Paul Horton says “I wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember, on recalling my childhood it seems I was always drawing and painting – it became the very fabric of my life. I owe my art teacher so much, he made art such an enjoyable subject and I spent many happy hours in the art room. The freedom, guidance and encouragement received during my formative years set the foundations for my artistic career.
I studied drawing and painting at Bournville School of Art, specialising in life drawing and history of art. I also set out on a career within the printing industry, managing to combine this with an ever-developing style of work in both fine art and illustration, selling and exhibiting my work at regular intervals.
It wasn’t until the autumn of 1997 that I turned professional, dedicating for the first time ever, all of my energy into my art. I held a major one-man retrospective exhibition in the summer of 1998 entitled ‘All in a Life’s Work’, which was a personal selection of paintings representing my artistic journey. This innovative exhibition also featured a live concert by rock star Steve Harley, who has enjoyed major success, including the classic No. 1 ‘Make Me Smile (Come up and see me)’. I have always found inspiration through words and music and the creativity and poetic quality of Steve Harley’s music has strongly influenced my artistic development. I am honoured and delighted that such a talented and inspirational figure such as Steve has supported my work over so many years.
‘The Journeyman’ was the first of my paintings to combine a character within a street scene. This has lead to a new style of subject matter based on street life, whether reflecting everyday happenings or capturing the nostalgia of an industrial age. I like to think there is a poignancy and spirit within these works.
Growing up in Birmingham in the sixties and seventies has given me so many memories to draw upon; it has given me my identity and working class ethic. The working man in my industrial street scenes is an iconic figure reflecting the industrial age, but it could be in any city or any town.
I travelled extensively throughout the U.K. for the majority of 2002. My ‘Homes & Hearts’ tour launched my work to many galleries across the country, it was an absolute pleasure to meet so many wonderful people, they have become a great source of inspiration to me.
I am constantly pushing myself in new and exciting directions. As well as my drawing and painting I also lecture art to special needs students based within the community. This is a challenging and rewarding addition to my busy life and a chance for me to give something back.
Art is my life, a passion within me. I feel that I am on a journey, a crusade creating new and exciting images, with diverse influences adding a unique and inspired view of the world. As I started painting so young I cannot recall a definitive point of inspiration, but from about the age of ten I was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites. My early paintings were figurative studies in the Pre-Raphaelite style; I have always enjoyed the challenge of drawing and painting people. Life is a mosaic of different memories, we all experience so many emotions from great joy to deep sorrow, from the nostalgic to the magical – these experiences are the source of my paintings, offering universal themes that I hope will appeal to popular imagination. My distinctive paintings are informed by a love of colour and strong composition influenced by artists such as Degas, Chagall and De Lempicka.
As much of the original inspiration for my work was derived from puppet theatre, the natural progression was to have some made. I collaborated with Craig Denston, one of the countries leading puppeteers and designers. I then decided it would be great fun to bring them into the gallery environment as part of my ‘Homes & Hearts’ tour, which added a diverse element to these exhibitions.
The wonderful assortment of characters that appear in my paintings take inspiration from a number of sources including illustration, story books and theatre. There is often a narrative element to be found within my work, people interpret my characters in so many ways, take the Victorian man for instance, is he Jack the Ripper, a magician, or a Phileas Fogg type of character? I like to keep his identity a closely guarded secret, hence his title the ‘Man of Mystery’.
The tramp is one of my favourite characters, he is not really anybody in particular, but there is a touch of Charlie Chaplin about him. I wanted to introduce a character who lives in the modern world. The little tramp is a figure of optimism, looking to a future full of hope. When explaining my work I feel it’s best not to give everything away, leaving it open to interpretation.
So many ideas and images enter my mind that I have to constantly sketch out these initial images, or make frantic notes for future reference; this may include costume design, character detail or background scenes. The painting may be inspired by words, such as a Shakespearian theme or even based on my own poetry or short stories. Working and playing with these ideas and inspirations is critical to the success of any of my paintings. I do little preparatory work, as I like to throw myself into the actual painting, full of enthusiasm and working from my imagination as much as possible.
Having chosen my subject matter I do a brief sketch, working out a strong composition and design, I also look at the colour scheme giving myself an impression of how the final painting may look. I work on grey pastel paper, which I mount onto board; this allows me full control of the tonal values. I use a variety of different pastels, blending and drawing on the surface of the paper, creating the vibrancy of colour or atmosphere inherent in my work.
You give part of yourself in every painting you produce, each image stands or falls on its own merits. I try to produce the best I can at any given time, I assess and reassess the painting at various stages. I prepare a temporary mount, to get a feel of how the painting will look in the gallery. On completion I have a great sense of achievement in creating something from nothing – from a world of imagination.
I can be found in my studio most mornings at around 6:30am, spending a few minutes assessing the previous days painting. With a strong cup of coffee to hand I adjust to the new day and get myself into the right frame of mind to begin the days work.
I teach art to special needs students as often as I can, not only is it extremely rewarding I really enjoy this time out of my studio. If it’s a studio day, I like to put in long hours, giving myself regular breaks as and when I feel the need. This is often governed by how absorbed I have become in the painting itself. I often have music playing in the background and vary the atmosphere with occasional sessions of classical music or something more contemporary. At other times I can work in complete silence, but I do love music, which is a constant source of inspiration. I set myself targets to keep up with the demand for my work, I have been known to burn the midnight oil on many occasions, but on average I work until around 7pm.
I try to spend as much quality time as possible with my son Mark, who is in his late teens. He looks forward to seeing my days work and I value his reaction, assessment and support – we enjoy each other’s company and he is the most important part of my life.
In the evening I like to relax with a glass of red wine, and maybe the muse will arrive and bring with her new ideas and inspirations for future paintings.”
Paul Horton art can be found at Heart Galleries, a Staffordshire art gallery.