Born in Sussex in a small village at the foot of the South Downs, my mother told me I began drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Though a clever child, I wasn’t particularly keen on school, prefering to be sliding down mud slopes in the beech woods or cantering across the windswept Downs on a pony.
When I was 15 my family moved to Ilkley in Yorkshire, another beautiful area where I loved to sketch the bracken-clad moors, mossy stone walls and tumbling streams.
On leaving school I attended Bradford Art College to take a Foundation Course in Art, which was followed by a degree at Leeds Polytechnic, where I attained a B.A.(Hons.) in Illustration.
Never fancying the idea of 9 to 5 in a stuffy office, jobs in various bars and restaurants followed, while I struggled to make a living from my artwork. I undertook commissions for pet portraits and would work late into the night in a tiny box-room studio in my parents’ house, straining my eyes under a single daylight bulb, my very own ‘garret’!
In an attempt to save money for a much-desired trip round South America, I chanced upon a small, isolated community on the far Northwest coast of Scotland, called Achiltibuie, where I landed a job in the local Summer Isles Hotel. A bit culture-shocked at first, it wasn’t long before I realised I had found somewhere truly special and unique with a lifestyle that suited me completely, and it was several long years before I was able to drag myself away from the wild, rugged landscape and warm, welcoming bar to begin the travelling I’d always dreamed of.
For several years I spent the summers in Achiltibuie, returning to Ilkley each winter, but as time progressed the ‘returning’ grew more and more difficult, and in 1990 I decided to make my life in the place that had captured my heart. I went to live on Tanera Mhor (one of the Summer Isles), where I spent 4 unforgettable years, surrounded by chickens, ducks, cats and the occasional otter.
In 1993 (and initially commuting by boat), I opened my first gallery, “Picture Shack”, in a large old tin-roofed barn, which had originally been the village kirk.
Visitors appreciated my pastel and pencil interpretations of the local landscapes and Picture Shack went from strength to strength, in 3 different premises, for 14 years until, with the itch never having really left my feet, I took the heartwrenching decision to give up what had become an idyllic and comfortable lifestyle and moved to Morocco, where I lived on the edge of the Sahara in a small, dusty town called Erfoud.
A complete contrast to the damp greenness of Scotland, yet similar with its vast, empty, rugged landscapes, I learned to love the silent desert and its rhythms. Finding new artistic inspiration, and with experience working as a tour guide in this fascinating region, I started “Painted Desert” sketching holidays. These trips are no longer running; however I am always searching for new destinations and am confident of finding somewhere suitable very soon! This will be detailed on my “Painting Holidays Abroad” website.
2 years after leaving Scotland I returned, this time to the remote region of Assynt.
In 2009, in its 4th premises and with all my previous “guest artists” back on board, Picture Shack reopened, now in the centre of Lochinver village.
Now, after 3 happy years reacquainting myself with the mountains and beaches as well as my ever-loyal customers, my gallery-running days are over, as I wish to concentrate on other ventures and spend more quality time in the outdoors. A recent placement at a leatherback sea turtle project in Costa Rica has left me surer than ever of the direction I would like my life to take. However, I will continue to paint and my work will still be showcased in Lochinver: the gallery, now renamed “Lochinver Landscapes”, remains in place and under new management, ready to welcome customers old and new.
For details of my work and where else to find it, visit my “Picture Shack “website.
For details of my other projects, where I am and what I’m up to, visit my “blog” page.