Number 5 in the History of my Archive in 10 Objects, is this triple set of bird studies from early 1977.
Buzzard, Kingfisher, Long-Eared Owl. Watercolour on paper, 1977
I was 17, I was about to leave school and start a foundation course at the now-gone and much lamented Bournville School of Art, I was full steam ahead for a career in illustration, the world of graphic art, experimentation and adventure awaited.
But all that was in the future – in the meantime I was generating some income from selling these kinds of traditional studies in a local giftshop/framing gallery in Mere Green. The owner, Mrs Gameson, was extremely supportive of my work and gave me wall space to display and sell pictures of wildlife and familiar scenes of Sutton Coldfield, in watercolour (as here) or pen and ink. Gameson Gallery on Belwell Lane also managed me as an artist on commission – word of mouth recommendations led me to draw many of the big houses on the private estate in Four Oaks, I’d cycle with sketchpad and ink bottle to anywhere that wanted a drawing – unfortunately this came to an end when one customer returned their house sketch, upset that I’d included the washing on her line in the drawing.
Virtually everything I painted at that time was sold by the gallery, but these three studies survived because they were a birthday gift to my mum in January 1977. I believe they were amongst my first attempts to paint in pure watercolour (that is, just paint, no pen lines).
I carried on working with the Gameson Gallery even after I started my Foundation course, right up until I left for Manchester, Mrs Gameson gave me my first ever one-man (or one kid!) exhibition, mostly wildlife paintings. My parents were particularly proud of this and my father was disappointed when I drifted away from such work. Being an artist in the eyes of my father was to paint attractive pictures, exhibit them, sell them and put them on the wall. He could never really get to grips with my choice to be an illustrator rather than a gallery fine artist, there was a suspicion I was under-selling my talents. I’ll always remember him saying “when are you going to paint a proper picture I can put on the wall?” By “proper”, he meant a landscape, seascape or genre oil painting. But eventually he did come round to understanding my creative path.
The fact remains though, of all the work I created and showed my parents in the intervening years, the one thing that never left their walls, on display without a break for nearly forty years from 1977 until 2016, were these three bird studies.
I always wonder what became of Mrs Gameson…