FEATURED ARTISTJohn Brigden
‘What to others a trifle appears fills me full of smiles and tears’ (Blake)
I’ve always wanted to draw and paint. Like scratching an itch that won’t stop; I go back to drawing and picture-making again and again. It’s all been about a fascination with the awe and wonder of visual images and how they can make us feel. I’m always looking out for visual subjects and use of art techniques to make a bit of magic. From adolescence, I’ve been drawn to artists that have magic for me such as those of the Romantic movement. Artists such as Samuel Palmer, Caspar David Friedrich, Andrew Wyeth and David Inshaw have made me think in my own work about romantic realism as a form of art.
Born in Taunton, I was educated in state primary and secondary schools and trained as a fine artist at Somerset College of Art and Nottingham College of Art and Design. A career in education included art teaching, the development of regional and national art examinations and promoting the arts in state education.
I was co-author of the national curriculum art guidance for all secondary schools. I’ve been an art adviser for two local authorities, an Ofsted inspector and, latterly, an assistant director for children’s services, responsible for quality of provision and standards for pre-school to post 16. My career in local and national government and in the Midlands, Home Counties and in London has been steeped in art practice and appreciation and to improving learning and achievement.
Now retired, I make art by painting small scale intimate pieces as a means of personal exploration and expression. Visually evocative subjects are taken and used from actual and imagined natural forms, places and events. Landscapes, animals and portraits are painted figuratively because to me, nature in a representational form is more engaging. All my work relates to personal encounters – when in the moment or on reflection, a visual experience is emotionally charged in some way.
I carefully plan my ideas for painting by writing notes before starting. But as a work unfolds, inevitably, there is both diversion and discovery. It takes me time to draw out and detail an image to achieve any special effects. But I rarely give up on a piece that can take some weeks, sometimes much longer. When working, I concentrate on trying to convey a sense of character, time and place and an intensity of mood or atmosphere.