Artist profile - George Melling

A horned sheep’s skull - George Melling

A horned sheep’s skull - George Melling - Credit: Archant

George Melling trained to be a butcher but a cycling injury set him on a new path as an accomplished artist. Barbara Waite reports

George Melling in his studio

George Melling in his studio - Credit: Archant

When Preston was awarded city status, artist George Melling was commissioned to paint a mural in the baptistry of the newly elevated Minster. It was a big honour and slightly intimidating as for ten weeks he worked under the scrutiny of the public.

‘It meant I had a genuine engagement with the people who would be looking at it on a regular basis,’ said George. ‘It’s quite humbling creating something which not only has a legacy, but is part of people’s everyday lives.’ The Garden mural is based on peace and resurrection, and depicts Christ’s tomb, images of the Lamb of God, an olive tree and a waterfall symbolising baptism.

‘The positive reaction from the congregation has been particularly gratifying,’ he added.

George spent five years training as a butcher but decided to pursue his passion for art gaining a BA(Hons) from Kingston University and an MA from Chelsea School of Art.

Conkers on a window sill - George Melling

Conkers on a window sill - George Melling - Credit: Archant

Since moving back north, George continues to exhibit widely, including the Royal Academy and the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, where he gained second prize in 1987. He has had a solo show at the University of Central Lancashire and several group exhibitions.

A former pupil at the St Edmund Campion RC High School, Lea, Preston, painting was not his first love. ‘I was keen on cycling but was forced to give it up for months because of injury and I started drawing, encouraged by my brother. Since then I haven’t really stopped.

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‘The subject matter of my work is various and I respond accordingly in my approach and how I handle the paint. This means that stylistically my work is very diverse, which I view as a positive. It allows me a freedom to embrace still life, landscapes and portraiture and to explore a greater breadth of the issues which interest and attract me.

‘For example, a series of paintings I made about my late father demanded an emotional dynamic which was reflected in the energy of the brush work and technique. A still life of objects found on a walk might suggest an intimacy and a scale which draws me towards detail and a quieter tone.’

A still life of kippers - George Melling

A still life of kippers - George Melling - Credit: Archant

After studying and working in London for many years, George returned to Lancashire in 1999.

‘I still live and work here and find being away from the cacophony of the city more conducive to my work.

‘Nevertheless I exhibit across the country, and currently have a painting in an exhibition celebrating northern art, titled New Light, which is touring several galleries around the UK until the end of this year. It’s exciting being part of an exhibition which is representative of contemporary art being made in the north of England.

‘Looking to the future, I never envisage any other life than painting. There will always be subject matter which suggests itself or simply something beautiful to record. It’s the desire to explore these themes, objects or people which inspires my work and constantly challenges me to be a better artist.

George has work in the Gavagan Art Gallery in Settle where his works sell for £200-£300 for a pencil drawing, up to £3,000 for an oil painting.