Jim Woodman at work
Jim Woodman at work

“I am a self-taught painter, a strange expression when you think about it – it means you didn’t go to art college. Well I didn’t, but I would not describe myself as self taught. I have loved art all my life and my first port of call when visiting anywhere is the local art gallery. By looking at other people’s work I get inspiration and a sense of direction about where to take my own art. Early on I found inspiration in painters who leave something to the imagination.

Photo realism is not for me. I find that a Vlaminck, an Auerbach or a Cézanne, where some of the artist’s own involvement with the subject is evident does so much more for me. So they are my teachers.

I have been painting full-time for about 18 years after decades of occasional watercolours squeezed in amongst the pressures of family and jobs. It is a great privilege to be able to do the thing you love without distraction. During those years I can think of a number of paintings which have meant a lot to me. For instance the first one I ever sold was a little watercolour painted in Mexico and carried in a rucksack as I backpacked round the world. It came back with me and sold at an art society show for £15. I can still remember the thrill of finding out that someone had parted with money for my painting. It was a sort of affirmation. The journey had started and despite frustrations, dead ends and rejections along the road, I’m back at the easel each day fired by my love of painting.

The piece which has meant most to me was painted some eleven years ago. I had just had a milestone birthday, one ending in a zero, and my wife, Liz, had a special present for me on the day. I had been enthusing about a particular painter’s work for the year before and she had picked up the vibe. He was Richard Pikesley who is now president of the New English Art Club. He paints both in oils and watercolour and in each medium is a master at capturing the effect of light. On the morning of the big day I was told to get in the car and off we went to his studio in Dorset. Liz had made contact with Richard and arranged the day. We were received at his home and he took me around his studio. On an easel stood a watercolour which he casually indicated was my birthday present. I have it to this day and I still love looking at it. Spending time with someone whose work one admires so much is an inspiration. We left for Scotland soon afterwards and that is when I painted Portree Harbour in Skye. It is not a Pikesley but somehow he had influenced me. The painting is instinctive and I did it quickly. The focus was to capture the wonderful light which comes between the headlands that guard the harbour entrance. Here it is.

Jim Woodman Bla bheinn Skye
Bla bheinn Skye

I no longer have the painting. I sold it and when last heard of it was in the Blackpool area, maybe decorating the wall of a B & B there. But, with a sense that it may be popular, I had some giclee prints done, which I sell to this day. I have tried to recapture the mood of that painting but cannot do it. Perhaps another trip to Dorset is required. Since then I have moved more to painting in oils. So the journey continues but the beauty of watercolour still appeals and en plein air paintings in that medium provide source material for oils I paint in my studio. Here are some of my oils.

Jim Woodman Portree Harbour
Portree Harbour

Richard Pikesley’s work continues to inspire as do other painters, mainly Scottish. Joan Eardley, who died tragically young, is one of them. Her free landscapes and seascapes of the east coast of Scotland are amazing for their energy and vitality. (One to look out for).

These days my life is taken up with painting and exhibiting. With a group of fellow artists I exhibit at art fairs such as Cambridge and Edinburgh. We have been at the latter for the last 8 years. Also my work goes into galleries around London and in Scotland. It all started with membership of an art society, Twickenham first and then Richmond Art Society.”

Jim Woodman

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