I'm currently living in West Wales with my wife & 4 cats, well 5 really, as Basil the stray has adopted us.
This blog shows two of my greatest passions: Bikes & painting. My first experience of bikes were in my mid teens, starting off with riding my friends 125's & 250's until finally I owned my own at the age of 17 - A Honda CG125. After that I had intended on passing my test and was all ready to buy a Triumph Saint, (A 650cc ex police bike), unfortunately the recession of the early 80's stopped that plan! Many years passed before I could afford a bike again, but the disappointment of missing out on a Triumph has lived with me always and it has remained an ambition that one day I will have one.
Fast forward to the present day and I am back on bikes, Currently a cheap & cheerful Pioneer Nevada 125, which I'm modding as and when I can to look like a 60's/70's style bike. It was while I was saving for this bike that I finally combined my other passion: Painting.
My artistic ability showed itself at an early age, at 5 years old I was making precise enlarged copies of comic characters such as Desperate Dan & the Bash St Kids. At 14, I started developing my own style of realistic watercolour & gouache paintings, usually of birds & butterflies, and often given away to relatives & friends.
I didn't do any serious art then for over a decade. After leaving Hatfield Polytechnic where I was a Computer Science student, I bought myself a new set of watercolours and started to develop my style further. I concentrated on landscapes/village scenes, culminating in one of my most ambitious works, Amberley, in 1993. To me the time taken didn't matter, I just enjoyed making the painting come alive, and the best bit was other peoples expressions when they realised it was a painting.
Through the 90's I worked in IT, Doing the occasional painting of pets or landscapes, but never really thought of painting as a career. The biggest block to this was the time that it took to do a painting - I would think nothing of spending over 150 hours on a single painting, meaning I would only produce 15-20 paintings a year, and that would only be if I did it full time. I would have to charge seriously high prices to make a living, and for the paintings that I did at the time there just wasn't the market for that.
In 2002, I married Barbara - probably the best year of my life for making a good decision! The following year we moved to West Wales to our current home to run a little shop & Post Office. It was long hours, we didn't make much more than we needed to live on, but we were happy doing something to serve the local community. Sadly, the council decided to close the village school, which made keeping the shop open impossible.
I had been a hobbyist framer for a few years, making frames for myself and a few friends, so I reopened the shop as a framing business, investing a not insignificant amount in professional quality equipment. It was slow to take off, but my reputation for quality was spreading and I was building up a good number of loyal customers. I was doing paintings as well, mostly while I was at the Sunday Market at Carew. These were amongst my first acrylic paintings, as well as my first 'large' ones. I was just at the point where the business was starting to make more than I was paying out when the banks decided our economy needed screwing up. Trade fell dramatically, and the result was having to close the shop.
Realising that I wouldn't get a job in the immediate vicinity (That's the main problem of living in a remote rural area... its remote!) I had to start thinking of travelling further afield. My stepson passed his bike test around this time, and seeing his machine made the biking bug bite me again. This is when, with plenty of time on my hands, I painted the first bike painting I'd ever done of the Pioneer, which was a low budget bike I was intending on getting. I was surprised by the result as I'd never considered my style to be suitable for vehicles.
The next painting, The Triumph Rocket, was my first attempt with oils. I found that in wide areas of shading, acrylics were a little too fast drying, ending up streaky and spoiling the photorealistic effect I was aiming for. I thought that oils might work better but my only experience with them was a painting by numbers kit when I was 10. I had thought they might not work with the fine detail I was trying to do but I was wrong! It was while doing this painting that I'd realised I'd found a subject and a medium that I really enjoyed, and that possibly I could make a living at. With the prospects of finding other work looking increasingly bleak, I decided that perhaps I should actually try it!
Now I'm looking to paint the bikes I like the most, which is almost anything pre 1970. It could be nostalgia, but I genuinely believe the bikes from the 60's were the most beautiful ever made. It was a golden decade in many ways. After that time, they started becoming too refined, losing some of that essential character. I think part of it is that you could learn to fix anything on an old bike (and to keep them running reliably you had to!), but modern bikes with their sealed units & computerised engine management systems have become inaccessible to the average owner, losing that intimacy that classic motorcycles give you.
As a final note, if anyone has an old rusty British bike in a shed somewhere that they are willing to give away, I'm looking for a restoration project! Please contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org