I studied Fine Art painting at the Central School of Art and Design (later to be Central St Martins) and graduated in 1985.
After finding a studio in east London I began to look for other means of financial support. I took a City and Guilds course in Signwriting and found work with a freelance Signwriter. From 1988 to 1991 I worked with Freeform Artworks who were painting murals and hoardings for property development sites.
I then found my way into the film industry and worked as a set painter and scenic artist for the next 28 years.
In 2005/6 I attended part time courses in Digital Design and began to learn how to use programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to realise creative ideas. From 2008-2011 the offer of a job at ‘Timecode Post Production’- a Film/TV Post Production House in Egypt, allowed me to shift direction away from physical painting into digital media, and continue learning new techniques and processes.
I returned to the UK and back into the world of film studios and set construction. I am now positioning myself as primarily a digital artist, thus encompassing any aspect of Visual Art whether it be a commissioned portrait, concept art or a digitally painted background as part of a composited film scene.
A story about me.
In 1985 I graduated from Central School of Art and Design (later to be Central St Martins) with a degree in Fine Art Painting.
Not long after, I took on a studio space at the old Percy Dalton’s Peanut factory in Hackney Wick, east London. The ground floor of the factory was still in operation and I used to watch the forklift drivers unloading hessian sacks full of monkey nuts off delivery trucks.
For further diversion I used to peer through the loading bay plastic flaps at the strange sight of women with hair nets on, attending to a Heath Robinson style conveyor belt transporting assorted nuts to an unknown destination.
Curiosity about spheres of activity outside the Art world led to a City and Guilds course in Signwriting at the Hammersmith and West London College of Building.
Shortly after I found work with a Signwriter working from a basement unit down the Kingsland Rd, Hackney. I pitched up at his workshop in the morning and asked if he had any work- he asked if I had my brushes with me. I sped home on my bike, returned with brushes in hand and worked until midnight to get a large estate agent sign finished.
I could hardly believe how it had happened so quickly.
The next day, Lloyd set me up in the west end painting gold lettering on a solicitor’s window and promptly disappeared, presumably to the pub.
The workshop above his unit was full of lads knocking out vinyl cut signage. Every Friday a Jamaican woman would come to do catering and it was the first time I tasted Ackee and Saltfish. The world seemed to be opening up.
At the time I was entertaining the notion of being a musician and regularly attended a saxophone workshop near Whitechapel, run by the enigmatic John Barker who had played with the ‘Edgar Broughton Band’.
Lucy was one of the students at the class- she played baritone sax and was also an artist.
She was painting murals with Freeform Artworks and suggested I applied for work with them. They took me on and I bade farewell to Lloyd- he was disappointed to lose his new protege so soon and I remember feeling torn up about it.
Working at Freeform Artworks opened up all sorts of possibilities in terms of meeting new people, team work and techniques of image making- all quite liberating after the solitary irrelevance of my windswept studio unit in bleakest pre-hipsterised Hackney Wick.
Having said that, the Percy Dalton art studios housed an illustrious selection of well established mature artists including the sculptor Alison Wilding and Oleg Prokofiev, son of the great composer.
But I still felt irrelevant and out of sorts, although I probably should have stuck with it..
After two years at Freeform Artworks I began to feel restless and the idea of working in the film industry grew in my mind. Either that or sauntering off to India to find work painting cinema billboards and learning to play the Tabla..
Lucy, at Freeform, suggested I contact Harry Metcalfe, a film set constructor who she occasionally worked for, to see about the possibility of some work.
No joy there and I proceeded to cold call everyone I could find in the film industry for the next few months.
Then, out of the blue, a right place, right time moment occurred and I found myself, in the summer of 1990, working on a location set for a film entitled ‘I Hired a Contract Killer’ – the Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki’s first UK based film.
I remember being impressed by the fact that the set, which was a roadside diner, was being built in a car park backing onto Abney Park Cemetery, Hackney, and the director had decided to incorporate a large break in the wall, revealing graves and tombstones, into his set. If I remember rightly, in the film, the diner chef takes a fag break at the back door and muses upon the inexplicable view of a sunlit graveyard.
This world of fabrication and verisimilitude was entirely new to me.
So there I was, up a ladder, painting the diner sign when a voice from behind me bellowed out, “D’ya wanna do my van?” – It was Robin Thistlethwaite, a set construction manager, and I never looked back.
For the next 28 years there ensued a kind of kaleidoscopic fun-fair ride of almost non stop Film and TV set painting work. It was a constant learning process from one job to the next, facing different challenges with new tricks to learn and a constant flow of ideas and feedback from all of my discerning colleagues.
Throughout this period my interest in digital media developed and in 2005 and 2006 I attended part time courses in ‘Digital Design’ at the London college of Communication (formerly the London College of Printing) as part of the University of the Arts London.
I began to learn how to use programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to realise creative ideas.
From 2008-2011 the offer of a job at ‘Timecode Post Production’- a Film/TV Post Production House in Egypt, allowed me to shift direction away from physical painting into digital media and be immersed in the post production environment.
My role was in the graphics area, which covers anything visual that has not been shot on camera, but it was fascinating to observe all the processes involved in editing, compositing, sound mixing, colour grading and so on. Not to mention all the talented people I found myself working alongside.
Work at Timecode continued after the Egyptian Uprising had brought everything to a temporary standstill, but eventually various factors obliged me to return to the UK.
Back into the world of film studios and set construction as well as attempts to enter the UK post production world, which I found somewhat dry and stilted as compared to the Egyptian scene.
A few more years of set painting followed and then I felt it really was time to move on and try to redefine myself.
I am now positioning myself as primarily a digital artist, thus encompassing any aspect of Visual Art whether it be a commissioned portrait, concept art or a digitally painted background as part of a composited film scene.