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‘WINGS’ – Jeremy Houghton

 

Sometimes shared experiences or passions bring people together, sometimes it’s something as simple as a beautiful tropical bird that inspires artists all over the world…and so it is with my upcoming collaboration with Jeremy Houghton.

Jeremy is an artist who’s love of wildlife, and specifically flamingos, stems from time spent travelling in Africa (much like my own). We share a fascination with their bold colouring and those long gangly legs.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Jeremy to ask him what inspires him, how he felt about sketching the heroes of RAF and, of course, flamingos.


 

Firstly…why flamingos, what do you love about them? They seem to be a motif you keep coming back to in your work, why do you think that is?

 

The whole flamingo ‘thing’ started when I was teaching art in Cape Town, a place with a vast array of artistic possibilities and potential to get stuck into.  I am fascinated by all different topics but I love animals and am passionate about nature and these particular birds, when in flight, caught my eye. You don’t see the individual bird, more just a mass of moving colour and shape and if you combine that with the reflections on the water pan there are infinite possibilities to explore. It was here that I realised movement would be the focal point for my career.

Over the last 15 years, the flamingo has just kept giving and I am constantly in the position of having too much information and too many ideas to play around with. I look at the shapes of the birds, the shapes in between and the movement within space. The bird in flight is very important and the lessons I have learned from studying this have been essential for depicting movement during my Sports Residencies.

 

‘Unfazed Nonchalence’

 

How did your painting career begin and when did you feel you could turn your passion into a full time career? 

 

The Art department was the only place in school where I felt at home, safe and happy. It was where my confidence grew and I felt a sense of achievement.

Following my law degree I went straight into teaching which led me to Cape Town. It was here, after 8 years of teaching, I chose to dedicate my time and resources to painting professionally full time.

In 2004 I did my first residency painting Zulus for David Rattray at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana. It was my first attempt at getting under the skin of a story and depicting this through art. I am very interested in Military History so this was an incredible starting point for me.

Back in the UK I realised that as a full time artist I needed to generate momentum both in and out of the studio, you need to paint for an audience as well as for yourself.

 

You’ve created some amazing sketches recently to celebrate the RAF’s centenary. Do you have a personal link to the RAF or did something else draw you to the project?

 

When I returned to the UK I focused on my military portfolio. It’s something I have always been interested in and it became a wonderful angle to further my research and interest in the topic of flight – soldiers who fly, striving to get their wings as RAF cadets. So in many ways the RAF story has been the amalgamation of my 2 different portfolios.

 

 

You’ve also been invited back again to be Wimbledon’s artist in residence this year for their 150th anniversary. How did that come about?

 

It’s an interesting link leading all the way back to my Artist in Residence at Windsor Castle for Her Majesty The Queen which lead me to be Artist in Residence at Goodwood for the Earl of March which led to the America’s Cup with Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing which Wimbledon then came from.

 

Jeremy at Goodwood

 

I was Championship Artist for Wimbledon last year commissioned to create 6 paintings. I was told where to sit and had access to everywhere, and while there I took photos, sketched and recorded as much stuff as possible. I had around 6 months to finish the paintings

I am very lucky, it’s a wonderful experience. And this year I have been invited back to celebrate the 150th anniversary by creating an exhibition of 30-40 paintings for the Clubhouse.

 

‘Roger’

 

If you’re having trouble getting started with a project, how do you encourage your creativity?

 

I paint every day juggling my two different portfolios: flying birds and monochromatic which equally support each other. And because I have two different bodies of work, if I am struggling with one, I can bounce to the other which usually kick-starts me back into being productive.   I always have about 6 paintings on the go at the same time and will at times leave one for around 2 weeks after which I revisit and know the answers.

I find tidying up very helpful. If my desk is covered in admin with unopened envelopes it pretty much reflects my state of mind. So if I can get rid of my emails and clutter it means I have an open space in my mind to get back to painting.

 

Is there an artist (s) in particular that inspires you?

 

David Tress. He paints in a very energetic and rugged way, often in just black and white. His paintings are dynamic, bold and gutsy. I am a big fan of his work.

 

What’s the biggest ‘pinch yourself’ moment in your career so far?

 

When I was given a private audience with The Queen at Buckingham palace to view my paintings from Windsor Castle. With a residency you need to find a theme, nugget or focus and with the castle it has thousands of years of history that includes the whole village/town of people who live there. The Mews are still very much the heartbeat of the place and through the roles of the horses you can gain a very interesting perspective of the private and public sides of the Royal Family.

 

 

The paintings had captured The Queens imagination whose life is her horses. Each painting was hung on an easel and I walked her through each one: racehorses, Fell ponies, driving, carriage work and military roles – she knew everything about all of them. 

It wasn’t until afterwards that I thought, did that really happen?

 

Finally, tell us about your work with Heartfelt Tips…it seems like it’s a cause very close to your heart?

 

I was sent away to boarding school at the age of 7 and I hated it. My refuge was my pencil case, it held the tools I needed to feel at home and it became my friend. You learn to write and draw with pens and pencils and with these tools come the ability to allow ideas to flow and ideas create everything. In my mind everything is born from a pencil case and not everyone has the luxury of owning one. So I put these 2 ideas together.

We supply families, schools and groups with as many pencil cases as your children can fill with their unused stationery (of which in my experience with 2 young girls can be drawers and cupboards full!) and we then ensure these go to a local charity who can use the pencil cases. The last piece of the puzzle is that we deliver the pencil cases along with tips to help inspire creativity. I believe if you can teach children the concept of initiative the possibilities are endless. Why not make something with your pens and pencils: design a business card, rewrite and redesign the menu for your local coffee shop and ask if they’ll use it, go to a movie and write a review and send it to your school magazine or local newspaper. The idea is to install the idea of initiative.

 

‘Hen Night’


I’m very proud and honoured to say that Jeremy and I are collaborating for a very special one off event on Tuesday 15th May for his exhibition called ‘Wings’. It will be at Osborne Studio Gallery, 2 Motcomb Street, Belgravia, London SW1X 8JU. Please see full details below.

We look forward to hopefully seeing you there!

 

 

 

 

 

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