way to connect to, and celebrate, nature, that always rewards a more careful look, that constantly reminds us that the world of which we are a part is still full of mystery, magic, delight and wonder, and is so much more complex and beautiful than anything our minds can ever imagine or comprehend.