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Gordon King.

History & Background.

Painting has been my life for as long as I can remember. Having won numerous competitions as a child I went on to study Life Drawing at Reading University Art School, then trained as a figurative illustrator at the prestigious Carlton Studios in London. Following my National Service in Paris as a Draughtsman in the Royal Signals (where I still managed to spend most of my time painting) I spent the next few years working freelance, illustrating for national magazines, books and advertising agencies as well as doing portrait commissions.

I had my first one-man show in 1971, opened by the late Sid James, and subsequently exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour. My first national best selling print ‘My Fair Lady’ was published in 1983 and I have now been in print for over 30 years with numerous one-man shows.

In 1999, to celebrate my 60th birthday, my second book ‘Drawn to Life’ was published featuring paintings from my exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery in the ICC, Birmingham. That same year I was voted ‘Published Artist of the Year’ by the Fine Art Trade Guild and had a painting accepted into the Singer & Friedlander Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

Charitable projects have included Save the Children with HRH The Princess Royal, who also wrote the forward to my first book ‘A Romance with Art’; BBC’s Children in Need Appeal; a portrait of Sir Norman Wisdom on the Black Watch Cruise Ship in aid of the RNLI, and three limited editions of Darcey Bussell in aid of the Alzheimer’s’ Society

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Ideas & Inspirations.

Figurative painting has always inspired me, the human form being my main love. The sheer wonder of creating life in paint, achieving a likeness of someone in a portrait but putting something of me in as well, or the thought that if I flicked my fingers the painting could come to life.

I am a sentimentalist. Romance, happiness and emotion can all be seen in my paintings whether it be a studio pose or the excitement of the Carnival Ball in Venice, the race goers at Royal Ascot, picnickers at Henley Regatta, or the movements of a dancer at the Royal Ballet. I am always looking for something special – it could be the way the light falls across a face, a particular look, the shadows across a floor, the texture of fabric or the sensuous feel of silk.

I also love the sea with its ever-changing colour and constant movement. My paintings of girls have seen me up to my knees in water capturing the waves around a figure walking in the sea or on wet sand trying to get in just the right position to see the mirrored reflection on the beach.

The garden, too, is a frequent setting for my work. I have always been fascinated by old wheels and statues so these have featured alongside the girls with a variety of pots and flower baskets, perhaps by the garden gate, on the stone steps or under the old apple tree.

In the studio, working on classic nude studies, I create a set using various drapes around a chaise longue, then look for a particular pose or shape. The face tends to be the focal point, generating a sense of excitement as I work my way across the various features in three-dimension.

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From Palette to Picture.

I have painted in most mediums over the years – the lushness of oils, the translucent softness of watercolour, the simplicity of pastel. Life Drawing is the basis of my work – a strong discipline inbred from my early days. Even in a landscape the figurative content will be my focal point regardless of how small that content is.

My watercolour paintings begin with the composition being lightly drawn in very pale paint. I always think of the composition as a whole and want to keep the painting flowing along in constant motion, building up the colour layer by layer. I have a ‘magic triangle’ working from palette to subject to easel, thus keeping the focus of attention in one place at any one time.

As I work I think in terms of light-to-dark, dark-to-light, shape against shape, tone against tone, which gives depth and contrast. Colours range from near monochrome to a mass of colour. My watercolour technique requires more discipline than my oils, as I never use Chinese White, preferring to use the paper as my white. I am always anticipating the excitement that comes from the near abstract washes, the way the paint on a wet surface reacts in such a unique and wonderful way to give you that explosion of colour.

When painting a portrait I never think about the final picture – I concentrate on the lights and darks within the overall shape and as long as these are right the likeness will follow.

It’s always difficult to know when a painting is finished - it might hang on my wall for several weeks, taking it down every now and then to add a few more flicks of the brush before I feel happy that it is ready to go.

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A day in the Life of...

I love an early start to the day, up in my studio looking out across the village of Chalfont St Peter in the Buckinghamshire countryside with my first cup of black coffee in my hand, pottering around cleaning out my water pots and tidying up a bit.

Once I begin work I have several paintings on the go – perhaps the final details on a large oil, or planning a new watercolour or a portrait in progress. I like having a background of radio talk, some of which I take in, much of which I miss, as I tend to become totally absorbed in what I’m doing.

By 9 o’clock the mail will have arrived, the phone starts ringing and I am on my second cup of coffee having a quick look at the papers. A model might be arriving shortly when I will try various poses in the studio, sketching away until I settle on the one to paint.

Lunch is usually a quick snack but sometimes I’m tempted by the village pub. Depending on the weather, in the afternoon we may move into the garden to find a different background – some stone steps, a hanging basket, always looking for something special.

I have worked with most of the girls for several years. Sometimes they come to the studio, other times I go to them i.e. to the south coast, or at the Royal Ballet. A couple more hours in the studio will round off the day’s work before Mary and I go through the e-mails and correspondence that come from all over the globe.

In the evening I relax with a glass of red wine and look forward to perhaps a game of tennis, a theatre visit or a casual meal with friends.

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