BORN IN ROCHDALE 1949
ROCHDALE COLLEGE OF ART
ST MARTINS SCHOOL OF ART
FROM 1964 -1971
LAST EXHIBITED 1972
I think I must have been about 12 when the new art teacher joined the school.
Miss Wiggins' hair was blonde, in a beehive style. She wore short micro skirts, sometimes with tassels. She would arrive at the school on her cobalt blue Vespa in hairnet and rollers. I think she was the best thing to ever happen to me. She told me I could draw. Got me to go to Saturday morning classes and encouraged me to join the Rochdale College of Art when I left School just before my 15th birthday. She had then, apparently, saved me from a life working in some factory.
I was lucky. Rochdale was thought to be one of the best provincial art colleges. Good tuition combined a traditional approach with acceptance of new ideas, resulting in an impressive pool of students. I enrolled on a one year Prelim course then a two year Pre-Diploma. This gave me experience of a wide range of art disciplines, which was invaluable for my artwork and essential in my life time career.
In 1968 I was accepted directly into St Martin’s School of Art, without any of the academic qualifications normally required, to take a three year degree course in painting. I was considered by the School to be an exceptional student.
My time at St. Martin's was both exciting and confusing. It was a time of great change, not only in the arts but also in politics, popular culture, fashion and music. The School was a leader in breaking down traditional boundaries between disciplines. It was here that I studied alongside contemporaries who went on to be successful in a wide range of careers.
The new 'conceptual' thinking in the art world was difficult for me. I looked for alternative approaches in fields such as writing and film making, but I missed my direct way of painting. I missed my background. I didn’t want to invent a painting style or gimmick in order to be 'recognised'.
After obtaining my degree and leaving St Martin’s I needed to support my family. I became a textile designer, and enjoyed a very successful and fruitful career.
However, and most importantly, I never stopped producing personal artwork - privately. A key aspect of this has been my need for artistic freedom:
- freedom from being classified as a particular type of artist;
- freedom to make art based on my own life experiences;
- freedom to express myself without feeling limited by ability or technique;
- freedom from the demands of commercial galleries or clients to produce a particular kind of work;
- freedom from the influence of others’ opinions on my work.
In now exhibiting my work for the first time in over 45 years I realise that this last freedom could become more difficult to maintain. People will have their opinions about what they see and are of course welcome to express them. However I don’t feel this will alter my basic approach of never working to commission or producing artwork for anybody but myself.