Painshill Park: an artist’s dream

Bacchus by Aidan Meighan

Bacchus by Aidan Meighan - Credit: Archant

llustrator and cartographer Aidan Meighan, who was born in the head gardener’s cottage at Painshill Park in Cobham, has produced a series of illustrations of the 18th century landscape gardens

Gardener's cottage by Aidan Meighan

Gardener's cottage by Aidan Meighan - Credit: Archant

It is surely every child's dream - to grow up in 158 acres of acres of parkland, surrounded by gnarled old trees, mystical follies, secret gardens, a lake and a grotto.

Illustrator and cartographer Aidan Meighan lived that dream as he was born in the head gardener's cottage at Painshill Park, Cobham. His father was head of the landscape team who were restoring various buildings, including the grotto, and the 18th century landscape became Aidan's back garden.

Describing growing up in such gorgeous surroundings, he says, "It was wonderful. I have strong memories of playing there with my sister and our friends and of running everywhere, hiding in follies, climbing trees, just having complete freedom. It was the perfect place to fuel a child's sense of adventure, a magical kingdom that definitely sparked my creative imagination."

Gothic Temple by Aidan Meighan

Gothic Temple by Aidan Meighan - Credit: Archant

Aidan went to school locally, and studied at Godalming College, where he realised that art would become his career. "My tutor was Dan Fooks," he says. "He is maybe best known for his huge pencil drawing of Peter Capaldi and his amazing illustrations of other well-known people. He totally inspired me and I went on to Wimbledon Art College, where I studied illustration for three years. It was amazing to concentrate on just drawing, and quite early on I found I was drawn more to pattern, buildings and trees than people."

After completing his degree, Aidan found work illustrating maps and loved the detailed, graphic nature of the work. Commissions of people's homes and local areas became regular work and a grant from the Prince's Trust helped him establish his own business.

"Through the loan from the Prince's Trust I was able to buy the right software for my computer, and received mentor support and networking opportunities that were invaluable," he says. "Being approved by the Trust gives you a kind of authenticity, and importantly for me, it gave me the confidence to go out and offer my illustration services. Since then I have become an ambassador for the Prince's Trust and want to share with others the good work it does."

Aidan Meighan in studio

Aidan Meighan in studio - Credit: Archant

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Aidan formed Whereabouts Maps in 2012 and since then he has created over 60 illustrative maps of far-flung locations in Ireland, France, Russia, USA and Switzerland. More locally, Aidan was asked by Painshill Park to help with the designs for their new brochure, leaflets and on site maps and so he has re-visited his childhood playground.

"A few years ago I went back to Painshill with my wife," he says. "She is also an illustrator and could understand how my imagination was fuelled by such wonderful surroundings. More recently I returned again to gather material for an illustration for my father's 60th birthday. It is quite surreal returning to my childhood backyard and every time I realise just how strong my ties remain with Painshill Park."