I have lived in Brighton since 2002. Brighton Fringe Festival which takes place all through May every year is the second largest arts festival in the UK, second only to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I have been invited to take part for the last four years Press Articles.
Drawing & doodling are activities that have always come natural to me. When I was a boy I usually had a pencil & sketch-book with me happily drawing & passing the time. I can remember receiving a painting by numbers set as a birthday gift from my parents.
My parents split up when I was seven, this resulted in me moving to various locations around England with my mother & two brothers. I never settled into any of the schools I went to but always enjoyed art & had good relationships with my art teachers.
My Mum remarried when I was eleven but that was a disastrous & violent coupling that was very damaging for our family. By the time I got to secondary school I had become very insular, I played truant from school most of the time but went to a lot of my art lessons.
I had two paper rounds which helped to buy luxuries such as art supplies because I could always find peace in my art. Looking back, art has been the only constant in my life. I have done lots of different things in life but have always returned to my artwork, developing more passion for it the more I create it.
When I left school at sixteen without gaining any qualifications, I went to work in the office & shop fitting industry. I left home at seventeen to go into lodgings because of violence at home. I worked in construction for eighteen years working various jobs including labouring, carpentry, fitting suspended ceilings, carpet fitting & fitting factory mezzanine floors. Most of that work was very creative, I have always leaned towards anything where I can express my creativity.
In 2002 I moved from Milton Keynes to Brighton because my mother lived there. It took me about a year to settle in. I felt I belonged in Brighton which was the first time I felt I had belonged anywhere, I didn’t know at the time but Brighton is a very creative city & home to many visual artists, actors & musicians.
I bought a computer, printer, digital camera, a copy of Photoshop & a copy of Illustrator with manuals. As I started studying & learning how to use my new creative equipment I became totally absorbed with it all. This led me to enrol on courses for Photoshop & Illustrator which gave me a good grounding in digital photography & digital art. I began to think my future would be very different from my past & I was very excited about it.
In 2004 my mother told me that a local community centre called the Bridge was running free courses from ITC to art. I was quite cynical at that time of my life so thought that can’t be right but went along there just to have a look around. Sure enough my Mother was correct, here I found an oasis of support, kindness, friendship & free courses. This was life changing for me, I enrolled on lots of ITC courses.
After studying on ICT courses for a couple of months I saw an advert at the Bridge advertising an art course. I hadn’t created any art for a long time so I thought, I wonder if I would still enjoy drawing. I had nothing to lose so enrolled on the free art course.
The teacher asked me if I would like to try my hand at oil painting, I had never tried it before so accepted the challenge. It felt very natural to me, I took to it straight away & got the attention of the teacher & the other students. I was in my element, it reminded me of when I was a boy when my art teacher asked me if she took her cat into school would I draw it. I happily accepted & started to draw the cat with all the other boys & girls standing around me watching. My teacher was also an actress, she gave me two tickets to go to see her performing in Fiddler on the Roof at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds which is where I was living at the time. I was so happy, I took my Mother with me to see my first show at a theatre. I loved it! I felt so inspired to be an artist but that would have to wait for a long time although it happened at the right time.
I went into town in my adopted city of Brighton to buy all the art supplies I could afford including my first easel, oil paints, brushes, turpentine, pencils, canvases, palette knives & a palette. I started to dream about being a professional artist, it was so exciting. It was the first time in my life that I was certain about what I wanted to do with my life. Finally I had my purpose & direction.
The first oil painting I created was a copy of an old Durer painting. I learnt a lot from this experience but I wasn’t particularly pleased with the results.
Canvas size 10” x 8 ½”
The second painting I created was a copy of a Van Gogh self portrait, I was much more pleased with the results.
Canvas size 9 ½” x 7 ¾”
The third painting I created was a copy of a painting by contemporary Scottish artist Alexander Millar. This was sold at a car-boot sale for £200 I was thrilled & hooked! Now I knew I could sell my artworks.
I was invited to take part in an art exhibition at the Bridge, I accepted straight away. When I was hanging paintings for the exhibition I met my dear friend & first art-dealer Paul Smith. Paul has supported me from that day & continues to support & help me to this day.
The manager of the Bridge asked me if I would like to be interviewed by BBC Sussex at their Brighton studio to talk about my artwork. I was so proud & accepted the offer straight away. It was my first taste of media attention, I was so excited & enjoyed it immensely!
The Bridge staff asked me if I would help students to catch up on lessons they had missed on their ITC courses, I happily said yes. To my surprise I found I enjoyed teaching & learning, like many adult learners I was discouraged from learning because of bad school experiences. The Bridge staff asked me if I would like to train to be a further education teacher if they would fund the course. That was an offer that I never thought would be made to me! Once again I eagerly said yes.
I studied on a two year course at Sussex Downs College (SDC) in Lewes & Brighton University. It was an extremely special day when I was informed that I had qualified as a further education teacher & awarded a Certificate of Education, which qualifies me to teach in colleges & universities. My self-esteem was raised so much. now I had some qualifications, I always regretted leaving school without any.
I started teaching for SDC, my first course was teaching drawing to adults with acquired brain injuries at Headway in Hayward’s Heath. I taught ICT & art to mainstream & students with special needs but I started to focus more on students with special needs. I wanted to inspire them, although I think they inspired me more than I inspired them.
I worked at SDC for five years until I was made redundant. I went to Sri Lanka for three months travelling around the country extensively considering what to do with my future. It was during this time that I decided I would commit to my art & research ways to make a living from my artwork. When I returned home I painted Turtle in Sri Lanka.
This was a view from a beach at Hikkaduwa where I was based on the south west coast of Sri Lanka. The sky was clear but I painted the sky in a style that reflected my turbulent mind at the time. My artwork is tremendously therapeutic for me. The turtle in the piece walked out of the sea one evening to hatch her eggs & buried them in the sand, then returned to the Indian ocean, it was very special for me.
Inspiration comes from many sources for me, I have developed two pseudonyms to separate my different styles. Vitruvian was developed for my political artwork Team Vitruvian.
Doctor Horton-Smythe is hard at work creating a series of Steampunk themed oil paintings Steampunk – Work in Progress!
My Studio in Kemp Town, Brighton