About me and my work
I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1951 when austere, post-war Britain was still in the grip of rationing. The war had been won and now, six years later, we were still dealing with the aftermath. The harsh rationing went on for years and the old attitudes in society did not break down quickly enough for many people who expected, and deserved, something much more rewarding in their lives, after having struggled and fought throughout five years of war.
The country was tired, worn out and virtually bankrupt. Most people lived out their black and white existence struggling for something better in spite of all the difficulties they faced. Being born in the heart of this “heavy, gloomy atmosphere”, I think with me, along with thousands of other post-war babies no doubt, as soon as we became aware of all this “greyness”, looked across the Big Pond in order to inject some Colour into our lives, I certainly knew I did.
American cultural life flooded my own life back then: Films, Toys, TV shows, Humour, Comics, Music, American cars, all brought much needed joy and vibrancy into my life, and kicked off my lifelong love of America.
Things were getting better by the time I was born though. Everyone was looking forward to the bright future to come with hard-won new institutions such as the National Health Service and a genuine desire by the government to improve housing and education to levels never seen before. Also in the summer of 1951, ‘The Festival of Britain’ opened on the South Bank in London.
The festival was a Labour Party idea in order to provide a “tonic for the nation”. It was organised to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote the British contribution to science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts.
Pictures, photographs and images of all kinds, have been a huge part of my life as far back as I can remember. I collected pictures like I collected music. I used to make little drawing montages using pics cut-out of newspapers and magazines stuck down onto cartridge paper and I would add my own drawing to it.
I knew Art of some sort, was going to be a big part of my life from a very early age. I left school in the summer of 1969 full of hope and youthful inspiration to start a foundation course, prior to taking a Diploma in Art & Design at Newcastle College of Fashion in Bath Lane, Newcastle. Fortunately, or unfortunately, our family fiscal situation at the time prevented me from starting the course, still one of my life’s regrets.
However, as has often happened in my life so far, good fortune was about to play one of its many tricks on me by presenting me with very acceptable solution to learning and earning at the same time. I was lucky enough to get a job as an Art Technician in the Art and Crafts Department of a Teacher Training College in Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne. The job turned out to be worth more a lot more to me than it first appeared.
During my four years of Art Apprenticeship at Fenham, I attended a day release course in photography, helped six lecturers and all the students with their work, as well as learning about all aspects of for arts and crafts, all with the added bonus of getting paid. I remember quietly working away in the background of the Art Studios listening to lecturers explaining quite profound ideas on art and design to students ... invaluable. I was also in charge of the quite expansive departmental library with some of the best books on Art available, many of which I devoured at every opportunity.
By summer 73, I was desperate to get out into the business world and work as a commercial artist. In August 73, I had an unscheduled spell in hospital for five days. It was a bad time for me, but out of such a negative situation, a positive change occurred in my life. While convalescing, I handed in my notice at St Mary's and by September of that year, I started work as a sign designer for 'Pearce Signs', but unfortunately I was made redundant after the three-day-week in early 74.
A major 'see-change' was needed and that's exactly what happened. I had been seriously considering living and working in London for months and months, it was constantly on my mind. I bit the bullet in June 1974, it was the best move ever getting me my first start in advertising. After five years of solid, virtually non-stop working, I left London in May 79 to pursue my career in the United States, however, the time and my state of mind, wasn’t right and I came home a few months later.
Since then I have worked in advertising and related services in both London and the US, my second time there, as well as back home in Newcastle upon Tyne. I have met some pretty amazing creative people in my time, in and out of the business, all of whom have left their mark on me.
Now in my 69th year, with my tired, old eyes and unsteady hands, the innate compulsion to create images, is still with me. As destiny would have it, the advent of computers came along at just the right time. It was 1997, I had done some work on Apple Macs, but PC’s were totally different. I must admit it was difficult at first, but after countless hours of trial and error, I finally got the hang of it.
Finally I had a way of expressing myself again. I could even scan in many of my old, hand-drawn works and find thousands of new ways of manipulating them too. It was a bit of a revelation and I was eager to explore the countless options now at my disposal.
I have been working on both PC’s and Macs, experimenting with old drawings of mine, merging images, manipulating pictures, using a variety of graphic effects, mastering layering and blending techniques, always trying to push the boundaries of the software. It is a fascinating journey producing images that could not have been done in any other possible way other than through the digital medium. I like how different images can be thrown up by accident and pure chance, the unexpected. The sheer number of colours available, their intensity, and the various forms that can be shaped and manipulated, constantly surprises me.
I have never exhibited my work anywhere. It has taken me years to even get round to having my own web site built. Day-to-day work commitments and obligations, have never allowed me the time to attempt such things before.
ART? - Perhaps more than any other subject to do with human activity, everyone has an opinion about Art. With a vast, enigmatic subject like Art, that’s exactly how it should be. Nothing to do with what people produce as art and gets shown in an art gallery or is displayed on a web site for that matter, is a problem to me, nor should it be to anyone else.
We all get what we can from what each of us produces and then move on. Life is too short to ponder on unanswerable questions such as, what is art? The question is so subjective it can’t be answered objectively. We can’t all see the same things and we can’t all like the same things and therefore we can’t all judge the same things.
The image on the right was taken in New York at MOMA in 1999 with my favourite painting, Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie”. We just got away with taking the pic before the security guards were made aware of what we were doing. I could have spent two weeks in that place easily, there was so much to see and experience.
For me, Visual Art in particular, is simply the quaint, old-fashioned idea of creating thought-provoking works which imbues something relevant in the viewer via whatever medium the artist choses. Over and above that, I believe it is something deeply embedded in the human psyche and we cannot do without it. This may seem obvious to those who know a lot about art but not so to those who don’t.
I think Art filters its way through all human visual life either consciously or unconsciously, impacting here and there, responding to various degrees of perception by the viewer. Despite the fact we live in a truly multi-media world now, where images are flashed at us thousands of times a day, there is still this inherent need for the general public to flood into any of our excellent Art Galleries if a new exhibition comes to town. We can’t get enough good static Art to look at.
In a way it is obvious if you believe that we are all part of nature and therefore part of the creative force that drives nature. What else is it if it isn’t pure creativity that lets Nature adapt itself to all the various conditions it encounters by constantly changing itself to suit those various conditions, each time getting slightly more efficient and slightly more beautiful? Beyond beliefs, I think everyone must agree that Nature produces the most beautiful forms spontaneously as a matter of fact and without any apparent intervention.
Whether that comes from the selfish gene and that gene’s inherent need to grow and expand out and take over the world, or whether each little building block of nature is created by design, is something no one can really know for sure. My opinion is just to be satisfied with what it has produced and bask in the wonderment of it all
We have to get back to what actually constitutes a ‘Work’ of Art, quite frankly I don’t know and that may seem obvious when you view my work. However, ignoring any self-deprecating remarks, some say art is anything you want it to be and others that it has to be something specific. I see it simply as about transforming that internal picture I see in my mind, into an external image that will allow others, hopefully, to see the same internal picture.
There is an overwhelming amount of material ‘out-there’ on the world of art, the philosophy of art and all of its whys and wherefores and I’ve done my share of plowing through a lot of it. I’m afraid I’m just too long in the tooth to worry about it now. Is it really that important to the world and the great scheme of things if my work, or anybody else’s for that matter, is considered a work of art or not, I don’t think so? It is something I don’t lose much sleep over these days. I honestly don’t care anymore and I am not being boorish or disrespectful to art, artists and even art critics when I say that. Enough has been said and written about the subject and by far greater intellects and artists than me, but there must come a point in all Artists lives, whatever they do, when the thinking and talking must give way to the making and the doing.
As always happens with anything new in the human world of technology, the Internet and the WWW has smashed all of the old values as to what constitutes good or bad art. It has given a platform for all aspiring artists and artisans to exhibit their work to the world without the need of an agent or gallery. Excluding a few tens of millions it has given the world’s population a means to an ends, a way for them to see, make, display and sell their own art. I feel it will be like Kandinsky’s spiritual pyramid in that all the good art and artists will rise to the top and all the dross will sink to the base.
Everything is open to open interpretation these days especially in the arts. If you’re a committed artist, my attitude is just to get-on and do what you feel is right inside. Let someone else wrestle with the theories and unfathomable, unanswerable questions … “VIVA LA RESOLUTION”.
I will say this though and stand by it. I believe that when someone creates a new and original piece of work, it is by definition, something that was never there before and therefore can only be seen from a subjective point of view. If it is truly original and unique then there is no objective reality to measure it against and no historical reference to connect it with.
As modern, abstract art of the 20th Century is one of my passions, I have often wondered whether or not, some of the old artists of the last century would have embraced the image-making possibilities of the PC or the Mac. I think they would have been hard-pressed not to. Had I been a bit younger, a lot younger perhaps, I might have been able to do a lot more on the computer than just merely ‘getting by’ with what I have picked up myself as a self-taught user.
Of course I realise that people will always like to, and indeed want to, use paint and canvas to paint pictures or pencil and paper to draw them and I am well aware of the value of ‘Life-Drawing’ for any kind of image maker, but for me, it’s computers and the Internet that hold the key to ‘Future Art’.
DIGITAL MONTAGES - Over the course of fifty odd years I have amassed a huge collection of images and cuttings from as early as 1969. Sunday supplements, magazines and newspapers of people, places and nature that meant something to me. Long before personal computers were around, I intended to make a series of montages in the conventional ‘cut and paste’ way, which I loved doing, but alas, the old eyes and hands had some say in the matter.
I made the montages to the right of John Lennon in 1998 in the conventional “cut and paste” way. This was a pic of me taken for the local newspaper. My digital montages were the result of over ten years getting used to using the computer for image manipulation.
LOTTOART - Another facet of my work includes experimental abstract layouts based solely on ‘Chance & Order’. I am very interested in the way chance and probability events play out in art and life and I wanted to devise a way of expressing and exploring these thoughts and ideas. My inspiration came from the British constructivist artist, Kenneth Martin. He used graph paper and various set co-ordinates to produce his chance and order paintings of 1960’s. I started off by using pretty simple bar charts before moving onto more complex grids and charts.
I like the fact that in art, any piece that takes its final finished form from the results of unplanned, chance events; it presents us with the sort of objective truth that would difficult to replicate by subjective analysis. KM picked numbers at random from a bag and then threw a die to see how many lines, (6,5,4,3,2 or 1) would make up the line between those points. He then overlapped each set as they were chosen in real time. The artist’s emotions and subjectivity are kept in check because they are striving for truthful expression through a methodology and medium they basically have no control over.
‘LottoArt’ is about my graphic experiments with chance and probability. My idea was to give unplanned, chance events a visually stimulating structure by randomly choosing numbers in real time and assigning them a sequential colour and shape, and then placing them in a grid in order to record the results. I used the UK National Lottery game method as a way to extract numbers picked out by chance.
I devised a number of different grid arrangements to show how my experiment would work using a variety of sizes and shapes, mainly squares, rectangles and lines. I chose the six colours of the rainbow to match each of the six numbers chosen in a timed sequence of red first, then orange, yellow, green, blue and finally violet. I wanted to show if there was a link between chaos and order, symmetry and irregularity had if there was a hidden beauty within their spheres of operation.
My exploration into this project has given me a fascinating insight into the machinations and mysteries associated with order and chaos, chance and probability, symmetry and irregularity. It would be great if others find the same.
POSTCARDS - These are a series of black and white postcards I drew between 1982 and 1985 (I digitised and colourised them in 2002). Although they’re quite crude, they do represent a seminal moment in my art life. Two documentaries shown on TV at the time also helped a lot, Jacob Bronowski’s, ‘The Ascent of Man’ and Jonathan Miller’s, ‘States of Mind’. This was a time of finding out and learning for me culminating in an eye-opening, mind-expanding, back-packing trek around SouthEast Asia in the summer of 1985.
I used a high precision, 0.1mm Rotring Rapidograph technical pen, the thinnest size they make, to draw the originals onto smooth Diamond Board. I couldn’t draw them now, my eyes are not good enough and my hands not steady enough. I really had to concentrate hard when drawing these; it got pretty complicated at times?
I love Islamic Art and the patterns Arabic Artist/ Mathematicians made to decorate Mosques and other religious buildings. This led to a love of all geometric patterns all the cultures of the world have used at some point in their zeniths. I try to incorporate a few of those patterns into these postcard works.
I had borrowed a great old wooden, free-standing, parallel motion drawing office board which I had in a spare bedroom. I would squirrel myself away in there with my music and certain other substances that helped me concentrate and think, and work into the night, through the night quite often. I loved background listening music when I am working, Brian Eno’s ambient music, or some of Klaus Schultz German Electronic stuff, or on the odd occasion, Philip Glass.
There’s no greater place for an artist to be than in that special space that suits and compliments the thoughts and ideas going through their heads. That’s why Human Art is so subjective in its core, essential nature, we all think differently, unless of course, we’re of a sheep mentality. We each bring our own unique experience and knowledge to a work of art and it’s up to the individual to judge whether it has merit or not; whether it is good or bad, or more importantly, whether we like it or not?
WAVES OF JOY - The title of this series of images “Waves of Joy,” comes from John Lennon’s song, “Across the Universe”. “Pools of sorrow, waves of joy, Are drifting through my opened mind, Possessing and caressing me”. It’s one of my favourite John Lennon songs, pure 20th Century pop/rock poetry.
The image on the right is one I made of John Lennon in an attempt to illustrate that particular line - “Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy”. I could see in my mind’s eye, billions of waves streaming through my mind, the minds of others, and then of course through everything. I suddenly realised, at the heart of everything in the universe, is a one form of energy or another, and waves are the method of transportation of the elusive energy in everything we see, touch and hear, and more importantly perhaps, everything we don’t see, we can’t touch and we are unable to hear.
How can Nature make, and then take, this one basic, invisible property, Energy, and from it, create everything in the Universe? I realise this question is not for the likes of me to answer, a total laymen and image maker; it is a question for far greater minds than mine, whether they are scientists, religious leaders, or philosophers. I only know that I just love the idea that from this one single source everything we know, from the smallest known particle, the Quark, to the largest Stars in the Universe, and everything in between, is basically energy in one form or another.
“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena; it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence. To understand the true nature of the universe, one must think it terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
This now famous quotation from Nikola Tesla has been playing on my mind for many years now. The behaviour of waves or vibration can be explained using its energy and frequency or wavelength. To realise and understand that our whole perception of reality is based on our ability to decode/encode information in these waves was a revelation to me.
After wracking my brains trying to wonder how energy can be graphically represented in a form that makes sense. How can I illustrate something that is invisible and impossible to describe? I couldn’t of course, which is why I came to think about energy’s method of transference … Waves.
Waves are much easier to visualise than energy. Like energy, waves are everywhere, all around us, inside of you and me and everything in the Universe, from the smallest known particle, the Quark, to the largest Stars in the Universe. Waves make patterns and this was something I could work with. After making general wave pattern illustrations, I wanted to make them more relevant to the human condition.
This led to me doing in-depth research into the human brain; the most complex and functional masterpiece nature has yet created. I immersed myself in finding out about what happens to the brain when it goes wrong or gets slightly out of kilter. Most of my WOJ images are based on aspects of the bi-polar brain and my vane attempts to illustrate an abstract, graphic representation of the inner workings of such a brain.
MISCELLANEOUS, PORTRAITS, AFRICA AND WORDS - My miscellaneous page is made up of different artworks, that don’t necessarily fall into any of the categories I’ve made up for the web site. The portrait pages are of different film stars and pop and rock stars I admire. In my series of African images, I used Ethnic African backgrounds overlaid with stylized motifs taken from various Modern Art paintings in the style of artists such as Miro, Pollack, Kandinsky, Klee and Hundertwasser.
My “words” page contains typographical illustrations of what I consider to be meaningful quotations as well as favourite poems of mine that do not necessarily have a connection with each other.
All the low resolution images I have to use for my web site do not reflect the quality of a finished physical print. Final Art prints are printed using high quality, 300 dpi images; the images on the web site are at 72 dpi. The artworks under the “words” group of images are saved on the web site at 150 dpi. At 72 dpi the lettering was just too broken up and virtually unreadable. The finished prints are at 300 dpi as are all of the finished prints I make. I sell the prints framed or unframed.
Here are a few examples of framed prints … All my frames are plain, matt black, wooden frames with a matt black mount and 2mm safety acrylic glass. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me through my contact page.