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Derek Golledge: A Lifetime Painting

Derek Golledge's artwork

There is a well-worn book sitting on top of an old carpenter’s worktop, now used as a studio by Horsham artist Derek Golledge. The book - called The Art of Drawing in Lead Pencil - had been given to Derek shortly after the war by a senior draughtsman he was working with.

Even as a young boy, Derek had always enjoyed drawing, but had been discouraged from pursuing a career as an artist. But this book presented Derek with new styles and techniques that would ensure a life-long passion for drawing and painting. Some fifty five years on, Derek is in his studio on the outskirts of Horsham, with about eight paintings presently on the go. He is showing no signs of slowing down - he was involved in the Association of Sussex Artists exhibition in Horsham in August and still paints every day.

Derek said: “As a young boy I was always drawing. I wanted to become an artist and went to technical college, but my mother married my step father after the war, and he was very Victorian in his ways. There was no way he was going to have an artist in the house! In those days they had long hair and were hippies and he wasn’t going to have that, so I became a draughtsman instead. One of the elder draughtsmen appreciated the work I was doing and gave me this book, and it was a huge inspiration. It helped me to develop my skills as an artist.”

Whilst Derek never did become an artist by trade, during his working life he was always able to find the time for his art. He worked for a large Swiss/American firm and would paint in hotel rooms whilst on trips abroad. I would be in the hotel room painting or drawing in the mornings or the evenings,” he said. “I find creativity a very emanding thing - I have to do it!”

Derek has never limited himself to one style or subject. He uses primarily lead pencil and acrylic, but paints anything that captures his imagination. Among the most common themes in his art work are the people of Africa and the Middle East, wildlife and boats. Others though are not so easy to categorise. One painting, Hurricane Lamp - features a lamp in front of a brick wall. It was selected for The Royal Institute of Oil Painters’ 2006 exhibition at Mall Galleries and in 2010 was the runner -up in the Still Life section of the Artist of the Year competition, run by the International Artists and Illustrators magazine.

I paint wildlife, seascapes, anything I fall in love with really, be it a face, or a subject,” said Derek. “I was in the Navy for five years and I used to do drawings of colleagues’ wives and loved ones to make money. I went to Muscat (Oman) Bahrain, and places like that, and loved the rugged landscapes but also the people, so when I came out of the Navy I started painting people from Africa and the Middle East and they sold very well.

“The people from those regions are beautiful. I think it’s the attractive clothes and the decorative items they wear, and they have an innocence about them. My son works for an international company and one of his colleagues covers Africa. He is also a photographer and he sends me images, so all of the people in my paintings are actually living today.”

Derek collects masses of photographic and reference material to use for his paintings and drawings, but often uses parts of several images to create his own composition. He is also not adverse to changing paintings. One painting of a fox showing its teeth didn’t generate much interest, so Derek is creating a new image with the fox’s mouth closed.

“For a lot of paintings I use oils and fine art pencils, which I specialise in”, said Derek. “But oils have a lot of setbacks. It’s not just the smell, but the drying time. It can take days before it dries enough to put another glaze on, so it takes months to finish a painting. Then I discovered acrylics, which are absolutely marvellous as you can adopt a watercolour technique with thin washes or you can lay it on thick or you can use it just like oils. The big
advantage, or disadvantage, is that it dries almost immediately!

“Unlike watercolours, if I make a mistake or want to change an image, you can paint over it in white, wait for it to dry and go over it. With acrylics, I can amend paintings or change them completely, as I’ve done with this fox painting. There are over 50 washes in the background of one bird painting. It was originally done in solid colour and then I put thin washes over it, waiting for it to dry each time before repeating the process until I achieved the desired effect of knocking the background right back.”

As well as the recent exhibition with the Association of Sussex Artists, Derek’s work was seen in Horsham Museum this summer and he has been invited back to exhibit there later in the year. He is also chairman of Southwater Art Club, a popular group which does much to encourage young people to take up painting and drawing.

“When I first moved here just over ten years ago I met another artist in Southwater, Les White, a brilliant artist, and Barbara Mumford, and together we set up Southwater Art Club and it’s just gone from strength to strength ever since. We have 70 members now, with two exhibitions each year, and we host workshops too. Our motto is ‘there is no one that isn’t good enough’. It’s a very rewarding experience to encourage people who sometimes haven’t painted for a very long time or even not painted at all. 

“Back in 1949, I entered a poster competition when I was about 14 and I was awarded first prize. I used that sort of idea to promote a competition for the three local schools in Southwater, with prizes, and a certificate for everyone who enters. There is a real need to encourage kids to get involved in art. A lot of them are really talented, but it sometimes gets knocked out of them at art school as they are told they can’t do this and have to do that. So we try to encourage children, at least in Southwater."

Like many artists, sales are difficult to come by for Derek. The Horsham exhibition yielded just one sale for Derek, although that was more than some other very capable local artists. He also sells prints of his work, enhancing each of them so that every print becomes, in a way, an original piece of art. Derek said: “I think it’s the economic climate that is affecting the market a lot. But you never know - the right person could walk in at any time and fall in love with your painting.”

Not that it’s all about sales for Derek, or many other artists for that matter. It is just something that he enjoys doing and always has done. "I see something I like and have an immediate urge to go back and draw it. I’m very lucky that I have this studio - I can work here and then just leave it all and pick it up at a later time. “A lot of people can’t do that, and have to pack up each time, and it serves as a dis-incentive if you have to go through all the effort of setting up.

“This was a workshop, as the chap who lived here before was a carpenter. The floor is covered in oil and there is a still a vice attached to the worktop, but it’s perfect. I still paint every day in here, and still find art very rewarding. It’s far better than watching television!”

See the full article on Derek Golledge visit www.derekgolledge.co.uk

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