How did I get here?
I was born in Brighton in the mid 1960s and have a vague memory of standing with my father at the end of West Pier, bright, breezy and full of wonder. I painted my first oil at the age of seven, receiving for my birthday a Painting-By-Numbers kit. Frustrated by the need to daub all those tiny fragments of the final image, I decided to paint my own scene of a tractor ploughing a field with much more enthusiasm. My second oil painting was done at 18 and the third at 48. I prefer water-based media.
Secondary school was a disaster: violent, devolving and a waste of time. I started learning again on my foundation course at Bath Academy of Art, then occupying several floors of two magnificent Georgian buildings at Sydney place, and under the direction of the inspirational Dave Atkinson. He now runs and owns Handmade Maps, and recently met the Queen. That year was one of my best, I met people who thought the way I thought and who had a talent for drawing and painting way beyond anything I could muster. I loved it. A couple of failed attempts to get onto degree courses saw me in the pool for lost souls, and I ended up at Winchester School of Art (now called the Uni of Pfizer or some such). There I spent three years making manly sculpture, drinking and enjoying some excellent art student company, I suppose the most successful artwise would be Richard Woods. One of my tutors was the brilliant Cornelia Parker, who's friendship I enjoyed after I'd left WSA. As a college we visited Soviet Russia, Paris, Spain, and best of all studied at the Facultat de Belles Artes in Barcelona in 1986 as part of a new EU initiative. That city was wild then, only a decade post-Franco, everyone wanted to disfruta de la vida.
After leaving Winchester in 1987 I moved to Brighton and spent a year working with an ex-marine engineer called Pete who'd started a joinery business. I enjoyed the big storm of '87, learned a few useful skills, and listened to Pete's stories about life as a young man travelling the globe. I wanted some of that, so moved to London and earned some quick cash tarting up bankers' Battersea houses, flew to New York late December 1988 and was half way across the Atlantic when PanAm 103 went down, relieved I'd chosen to fly BA. Through friends already there I moved into the Brooklyn loft space occupied by a couple of artists and a photographer, including Pat Brill (now Bob and Roberta Smith) and Wyatt Counts. Happy days.
In the summer of '88 I drove to Las Vegas, caught a bus to LA and thence a plane to Sydney where I stayed for a while. I drew a few cartoons, had a comic strip published in Viz, and throughout this time filled many sketchbooks with drawings, using a pen carved to a nib from a bamboo stick and sepia ink (see the drawings below). As if Sydney wasn't hot enough I bought a van and relocated to Darwin, got a job, had a tropically dreamy time of it all, then some months later, drove back to Sydney where I met a very beautiful Australian woman and subsequently enjoyed a few wonderfully torrid years together.
I bid goodbye to the 80s and welcomed in the 90s at a spectacularly wild party in Sydney, soon after returning to London. The journey back took a while, passing through Thailand, Nepal and India, and somewhere along the way stopped to catch amoebic dysentery, which dropped my weight from 75 to 60 Kg. A horrid ailment and one I suggest you avoid. During the early 1990s I tried in vain to become a 'contemporary artist', hanging around with the right crowd - Bob Smith, Emin, Sam Taylor Wood and a mob from the Lisson gallery, but never really understanding how to get ahead in art. I even organised shows, and included people who have gone on to the type of fine success which painfully eluded me. Slowly I drifted into the film industry, designing and making sets for film and TV. Soon it became a career, a full time business with partners, VAT and employees, my efforts with art drifted into a nearly-forgotten past.
FX: DREAM SEQUENCE WOBBLES. INT. NIGHT.
We jump to 2013, Henry is sitting in a partly refurbished cottage room in Sussex. He is painting a watercolour in front of a log fire, a single light source illuminates the small easel.
Marriage and a couple of kids later I found myself refurbishing a cottage in Sussex, alone for days at a time on the project. With the evenings to myself, quite at random, I took up painting watercolours. Not a day has since passed without some water-based drawing or painting being made. Modest success in selling work and exhibiting with surprising regularity, including a painting in the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition, twice now, and the RI open, has boosted my need to paint more. I'm improving slowly, and I love it; so damn the fellow who tries to stop me from painting.
Travel Sketches 1988-1994
In late 1988 I left England for a short visit to New York, nearly two years later I returned having visited Australia and the Far East. For most I used sepia ink drawn with a stick of bamboo cut to a nib, and washed over with a Japanese style brush. Here are some of my travel sketches.