Bob Barker

"It was on Christmas morning, when I was twelve years old, that my mother gave me one of the best presents I have ever received - an oil painting set. That was the start and I have been painting ever since. I was immediately captivated by what could be achieved with a brush, some oil paint and a few small squares of hardboard; I used to paint on the reverse side because I thought it looked like proper canvas. My mother was a weaver in a mill not far from my school and when my day there ended, I used to walk to the mill and wait for her to finish work. I loved the smell of the looms and talked to everybody in the spinning sheds, the burling and mending room, the winders and tuners, along with my grandmother who was the 'cha' lady there. This is where my love of tea comes from, as well as the images I now paint. With no formal training I have just enjoyed painting in many different styles and with numerous subjects, developing and honing my techniques of brush and palette knife. Although I am Yorkshire born and bred, during my youth I spent a little while in Cornwall. There I met two prominent artists (Keith English & Tom Gower) and spent hours watching them paint. Conversations with them made me believe I could be a professional artist. I believe that inspiration somehow comes from within. This always 'kicks in', so to speak, as I see ideas for paintings which are almost everywhere I look - from the sky to buildings, at dawn or at sunset, even at night under a bright moon. Add to these the weather and the pictorial list becomes endless. Nostalgia also spurs me to paint by looking back to childhood memories with adult eyes; this allows me to be quite free artistically. In my neck of the woods, with the subjects I paint, most people see soot blackened stone and polluted skies. I see colour. Like wet Sienna cobbles and Prussian blue shadows with burnt umber and cadmium skies. I view the world, along with my memories, in the subtle blended hues of my paint box. Before I squeeze the first drop of oil onto my palette I sit and gaze at the blank canvas, sometimes for quite a while. With music always playing in the background I visualise the composition, change the colour of the sky, nudge buildings into new locations, make it rain and many more combinations until I am happy, in my mind, how the work is going to look. I then make a few very quick lines on the canvas, just to set the scene, because by now I am impatient to get some paint on the canvas. I do not have a set way of creating a piece as I love experimenting with the way oil paint can be applied, but I usually start with the sky as this establishes the mood and the all important light for the rest of the picture. As I enter the artistic time warp where hours seem to fly by in seconds, I tend to loosen up and paint quite quickly, getting the majority of the picture done in one sitting. Although being naturally right handed, whilst in this state, I sometimes find myself swapping the brush or palette knife to my left hand, applying a few strokes and then swapping back. Albeit, if I try to use my left hand consciously, the results would be consigned to the 'need to be painted over pile'.