Meet artist Geoffrey Sainsbury
- Credit: Archant
The light and shade of the Mediterranean are vividly present in Wye artist Geoffrey Sainsbury’s works
Geoffrey Sainsbury has converted spare rooms at his home in Wye to accommodate his practice as an artist.
In one there is a worktop, where he paints on a raised, angled surface while listening to Radio 4. There are tubes of paint, mixing palette, pencils and paintbrushes waiting to be used next to him.
There is a triple spotlight, as Geoffrey only gets to paint when he has finished his work as resident full-time gardener at Olantigh.
He says one of the pleasures of living in Kent is having France nearby, as witnessed by his sunny townscapes, influenced by the bright Mediterranean light of the South.
Geoffrey left school at 16 with a Grade 1 in Art O-level before training as a cartographic draughtsman “and only indulged in art for fun”.
However, it was a painting holiday in 2001 in the South of France that changed everything. “I got hooked on the sunshine, the heat, the architecture and the street life. The tutor encouraged me to put figures in my paintings and they brought the scene to life.”
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At first he found figures difficult, but then discovered: “I found it didn’t matter if they weren’t perfect. Now I love having people in my paintings, loads of them, the more the better. My favourite subjects are markets and cafés.
“I always work from my photos and I have to wait for people to wander into the shot before I press the shutter.”
Geoffrey has had little in the way of formal art training, “just the odd painting holiday in France” and considers himself a hobby painter. “It doesn’t stop me striving to be a better artist, though”.
Indeed, he has paintings and greetings cards on display in the Francis Iles Gallery in Rochester, as well as Church Mouse Studios in Hythe.
Since 2001 he has exhibited with both the Ashford and the Canterbury Society of Art, with the Pilgrims’ Way artists in Lenham and the Kent Painters Group in Sevenoaks.
Geoffrey is inspired by perhaps a colourful scene, movement in a market, the contrast between light and dark, sunshine and shadow, “capturing the moment”. You can see this in his works. Working on one piece at a time, he chooses to start and finish one painting before “giving myself to the next”.
His genre is figurative and he only works in watercolour, notoriously the most difficult medium. “I work on 140lb watercolour paper. It is the only medium I feel comfortable with and its advantages include accessibility, affordability and you can be as bold or as delicate as you like.”
The sizes of his work vary between 10in x 8in and 22in x 15in, “depending on the content of the image”. Working only in the evenings, for roughly an hour or so, Geoffrey can complete a work in about two weeks.
Geoffrey says he “loves creating something from nothing” and his most exciting works are the really busy subjects, the cafés on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence for instance. “I got such enjoyment seeing them evolving.”
Of his artistic heroes he says “I only like living artists”, however then cites the late Royal Academician John Ward, another Kent artist. Another of his heroes is Nicholas Verrall with his radiant work, and the dappled shadows painted by John Hammond.
He also admires the paintings of Hazel Soan, who works with the bright light of Africa. “Artists from the past are classical and I can’t even strive to achieve that!” he laughs.
Were Geoffrey to choose just one colour to work with, it would be Burnt Sienna, a very classic choice, as the ground on many Renaissance paintings was this tint. As he says: “It is a gorgeous warm colour, reminiscent of sepia photos. Squeeze some from a tube, it glistens. A thin wash lets the light shine through.”
Coy about giving advice (“who am I to give advice?”), Geoffrey suggests that what works for him “is to identify what you like doing and do it over and over again.”
Get in touch
To see Geoffrey Sainsbury’s work visit the Pilgims’ Way Art exhibition at the Lenham Tithe Barn from 19-29 May 2017. You can also see his work in the Kent Painters’Group show, held at the end of October, at Sevenoaks School, 27-29 October 2017: one for your diary.
Church Mouse Studios in Hythe High Street also has a selection of Geoffrey’s paintings.
Contact Geoffrey at: firstname.lastname@example.org