Paul Burton – Sculptor

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

Art was my passion while at school (using many different media) and despite some real focused encouragement and mentoring at my school (at the ages of 14, 15 and 16) the local education authority funded a couple of youngsters (and I was one of them) to attend extra art tuition at the Victoria Institute. But even after this I found myself drifting into an engineering apprenticeship like most young kids did in the early 1970’s.

Having said that I did end up having an excellent career that enabled me to travel the world. I got sponsored by my employees and was privately educated to Masters degree level and ended up on the board of directors in a very large American global company. But my love of art never left me.

As a mining engineer and my with my engineering background I’ve always been drawn to the mechanical, victorian type architecture of engineering that looks so aesthetically pleasing as well as its functional element. I love colour and the blending of dissimilar materials especially an element of geology which has been influenced by my time in mining.

My “Earthlight” Homage to Hepworth in Lead Crystal, Slate, and Steel

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

It is difficult sometimes to articulate how long a piece takes from its conception to realisation. My head is full of stuff and getting it out on paper can sometimes be easy or a little bit more protracted. I suppose similar to writing a song, sometime as you let it flow or there are times when there is a block but the process can be quite exhilarating. I like to think my art is like speaking several languages, switching from one to another to suit my thoughts... and eventually the piece I produce. If my life experiences did anything for me, it showed there were more artistic styles to investigate, more emotions to ponder, more colour combinations to test and more patterns to discover. I’m still on my journey.

I love personal commissions, to me this is such an enjoyable part of what I do. In my past career having interaction with people especially across geographic and cultural boundaries has been a wonderful experience. Now to have someone invest into one of my pieces off the shelf gives me so much pleasure and so much more satisfaction than the financial compensation, but I truly enjoy the experience of a bespoke “Earthlight” commission. This is a piece made by me, but specifically with the collaborator in mind, with their involvement / collaboration / participation. Truly enjoyable.

Where you do usually work from?

Ah my glorified shed. It’s probably a little more than a shed it’s actually a Malvern building with a lovely glass window aspect all round, set into my vegetable garden at the bottom of the West Wing garden of Kenswick Manor with views to the Malvern hills. But I am finding my work is getting bigger and heavier and sometimes I am struggling in the smaller studio. I do have a large oak framed building 30 metres away that I am looking to convert into a studio at work space (similar to the repair shop on TV).

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

Like most artists I think my work is truly original unique and bespoke. I love the blend of steel, slate, and lead crystal glass. I have collaborations with a glass maker that uses my moulds and designs to make the most beautiful portals that are built into my sculptures. The environmental message I am looking to portray in my work is very important so that utilising every piece is very important to me.

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

It is difficult to pick a favourite as there is a piece of me in everything I produce and I do find it quite a pull when my work goes to a new home. Everything I do is my own designs but recently I have been producing some tribute pieces in my “Earthlight” range to artists that have inspired me. Picasso, Mondrian and a piece from Barbara Hepworth “Four squares and Four circles” made in 1966 a walk through is in her St Ives garden. I have just completed a my interpretation in steel, slate, and lead crystal, I do love it and a true inspiration to my work.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

From my earliest experience with looking and indeed “touching” art I was always moved by Barbara Hepworths work, and the stark visions of Henry Moore, Picasso and Mondrian creep into my pieces but with my engineering background, I find Anthony Gormley’s work truly inspiring.

My art has definitely been influenced by my travels too, and my obvious interest in different cultures and locations. But one of the more influential geographic locations Has to be Spitsbergen and Norway generally up above the Arctic Circle. The light on its own was just marvellous. This has to be one of my favourite if not the favourite posting I ever visited during my mining career.

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

Be brave, bold and humble. Your work is as good as anyone else’s. Art is beautiful, ugly, subjective, opinionated and covers so many narratives.. put a piece of yourself into all your work.

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

I am very fortunate in the fact I do not have to produce art to make a living. I visited my hobby when I retired in 2017 and now it is consuming my life, in a lovely way. Now to have someone invest a significant sum of their hard earned income into one of my pieces off the shelf or commission gives me so much pleasure and so much more satisfaction than the financial compensation, and that’s the truth. I have sold at garden shows, exhibitions, social media (the power of Instagram and Facebook is really amazing) and interest that has been a result of my participation in bodies like Worcestershire Open Studios. And of course references and word of mouth.

My “Earthlight” Picasso tribute

How has lockdown changed your creative process?

Lockdown has probably focused me even more on the new concepts and designs and I have completed more “feature” pieces for my own sculpture garden that I normally would have done. Lockdown has also given me time to develop my presence on social media and get a lot more sophisticated with that medium. Oh and I re-painted our kitchen.

Tell us about any future projects you have planned.

I have a few ideas for a few larger sculptures currently in design process .. also some concept designs for “wall mounted” pieces that will be backlit. I also have plans for working in bronze I’m currently looking at training in the lost wax process.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes my work, and the narrative behind it. Not necessarily as a sale, but I love people looking at it and touching it and more than happy to share that experience in my sculpture garden in the West Wing of Kenswick Manor.

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

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