Artist profile - Chris Hull
- Credit: Archant
Chris Hull settled in North Wales in 1995 and found that his new home made it impossible for him not to paint.
Chris Hull grew up in the West Midlands and moved to North Wales, with his wife and family, in 1995, in part to escape a life on the road as a musician, which, he says, was getting increasingly uncomfortable.
‘I was, still am, a songwriter and musician and had been in a band since the early 80’s. We came very close to “making it” on a few occasions, but it never really came off. During that entire time I had also painted, something I had done since childhood. As I hit my 40s I came to the realisation that I needed to do something a little more sedate – travelling the UK in the back of a van wasn’t ideal.
‘In 1995 we moved to Rhiwlas, near Bangor. It’s a stunning place and a world away from where we grew up; I was constantly inspired – I was just surrounded by the most amazing landscapes. We stayed there for two to three years and then moved to Bethesda, on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. It’s just stunning there. When we moved to Wales I was unemployed, so I decided to give my painting a go, try it out and see if I could make a living.’
Chris had studied at art school in Nuneaton and had never stopped painting or drawing, so he wasn’t exactly acting on a whim here.
‘From a very young age I’d always drawn very detailed things, in pencil. This now forms part of my teaching – I always tell people the best way is to sit and sketch; it teaches you observation, to really see things. I worked in different mediums over the years but had a real fascination with oils for a long time, as they gave me the opportunity to get the level of detail I loved. Every piece takes several months though, so I tried watercolour instead and soon became totally hooked.
‘Watercolour is a very demanding medium, not like oil, which is more forgiving and can be re-worked till you get the result you envisioned. I fell in love with the speed and immediacy of it. Throughout history watercolour has been considered as the sketching medium, with artists who work in oils starting with a sketch and a watercolour before moving on to the final painting. Even today it’s often overlooked.
‘I’ve been painting with watercolours for 30 years now,’ he says with a surprised laugh. ‘I did my research and studied a few artists and it developed from there. I would now struggle to do anything else!’
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In 1995, unemployed and seeking to turn his talent into a career, Chris would create a series of prints from his paintings and sell these to local shops and tourist venues, creating a small income for considerable effort. However in 1997 a chance contact led to him being invited to exhibit his work in Holyhead; the resulting media attention and reviews were the kickstart his career needed. He was able to find a new audience, for his original works, via Benards Gallery in Llandudno and at a gallery in Grasmere.
‘They both carry my work and it does really well. People are visiting and walking through these marvellous landscapes and then see my representation of what they have just experienced and want to take it home.’
It’s fair to say that Chris has a traditional, highly observational, style. His talent and experience are clear in every piece, and it was this skill that took him to the finals in the 1999 Watercolour Challenge, on TV’s Channel Four.
‘I was entered by a student of mine. I wasn’t really interested at first, but they interviewed me while I was painting and offered me an entry, so I went for it. I won every round until the final. I came in as runner-up and I think it was because the judge (renowned art critic, the late Brian Sewell) was seeking something fresher, a little less traditional.It was an amazing experience and I’m very glad I did it.’
Chris now splits his time between teaching watercolour painting, creating his own pieces for sale via his website or galleries, tutoring song writing, recording and production and undertaking freelance work for several councils in the area. You may indeed have seen his work yourself, as you walk though national parks.
‘I design the Interpretation Panels for historical sites and in the national parks. They are dotted around North Wales and give visitors visual and written information about the area they are visiting. I also teach at a couple of art groups, one in Beaumaris and another in Glasinfryn, near Bangor.
‘A couple of years ago my son set up a website for me, where the plan was to sell my originals, but they get snapped up so fast in the galleries very few ever make it to the website! There is a collection of prints available though and these sell quite steadily. I do say to people that I can paint anything they want me to though – sometimes I am sent photos of scenes people love and want made into a painting, or they want an original watercolour inspired by one of the prints on my site.
‘A few years ago we moved to St. Asaph; again, it’s incredibly beautiful here and I am starting to paint more seascapes as I’m drawn more and more to the coast. I’m having a bit of a fascination with lighthouses at the moment, standing isolated over the seas, but I think I will never be able to leave the glorious landscapes here in North Wales; every time I go out I am surrounded by inspiration.’