John Horton – Painter

Can you tell us about yourself and your background as an artist/maker?

I have always enjoyed painting and drawing. Most of my working life was in farming but I always found time for taking on commissions and exhibiting paintings locally as well as doing some illustration work. In 1994 life changed for me and I was able to concentrate full time on my painting, building a small studio /gallery and starting up a schedule of tutoring in watercolour workshops. I joined the Wildlife Art Society International (TWASI) based at Nature in Art, Twigworth north of Gloucester and this gave me the opportunity to develop the pursuit of my passion for the natural history world, particularly birds, and expressing this through my paintings. A new career opened up for me.

Studio pictures

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

I rely very much on observation and field sketches. The paintings evolve from there. Usually an event or a particular scene. I sketch the idea out on wallpaper lining paper with a soft pencil using a free drawing approach relying on a mirror image to check balance of the composition and subject matter. I use gouache to colour the sketch. Once happy with this stage I trace the basic design and transfer it to stretched Arches 140 lbs HP watercolour paper or Two Rivers paper and then use pure Winsor and Newton artist quality watercolour paint. Tints I favour are cobalt blue, burnt sienna, permanent rose, permanent magenta, cadmium yellow, cadmium lemon. I find a limited palette produces a more cohesive painting, often limiting to 3 or 4 colours.

Where you do usually work from?

Most of my work is developed in the studio. I have a big drawing board to work on and favour large panoramic paintings whether in watercolour, acrylic or oil on canvas. The studio is in 2 levels with a step down between the 2 spaces. 15 x 5 metres in total. I have lots of wall space for hanging my paintings, 2 carousels for cards and 3 browsers for prints and mounted originals. Gallery lighting assists good natural light. I am always pleased to welcome visitors by appointment and 'Open Studios' is a marvellous opportunity to share my work.

Have you developed any unique or unusual techniques in your work?

My paintings always start as a an idea ruminating in my sub conscious from observation. Method as described as above.

Tell us about a favourite piece of work and what it means to you.

This is a bit like choosing your favourite child! There are a number of pieces that mean much to me, often because of a good memory or a painting that has worked particularly well. The image of fur seals at Kaikoura which I use as my screensaver and can be found on the animals page on the website not only reminds me of a very enjoyable and lengthy stay in New Zealand but also works perfectly for its energy and composition.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

I have always held a deep passion for the natural history world particularly birds. My artist heroes are Peter Scott, Charles Tunnicliffe and David Shepherd. I like to set the birds in habitat and landscape. I enjoy animal portraiture for customers and the local characters and landscape for cards and prints. Interesting to find scenes that create good compositions and content. Always looking for new challenges.

What advice would you have for artists who are just starting out?

My advice to beginners is not to be frightened of the medium or process. Experiment and practice with a limited palette and mixing to develop the various tones and colours that can be achieved. A good way to start is copying photos but not get too much bogged down in detail. Learn about composition from this creating depth on a flat piece of paper. My obsession is creating the illusion of distance on a flat piece of paper.

If you sell your work, can you tell us more about how you do this?

I find the most effective online site is as well as my own website. Otherwise I sell from the studio and at a variety of wildlife art exhibitions around the country. I have local outlets for cards and prints in cafe's and shops. The Open Studio event is perhaps the best opportunity for developing a customer base and displaying work.

My favourite picture

How has lockdown changed your creative process?

Lockdown has given me a great deal more studio time as I'm not involved with the admin on exhibitions etc. as all these have now gone online. It's been an ideal opportunity to develop new work for display next year. I have to confess that I have enjoyed the time freed up to be creative.

Tell us about any future projects you have planned.

I look forward in 2021 getting back to a schedule of workshops here, and demos to art societies. I'm scheduled for a week in June as artist in residence at the Polpeor Studio on the Lizard point in Cornwall. I have missed this for 2020 but I have done this over the last 4 years. Otherwise it will be organising the TWASI annual exhibition at Nature in Art May/June and taking a stand at the exhibition of wildlife art at the end of July. Hopefully Worcestershire Open Studios will be back in August which I will very much look forward to !

See more of John’s work on his Worcestershire Artists page.

External website links: