ccording to my close friends, I was hatched in a wood, under a gnarled, mossy oak tree. Unfortunately it’s not true. I was delivered, in the conventional way, by a stork, to my parents in Bolton. Either the stork knew what it was doing or I was extremely lucky, for both my parents were artists and could turn their hands to anything creative. They were both equally skilled but in completely different mediums and techniques. My father was a bookbinder and calligrapher; my mother an oil painter. The preparation and the concentration, in applying their knowledge and expertise to create something from nothing, was bewitching.
My parents nurtured my creativity and imagination. Our home was always filled with the smell of linseed oil as my mum painted. She could match any colour and shape; with one sweep of the brush she could create something instantly recognisable. My father drew, measured, wrote and gilded. He would expertly take a sheet of gold leaf, apply to Ox-Gall and smooth the gold without a wrinkle or tear. Then he would burnish the gold with a bloodstone or agate. Suddenly, a book would transform into a treasure: a work of art. I found the whole process magical. It seemed that all the paints and mediums, in fact the entire process, was some sort of alchemy and I was the apprentice. I was spellbound and curious. I still am.
Fairy Folk by an Old Gnarled Tree – Arthur Rackham. stock.adobe.com
y childhood was spent betwixt the city in Lancashire and the countryside in Cheshire. Spending so much of my informative years growing up on a remote farm on the Pennines made me rely on my imagination for entertainment. My world was dominated by nature, especially by animals. I discovered that I related to the animals and understood them more than I did humans. I began to recognise their quirks and quiddities, to see their characters, as well as understand their natural instincts, emotions and group behaviours. I also came to appreciate that nature can be as gruesome as it is beautiful.
Influences & Style
hilst studying Philosophy and English Literature my particular interest was the rise of fantasy and fairytales in the Victorian period and their accompanying illustrations. I was also in admiration of, and influenced by, authors such as Angela Carter and The Bloody Chamber, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Christina Rossetti, Tolkien, Susanna Clarke and the animal poetry of Ted Hughes. I went on to study creative writing for my master’s degree. However, on completion of my degree, my writing endeavours were surpassed by my artistic success and I became a professional artist.
I am still writing though and many of my art works illustrate my writing. My work is both illustrative and fine art. Illustrative, in the sense that the majority of my work is illustrating a narrative, but fine art because of the techniques, discipline, skills and the need for an aesthetic as well as narrative purpose. Literature and art are similar in many ways and combining the two can enrich them, just as the Renaissance did with classical literature and the Pre-Raphaelite’s did with prose and poetry. For me having a narrative behind a painting adds depth.
These interests, alongside my fascination with the natural world has led to my unique style: a mix of realism, imagination and fantastical. In many ways my style could be termed magical realism.
Rabbit as Herald. Date: 1865 John Tenniel. stock.adobe.com
rtistic influences include: the Pre Raphaelites, who used poems and literature as the basis for their work, the Renaissance period which promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art; Art Nouveau which drew inspiration from organic forms, evolving elegant designs with flowing, natural forms which resembled the stems and blossoms of plants.
‘Siegfried’ by Aubrey Beardsley 1893
Act II of Richard Wagner’s opera Siegfried. Published in the first issue of the art magazine The Studio in April 1893.
tists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Antoni Gaudí and Gustav Klimt are my favourites. Additionally, I find Piero Di Cosimo, Albrecht Dürer and Hieronymus Bosch intriguing. You may also detect influences from Arthur Rackham, George Cruikshank, John Tenniel, Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac and Charles Perrault in my work.
Albrecht Dürer Rhino wood engraving 1915 . Adobe stock.com
The style of Alphonse Mucha
y art is in private collections around the world and I have developed a growing number of collectors. My work has appeared in a number of printed and digital publications. In 2019 I exhibited in London with the Society for Graphic Fine Art. I rarely exhibit though as it takes a great deal of time to create each piece and my work is sometimes purchased before it is completed.
In 2016 when I moved to Dartmoor, there were no independent art galleries for local artists; so I opened my own gallery: Wildwood Arts. If I am not in my studio working, or walking on the moors with my dog, then I am in the gallery surrounded by wonderful art, ceramics and jewellery by over 50 different local artists and all handpicked and curated by me.
My work is on permanent display at Wildwood Arts on Dartmoor National Park. The best time to find me at the gallery is on Fridays and Saturdays between 10am and 4pm, but you are most welcome to book an appointment at other times between Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. Just e-mail or call me.