The year of 1967 (when I was 16) proved to be a significant turning point in my life; not only did I start at Medway College of Art in Kent, but on the first day I met Sally who was later to become my future wife.
Up until that time I had got used to being acknowledged as the ‘arty one’ from my class mates as I travelled through the educational system of primary and secondary school; it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I started my time at Art College. I was finally there!
For the next three or four years I totally immersed myself in work first at Medway and then Walthamstow. Eventually I had enough of student life and was desperate to start my life as a proper artist, so I left College before my degree.
Ah! The optimism of youth. Needless to say my parents were none too pleased in me dropping out of a graduate course - so I had to find a job!
Thankfully it was around this time I had bumped into my recently retired head of department at Medway who invited me to teach drawing at the local adult education centre, this I did for a number of years whilst I continued to paint and display my work in local galleries. By 1974 I realised that as my classes were becoming more numerous and were taking up more of my time than painting that I needed to make a decision about the sort of artist I wanted to be.
Therefore Sally (who was now working as a display artist at Peter Jones in Sloane Square) and I decided we needed an adventure and a move away from the humdrum routine that is so necessary to survive in a city.
So, much to our parents consternation at 23 years old we bought an old 1958 Ford Prefect and travelled to the very tip of the highlands just a few miles east of Cape Wrath, where on a previous visit we had managed to rent an old shepherds cottage (without electricity) miles from anywhere next to a salmon loch.
For 28 years we lived there (the first 10 without electricity) eking a living off my paintings and summer jobs that Sally and I took on.
After 6 years we had started a family and even though I was showing regularly at various Scottish galleries like the 369 Gallery in Edinburgh, I still had to continue my summer job as a gillie during the deer-stalking season (a pursuit I did for over 30 years) as it was still difficult financially to bring up a growing family.
So in 1979 just after the birth of the first of our three children I travelled to London to show my portfolio to David Larkin of Picador books. Always an avid reader I noticed that book covers were changing, becoming more arty, and Picador books were in a class of their own, so “hey!” I thought, “I could do that!”
Without an appointment I ‘blagged’ my way into seeing Mr Larkin and although he was none too pleased he agreed to see my portfolio.
After I had left, they commissioned me to produce the artwork for two book covers ‘Imaginary life’ by David Malouf and ‘Wild Nights’ by Emma Tennant. Little did I know that these two books would start my illustration career; considering we still didn’t have electricity or a phone we were amazingly lucky.
Eventually in 1984 we got electricity and a phone, and I went on to join the prestigious London Agency, Artist Partners.
Over the years I have illustrated literally hundreds of book covers for authors such as Kingsley Amis, Beryl Bainbridge, Sue Townsend, Philip Pullman (Sally Lockhart Quartet’ recently portrayed by Billie Piper in the BBC adaptation) But also picture books such as ‘The Sand Children’ by Joyce Dunbar and the ‘Narnia Chronology’ by CS Lewis ( published in May 08)
Also my varied illustration techniques have been analysed, alongside other leading international illustrators in ‘The New guide to Illustration’ (Phaidon Press 1990).
But throughout this time as a Fine Artist I have continued to exhibit my own work, having a one-man exhibition at the Latham Gallery, Roanoke, Virginia in 1996, alongside various shows in Scotland and England since. Recently I had a sell out exhibition of my ‘White Wood’ series at the Robin Tallantyre Gallery in Morpeth, Northumberland at the beginning of September 08.
In 2000, when the last of our children left home, Sally and I moved a few miles east from our shepherd’s cottage to our local village where I now have my new studio.