My Artistic story…so far.
It never occurred to me at school that ‘normal’ people could peruse a career in Art. It was the late 1970’s in rural North Wales. The sons of Farmer’s left to work on the land. The ‘bright’ boys and girls became teachers, nurses or worked in building societies and the ‘thick’ ones were destined to join a production line or behind cash tills in Woolworths.
I was bright but also dyslectic, something that wasn’t acknowledged at the time, so struggled with academic subjects. My natural artistic talent helped me stand out in art classes. But the lessons were boring unstructured affairs, usually involving observational drawing or painting peppers (which I had no idea were edible) with brushes that had suffered years of abuse. The only thing I really liked about ‘Art’ was the fact that it didn’t involve reading, writing or arithmetic.
Because of my Dad’s work we moved to County Durham. I was 16, had an unimpressive clutch of O’ Levels and no idea what I wanted to do. My parents refused to let me get a ‘proper job’ (like working on a building site) and I refused to go back to school. We settled on a compromised which involved me enrolling at the local Technical college where I was introduced, for the first time, to the possibility of using my artistic talents to earn a living – namely Graphic Design.
The course included photography, ceramics, design and typography - I loved it. However, I soon realised that in order to reach my potential (I was starting to get ambitious) I’d needed a higher qualification - a Batchelor of Arts.
In 1977, I enrolled on the BA Graphic Design course at Liverpool Art School. I thought I’d gone to heaven. I was always the first ‘in’ of a morning and last to leave in the evening. The only thing about the classes I didn’t like was the feeling that ‘possibly’ I was on the wrong course.
The Graphics studio was on the top floor of what had formally been a Victorian hospital. The Sculpture and painting Departments were on the ground floor. On my way up the stairs to Graphics I’d get tantalising glimpses of the sculpture workshops. Half-finished wire models, superb drawings strewn all over the floor, plus the intoxicating smell of clay dust and fiberglass. I longed to be part of ‘their’ world. But where would that lead? This was way before the Brit Art movement. Nobody earned a living by being a ‘fine’ artist. I thought the only option for them, after graduating, would be to become an art teacher or do something completely unrelated. So, against my deep-seated desire to ‘jump ship’ and join the fine artists, I consciously ignored and discouraged these feelings, replacing them with the glitz and glamour the world of Advertising promised.
In 1980, I moved to London and got a job with the advertising agency J WalterThompson. For the next three decades, I had the privilege of working with some of the best photographers, illustrators, filmmakers and musicians in the world. I helped develop campaigns for famous house-hold brands creating commercials, posters, press and radio ads. I won awards, had an over inflated salary and ego to match. However, as the sparkle of ad land began to lose its lustre the desire to express myself artistically grow stronger.
I started buying art materials. I didn’t use them, just stockpiled them as if by osmoses simply purchasing them would confirm to my subconscious that I was an Artist. Not surprisingly the pain of not using them got so bad that eventually I had to put pen, or rather brush, literally to paper. Immediately I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. Relief at finally doing something my heart had been yearning for and disappointment at the disparity between the vision in my head and what was on the canvass in front of me.
To develop my fine art skills, I enrolled in evening classes at the Slade school of art. This coincided with the opportunity to take up studio space in West Street Lofts, a 17thcentury building which was formally a sailmaker’s workshop in Sussex, where I now live. I also joined an Art collective which regularly held local exhibitions.
I still pay the rent via advertising, using my talents to sell other peoples’ products and services. However, I increasingly find satisfaction through self-expression.
My ‘style’ is eclectic, varied and constantly evolving. Possibly the years in advertising, jumping from one client and media to the next, make it difficult for me to stick with one style. There is one feature that is a constant in my work - the use of line. This is possibly due to my first artistic influences found in the illustrations of my favourite children’s books: Rupert the Bear, Tin Tin, Ferdinand the Bull, and the works of Heath Robinson and Arthur Rackham.
Abram Games, the great poster artist of the 1940’s, who also straddled the worlds of fine and commercial art, had this maxim: ‘maximum meaning using minimum means’. I aspire to do the same in my work.
Geoffrey H Turner