Daring to be Different - Barton-under-Needwood arist Hayley Goodhead

Hayley Goodhead with her painting of 'Mr Pollock' in Gallery Three

Hayley Goodhead with her painting of 'Mr Pollock' in Gallery Three - Credit: Archant

Mike Smith meets the gifted Barton-under-Needwood artist, Hayley Goodhead

'Dare to be Different'

'Dare to be Different' - Credit: Archant

In 2013, only three years after graduating with a degree in Fine Art, Hayley Goodhead was given a one-person show. The exhibition, held at Gallery Three, close to the Staffordshire village of Barton-under-Needwood, contained almost 40 paintings, many of which had been produced by Hayley in a highly productive eight-month period of creativity spent in preparation for the show. The exhibition was a huge hit, with every painting being sold and commissions being received for many more.

Early success of this order suggests that Hayley has a special talent and that her pictures have special qualities that give them popular appeal. What’s more, the story of how this gifted painter came to prominence so quickly is an inspirational one that should give encouragement to all aspiring young artists, and not least to those who have had to overcome problems.

Hayley was educated at schools in Barton-under-Needwood, where she showed obvious artistic ability but struggled with most academic subjects. Recalling those difficulties, Hayley said, ‘Although I was provided with a small amount of extra tuition, the reason for my apparent academic weakness was never properly identified until I was eventually diagnosed as being dyslexic. However, because I was keen to qualify for a place in higher education to study Fine Art, I was allowed to stay on into the sixth form to take just two A-level subjects: Creative Textiles and Art.’

Armed with her two A-levels, Hayley obtained a place on an Art Foundation Course in Lichfield and went on to take a Degree in Fine Art at Gloucester University, where she was able to specialise in painting and drawing, which she had been passionate about ever since she had first held a pencil and had been given her first paint-box.

During her degree course, Hayley was encouraged to create pictures painted in an abstract style and her final degree show largely consisted of work produced in this fashion. Her dissertation, entitled ‘Is it Art?’, analysed the work of Damien Hirst, but wisely avoided answering the question she had posed. Readers of her extended essay were left to reach their own conclusion.

After leaving university and putting her dabbling in abstract art behind her, Hayley looked to other means of earning a living as an artist. While she was still a sixth-form student, she had been commissioned to produce a painting of a pet Labrador, a task she had remembered tackling with ‘great gusto’. Knowing that she could produce highly detailed, photo-realist pictures of animals, she felt that there might be a future in selling ‘animal pictures’ commercially.

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Of course, there are scores of artists who can produce run-of-the-mill animal paintings but, almost from the start, Hayley’s animal pictures stood out as being ‘different’. Using unexpected and witty juxtapositions, she began to specialise in what she calls ‘visual jokes’. She said: ‘One of my early pieces was called “Spots and Stripes” and featured a zebra and a Dalmatian. Another composition, entitled “Winter Warmer”, featured a parrot and a penguin.’

Whilst studying for her degree, Hayley had obtained a work placement at Gallery Three, where she would subsequently be employed at weekends as a gallery assistant. When the gallery’s curators encouraged her to show them some of her paintings, she was bolstered by their interest and began to look for a company that might be interested in publishing her pictures. When a buyer for De Montfort Fine Art saw Hayley’s work, she was so impressed that she gave her a contract almost immediately. As a result, the young painter from Barton-under-Needwood now has pictures on display in several leading galleries, including Gallery Three.

Zebras are one of Hayley’s favourite subjects. A print called ‘The Look of Love’ currently on display at Gallery Three features two zebras turning to face each other with very evident affection. In this picture, she has replaced the natural black-and-white patterns of the animals with multi-coloured stripes, giving the composition a dazzling op-art effect. Alongside this painting of the two besotted zebras is a large acrylic painting called ‘Mr Pollock’, which depicts a zebra with brilliantly-coloured stripes set against a background clearly based on an ‘action painting’ by Jackson Pollock.

The witty use of backgrounds inspired by modern art is a feature of many of Hayley’s animal pictures. Another print on display at Gallery Three shows three cows standing in front of a painting composed of coloured spots. Entitled ‘Damien’s Herd’, the picture is a witty double reference to Damien Hirst’s ‘spot paintings’ and to his installations of dead cows preserved in formaldehyde.

A regular grid of black spots is used as a backcloth in a painting of a Dalmatian called ‘Spot the Dog’ and a Jasper Johns-style painting of a target is used as a complementary background in a painting called ‘Bullseye’ which features a dog with a prominent black patch over one eye. In several other paintings, Hayley makes use of familiar everyday images. For example, one picture of a zebra is set against a representation of a barcode and is called ‘Check You Out’.

With cleverly titled and perfectly executed paintings such as this, Hayley’s work is in great demand, requiring her to devote many hours to her work. This is not seen by her as a burden, because she adores painting and is more than happy to put in the required time. As her boyfriend Christopher Graham says, ‘Hayley will only take time off if I insist that she should do so. Even when she is not painting, her mind is always working on fresh ideas and witty new titles.’

Hayley is immensely grateful to her boyfriend, whom she met when they were at university. She says: ‘Christopher gives me great support and encouragement. Whenever I worry about presenting my work to people because of my dyslexia, he is always there to give me confidence. We have bought a house with a garden studio and we are looking forward to getting married later this year.’

There is no doubt that Hayley has much to look forward to in life. She and Christopher make a great team and the popularity of her pictures is destined to endure. One of her most popular images, entitled ‘Dare to be Different’, depicts five zebras racing neck and neck. Four of the animals have black and white stripes but the stripes on the fifth zebra are multi-coloured. This picture is a perfect illustration of how Hayley has earned her own stripes as a creative artist by daring to be different.

Hayley’s pictures can be viewed at Gallery Three, Barton Marina, Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire, DE13 8AS (01283 712900) info@gallerythree.co.uk. www.gallerythree.co.uk.