As early as I can remember I have always been an artist. Always top in Art at school,I won a County wide art Contest at 11 and at the comprehensive school it was always expected that I would go to Art College.
When I was 14, I remember one of the weekly career films we were subjected to,but this one was different, it was on theBritish Film Industry. It was all pretty stiff really,it showed rooms filled with draftsman wearing ties and v neck sweaters. But something about the creative aspect of it appealed to me.
Disillusioned after 2 years at Art College I put my thoughts of any career on hold and wandered Europe in self discovery...
Back in London I applied for a opening at Selfridges for their spectacular on Alice in Wonderland for Christmas.They were promoting the film Alice in Wonderland starring Fiona Fullerton and it meant working with Scenic Painter,Set Decorator and Artist Peter Hewitt RA.
Peter had worked on the film itself and was a very highly respected Set Decorator and Artist in the Entertainment Industry.We were based in a studio in West Kensington London and the work was tremendously exciting and rewarding. At the same time Peter was doing a huge backing for the Tower of London for a celebration which involved the Queen which Peter let me assist him on.
After the work was over it left me wanting more. I didn’t know anybody in the industry except Peter and he encouraged me to apply to the Film Union.Those days the Union was a closed shop.I can remember them interviewing me and sitting there with my portfolio of work.Unbeknown to me, I had hit it at the right time because they were looking to encourage new people into the Industry. After some months of waiting, I got a call for a place on a TV show called Space1999 as the runner or as they called it then the Tea Boy.An entry level opportunity that had huge opportunities. I got the job and around the same time there were two others that started on projects as well which included Stanley Kubrick’s daughter.The three of us were the newest blood in the Industry for years.There was no film schools to go to then and no official apprenticeship program so this was brave new ground.We had to learn from people who we worked with and we had to make every opportunity count. I can remember being shown stop motion from the great Ray Harryhausen and how to draw a set for lighting, work with camera angles,projections,matts,miniatures,blue screen,foreground miniatures and false perspective from so many other masters of their fields.
I was fortunate, I was assigned to the Set Decorator Mike Ford who went on to win oscars for Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Titanic and later the industry recognized Master Draftsman of Europe Reginald Bream who had worked on the original Moby Dick and Cleopatra. I studied Architecture and it’s History and Construction with him for 10 years and loved every moment of it. He was a genius at his work.We worked with everybody from Spielberg, George Lucas,Michael Cimino, Stanley Kubrick,Robert Zimeckis, Dick Lester, Jim HensontoFranco Zeferelli.—on some of the most dynamic and memorablefilms of this and past generations—Princess Bride, Roger Rabbit,Batman, James Bond, Labyrinth, Indiana Jones, Superman, Last of the Mohicans,Dark Crystal, and many many more.
Before I moved to America,one of my greatest influences was working with the Great Elliot Scott.To be a part of his team was something very special and envied.His team was small but included some of the best people out there.His biggest influence was the old German school of Art Directors and he used to build his sets in a series of layers so when you looked thru the camera it all lined up into one image, a little like photoshop today. Layers were so important and you could force them to create false perspectives. It used to terrify Directors, but once they tried it once they were hooked. Now it’s all done by VFX. But thats increasingly getting cost prohibitive so it may all come back again.
All of these influences are shown and reflected in my artwork.I believe I could not do anything I am doing now without the influences of this past.
My art today uses perspective,computer compositing and skill-based production design techniques like draftsmanship, drawing, and painting learned in the European tradition of apprenticeship training when I started in the film industry. The work begins with freehand drawing that utilizes several techniques.The cut outs in the work derive from the use of perspective I used in films like Indiana Jones, Labyrinth and Roger Rabbit. The colors used in the artworks are purposefully muted to telegraph America’s iconic images and places rooted in the past. Influences from past entertainment venues, such as the Circus and Fairgrounds, are present along with my love for Americana.The layering effects in each work tell the deeper story beyond the iconic recognition.The curtain opens and the stage is set.
As a film production designer and artist I see the big picture story or theme of a project and then break it down into its parts—in film it is sets with walls; in my art it is paintings within frames. They say every good film starts with a good script. In my artwork, my primary source material is the background of history and the contribution it makes to the times we live in today. As a European, I am steeped in history, and I bring that to my work to play out today in a very American way.