I am asked quite frequently why my work has changed a lot over the years. Given that next year I will. have been a professional artist for fifty years, this is a good time to write about this subject.
Just as we develop ourselves and become more of who we really are, our artistic voice does the same. With every life experience we change and grow – which in turn is mirrored in our art.
Teachers influence – plus our patrons and the demands of our audience. All of this along with the general socioeconomics, political and cultural climate that we find ourselves in have a play in the way we view the world and consequently are artistic voice.
It’s so important not to judge an artist on one painting or one exhibition. Learning about the life of an artist will help to understand their journey and changes in their work.
The next two photographs show where my journey as an artist began. I was sixteen years old when I received a scholarship to the Medway College of Arts in Rochester Kent. It is now under the umbrella of the University of the Creative Arts.
I was very fortunate to go there when the college was still at the old East Gate location, (shown here) rather than the new campus between Rochester and Chatham.
The Entrance to Medway College of Art in Rochester Kent (now part of University of the Creative Arts)
Charles Dickens’ Swiss Chalet writing house in the grounds of East Gate. I have very happy memories of sitting in the little garden in front of the chalet with my fellow art students.
After art school I left for the United States where I lived and worked for twenty-eight years until I returned to the UK/Europe on 1993.
By 1975 (the year my daughter was born and my son was eight years old) I had my first solo exhibition at the Chester County Arts Association in West Chester, Pa. At the same time I was represented by Newman Galleries of Philadelphia who carried my ‘wildlife’ work.
First exhibition at The Chester Country Arts Association – November 1975
Even then I realised that I was not interested in taking the conventional path of getting galleries and having exhibitions. From the get go I wanted to explore my creativity in different ways and allow it to mirror my life journey.
After quite a few years of selling through galleries and exhibiting, I spent several summers with artist friends painting on Isle au Haut an island off the coast of Maine – part of Acadia National Park.
It was on this Island that I had an incredible awakening to the fact that all of life is interconnected. I knew then that I was the rock and the rock was me….at the time it was profound and has been the basis of so much of my painting and writing over the years.
One of the first large paintings of rock formations on Isle au Haut. Along with large canvases I was also producing many watercolours of these beautiful rocks. .
I would take these sketches and paintings back to my studio in West Chester where I would incorporate the human form.
This painting is about the moment we humans turn our backs on one another. We might stay connected for years, but the backs have been turned.
There are numerous paintings in this series, most of them in private collections. I continue to work on this theme up until this day.
One of the more recent paintings in this series. Note as the series has evolved and my life changed swans and hummingbirds have been added….Everything is interconnected….
Around 1984 Bonnie Paul an art consultant came into my life and suggested that I take on mural commissions which was a great way to make income. This was the beginning of our working together on many mural projects.
Here I am with my daughter Christie in front of the mural for The Philadelphia Heart Institute. These jobs were all about making income which would give me the freedom to paint what I wanted to paint. The spec for this painting – was Fairmount Park with the city of Philadelphia in the background.
Around the same time I purchased an old carriage house on Prescott Alley in West Chester Pa….It had no heat and running water but was a fantastic work space. Unbeknownst to me an architect Carl Massara was renovating an old building at the end of Prescott Alley at great cost. He was having trouble renting the space and asked if I would lend my creativity to the building….He gave me carte blanch.
I painted this mural plus I designed and built three large hanging mobiles. The bottom line is that after a large opening reception…all spaces in the building were rented out. Job done.
My friend `Patricia Strawbridge in front of the large mural I painted. Once again the theme was all about interconnections.
A detail from the large mural. oil on panel
Three kinetic hanging mobiles I designed and built for the building.
From the mid eighties until I returned to the UK/Europe in 1993 I produced a large series of still life paintings featuring quilts. These paintings are in private and corporate collections.
Symbolic autobiographical still life. – oil on canvas
Large oil on canvas self portrait. – note it is in my autobiographical still life.
Throughout the years my watercolours have been with me. After returning to the UK/Europe I began painting watercolour portraits – and can safely say that I have left a paper trail of portraits around Europe and in the States where I have returned many times to work.
In the UK/Europe I continued to paint murals….work on a project for children based on Christeve the Cat….and teach in many different countries.
So what about the hummingbirds?
I began incorporating them into some of my large paintings about forty years ago. They symbolise the ‘unseen’ energy and magic in the world. I believe that they are with me wherever I go.
Like everything else the hummingbirds are not separate….but interconnected with all the other work I have done and will do.
Remember never to judge an artist on one painting, one exhibition or for that matter one series of paintings………
I almost forgot to mention that I am writing a book entitled ‘Born with a Silver Egg Cup’
More can be read on FB