I live and work in the London Borough of Croydon and most of my paintings focus on the everyday people and scenes around me. I love painting crowds and groups of people going about their everyday lives. Drawing and painting has always been a way for me to explore the world around me and to come to a better understanding of myself and my community.
I grew up in a tiny village in North Wales, we were surrounded by huge mountains but also by the remains of the slate industry. There was an iron-age fort on a hilltop nearby, our nearest town was Carenarvon with it’s incredible castle which I spent ages wondering around there were legend about every other valley and lake. But the community at that time was struggling, many young people left for work taking the local culture with them and those left behind felt besieged by the few outsiders moving in who spoke a different language, had a different culture and often earned more money.
Growing up in a very isolated environment I found people incredibly difficult, I was painfully shy, panicked in crowds and would avoid anything that might mean dealing with people. But I also realized early on that I was limiting my life in this way and needed to find a way to cope in more social environments which is when I started paying more attention to people and exposing myself more to crowds and to situations where I couldn’t avoid people.
One of the most important things I did was to volunteer with the homelessness charity Simon Community. They were my first experience of London, it was a strange introduction on their try out weekend, walking down Tottenham Court Road talking to all these people that everyone else was ignoring, getting my first view of Big Ben from the back of the ‘tea run’ van taking tea and sandwiches around the rough sleeping sites in the center of town. It was a full time residential volunteering where we lived in the night shelter and surfed bunks in the smallest room in the building because there wasn’t room for everyone. It was a massive learning curve for me in lots of ways and changed my career forever, I had been studying chemistry but afterwards I knew I would never pursue that as a career instead I have spent most of my life working in the charity sector mostly with different anti poverty organisations.
I also did a lot of travelling in my early to mid twenties and this is when I really started drawing people in busy coffee shops and crowds. I found that the more I looked the less frightening and more human people were so I drew as I traveled, worked and volunteered across Europe, Israel, Egypt and off to Australia before landing back in London. Where the drawing took a back seat again for a long time as I rented rooms in shared houses and housing coops moving frequently until I met my future wife. Mel had a flat in Croydon with luxury of a spare room which pretty soon became my studio.
For a better understanding of my inspirations and interests take a look at my boards on Pinterest
Read my interview with the Croydonist blog here