When I was a youngster growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I wanted to be two things. A drummer, or a cartoonist. I ended up being a drummer. A drummer first of all anyway. I was lucky enough to spend nearly a decade as the drummer of 60ft Dolls and had a right old good time of it too. We were around at the very start of the Cool Cymru scene of the 90s through to the end of Britpop but never settled in any particular pigeon hole comfortably.
It was an incredibly exciting time. I was 21 when we signed our first record deal. We were a hell of a live band, a lot of stuff got broken, and I lost many, many brain cells. The band burned bright but inevitably burned out. The great thing about that band was also a factor in our demise. The chaotic, high tension chemistry that the three of us shared. Ultimately we couldn’t keep it together and imploded in late 1999.
I tried to quit music for a while, but that made me extremely miserable. I ended up doing studio work for others before forming my own band The Lash and producing Welsh Music prize nominee “Black Junk” by Exit_International.
A few years ago I found that I wasn't able to play drums the way I wanted because of numerous problems with my hands (mainly because I smashed the living snot out of a drum kit for 30+ years). I started to look like some members of the Lash`s old clapped-out uncle and I was generally dissatisfied with having to drive myself around with no roadies. So I did the unthinkable…..
I sacked myself and quit music.
It was hard. Really hard actually. There was a huge void to fill as music had been a life long obsession. There’s a bit in Spinal Tap where Nigel and David are discussing life outside the band. Nigel always wanted a shoe shop… so I started discussing these things at length with myself and wondered if I would be any good as a cartoonist…..
I bought an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and started drawing. I wanted to work on an animated cartoon about three dogs called The Sneebs. I had an album's worth of dog songs written for this in my head. Along the way, I accidentally did a pet portrait for someone. It was pretty good I thought, so I did a few more. I did quite a few of these until the company I work for put on an art competition. The prize money was a grand. That’s a lot of money. So a few days before the deadline I bought some paints and brushes and had a go… I won 1st prize and the lightbulb in my head went ON.
I challenged myself to paint twenty paintings without any pressure of self-judgment, just to see what I could achieve. The next 5 went straight in the bin but by number 6 I was starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together and I started showing people what I had been up to and I started selling paintings.
It’s been an intense couple of years, I have produced around 60 so far and it’s been a steep learning curve. However, being self-taught has its advantages, I have no preconceptions of what’s right or wrong, so to me, it’s all fair game and I’m enjoying making my own rules up. It’s been a journey of naive discovery and I seemed to have naturally carved out a unique style. I just kind of went with it… I try and paint things that I would like hanging on my own wall.
I love landscapes, I’m a bit of a country mouse I guess, I try and find patterns and energies in landscapes, connect trees with skies. I like looking for the unseen flow in a copse of trees or trying to capture the vibe of an urban landmark. I try and find some drama or evoke an emotion in my paintings. Some people have told me that some of my work looks a bit otherworldly or trippy even. My rule of thumb is “never let the truth get in the way of a good painting.”
The actual painting work itself is obviously a very solitary experience. I get to become ruler of my own little kingdom in each one through this little window called a canvas. Psychotherapy bonus aside (and I do have a great time there in my head), the best reward is when someone buys an original painting or a print because they “get it”, this connection is the most satisfying part of the process. Sometimes it’s a nostalgic connection with a place but I have found that my work can also resonate with people for other mysterious reasons. Someone said to me recently, “I will think about that painting for the rest of my life" and that blew my mind a bit.
My work has left my little studio in my living room and been sold to customers in such exotic places as the USA, Canada, Australia. I get a kick out of that, it’s a great feeling. Although it’s hard to say goodbye to an object that I have had a very intense intimate relationship with, it’s great to know that somebody out there has it on their wall.
It was much to my relief that I quickly found out that the same creative drive I had for music has been easily re-routed directly into art. It’s exactly the same currency. This is very good news for me as I think I would have driven everybody I know insane (not least myself ) without it. I always knew I would go back to it at some point in my life , I just thought I would be a lot older and a lot more eccentric.
So the plan for the B-side of my life is this: “let’s see what I’m capable of?” I’m very much looking forward to developing as an artist and painter. To me, I feel like a caveman who has just discovered fire or something. So, thanks for being interested in my work enough to read this far. Maybe some of it is coming to a cave wall near you soon , and I really like that idea.