Artists aren’t expected to have fixed routines but looking back, we see a pattern repeated over several years now. This can only reflect John’s pure luck in finding the right people in the right places who are happy to promote his work – to other ‘right’ people! All are much appreciated.
However, times do change, people retire, galleries change hands, close. Other interests and distractions creep in: golf commitments, a fascinating iPad, ongoing illustration of a fundraising book for NBCT*, an energetic grandson, friends who live in exotic locations.
Still John manages to keep up his prolific output of paintings for galleries and an ever-surprising flow of commissioned work.
Whilst he was still teaching in Malawi, John used school holidays to satisfy his constant interest in painting. Encouraged by the enthusiasm shown for his work – and for his prowess on the rugby pitch – an unlikely mix! This it was, that spawned the early exhibitions where much fun was had with irreverent banter amid the polite invited dignitaries.
For example: 1970 saw the first traffic lights installed in the country, thus John’s vivid image of a reflected sunset was renamed “Traffic lights at Ginnery Corner.”
At a preview evening, a late-comer hurried in from the rugby club having promised to choose a painting for his wife. Seeing many red spots marking sold work, asked “What’s left?” and without even looking, paid for the last one.
A groom’s wedding gift, a painting of tree roots, was rejected by a rugby bride who complained of it having ‘phallic overtones’. Quite unintentional!
In later years, a return visit to Malawi once revealed an oil painting: The owner, who fondly referred to it as his ‘Gin and tonic, ice and lemon’, was astounded that the artist didn’t recognize it as his own work. Gradually, it dawned on John what it was – a semi-abstract landscape, from a series based on rocks and the moon, hanging up sideways on the wall!
Towards the end of that ‘era’, John realised that painting in oils was too slow for him. Also, he was thinning them to the consistency of watercolour to create the effects he wanted.
So, on returning to live in UK after 12 fun-filled years in Malawi, he began to experiment with the qualities of watercolour paints and papers. It was from that point that he developed a style, which is widely recognized and admired – even by rugby players!
A recent holiday in Cape Town led to much sketching, the sparkling light on the sea, textures of the landscape– full of interest and colour. But an earlier working trip to Dubai took John into remote areas of Oman where he was able to soak up the still quiet atmosphere in the mountains and wadis, which is what he so enjoys capturing in his work.
See John’s year plan for events and exhibitions he is to be involved in. We hope up update it from time to time. His work is usually on display in all of the galleries mentioned, including the Majlis Gallery in Dubai. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in the stockroom – things get changed around from time to time.
* Nkhudzi Bay Community Trust supports Mwenyama, a village on the shores of Lake Malawi, with schooling, vocational training and health needs.