Last week I met up for a chat with local landscape painter, Stuart Parkin.
I began by asking him to tell me how he got started as a painter and he explained that he had always had an interest in drawing. He remembers enjoying drawing at junior school and then when he went to secondary school his art teacher was one of those inspiring teachers that encouraged him to develop his natural talent.
He decided to go on to art school but was encouraged by his dad to think about a more reliable career and to do an apprenticeship first. Then if he still wanted to go to art school and things didn’t work out he would have something to fall back on. So Parkin began working at the steel works, which was then British Steel. Then life just kind of happened and he met his wife and started a family. It was when he turned 40 that he finally signed up for a degree course at Hull School of Design and Architecture as it was then.
I asked why he found himself drawn towards landscapes and he told me that he has always had a love of the outdoors and for many years spent a few weeks each year in the Cairngorms. Parkin says he loves looking at the light in the countryside, the way it changes colour and the way it falls on the landscape. And you can certainly see this in his paintings which focus on shapes and colours in a scene.
Parkin said that an abstract style was a personal choice developed from an interest in mark-making (different ways that you make marks on a canvas). Coming from an engineering background Parkin’s early paintings were very detailed but his college tutor encouraged him to change styles, draw bigger and even use a charcoal attached to a stick to help loosen up. Although he has painted some 6′ x 4′ industrial landscapes he now tends to paint much more manageable 4′ x 3′ canvases.
Parkin’s influences include Turner, particularly his later work that focuses on light and atmosphere, Pierre Bonnard for the colours that he uses, the contemporary artist Hughie O’Donoghue, the expressionist works of John Virtue and Mark Rothko. We discussed the work of John Constable and Parkin explained that he prefers Constable’s paintings that focus on dark and moody seas and skies.
Parkin has recently been widowed and we talked about how that has affected his art. I imagined that painting would be a good way to express his feelings and help work through the grief but he appears to have lost some of his enthusiasm for painting. Once he gets started he tends to lose himself in what he is doing but right now, in these early days, he finds it difficult to get started.
We talked further about Parkin’s Christian faith and how that influences his paintings. He explained that it wouldn’t always be obvious to anyone looking at his artwork but that he usually tries to paint something meditative or reflective and that looks towards something better in a dark world. He likes to give his paintings a name that could be interpreted in different ways, e.g. ‘Towards Home’ is quite a comforting title for most but for a Christian it can indicate a view towards Heaven. He likes to think that his paintings have hope in them and the vision for a better world. He says it gives him a unique perspective and allows him to see things differently when he is out.
Parkin does sell a lot of his work, mostly through entering open competitions locally although he is also beginning to enter competitions in London. He has held exhibitions at local galleries including Abbey Walk Gallery, Grimsby, The Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Studio Eleven, Hull, Rope Walk, Barton-upon-Humber, Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre and 20-21, Scunthorpe. Although he does have a website, he hasn’t updated it for a while and doesn’t engage with any social media. We had a bit of a chat about it and I offered to help him out if I could.
As we moved on and talked about my project Parkin suggested that I look at the work of Kurt Jackson who makes notes on his artwork to remind him of the atmosphere around him as he is painting. I quite like this idea, particularly after my Destroyed project last year, although I’m not sure that it is suitable for my FMP.
Parkin also suggested that I overlay an image of the original painting over my photograph. I had thought about doing this before and had dismissed it but I’ll think about it again.
Finally I spoke about how one of my tutors had told me to loosen up and not crop my photos quite so tightly and Parkin advised that I look at the blank spaces. He said they are all shapes and I should compare and contrast how they sit alongside one another, that they can harmonise or build tension and where I crop an image will emphasise that tension or create harmony. I thought this was good advise and will try to consider this when I am next taking some photos.