I am inspired by art, I am alive because of art. I am inspired by life.
Art was introduced to my life one year after my injury; fortuitously.
In October 2010, my wife and I were invited, along with three other couples from the Light Dragoons, to a benevolent holiday in Majorca for a week. Our invitation came from an adorable couple, David Mynett and Shiela Peczenik, who owned a holiday home near Port de Pollensa. They watched the media reports of scores of injured service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and wanted to provide some comfort and rest by offering a free holiday. David, Shiela and their many expatriate friends on the island looked after us with great warmth during out stay.
David was an artist and watching him paint and draw reminded me of how much I enjoyed art when I was at school. I asked to borrow a pencil and sketch pad from David and I became lost in the process of drawing and experiencing the beauty of the Majorcan view.
I consequently used painting and drawing as an escape for me when I became depressed. It freed me from my negative thoughts and allowed my mind to breathe. It allowed me to see that I could improve my life. It allowed me to see that life was worth living.
My wife and I determined in 2014 I should stop trying to live to the capability of my old brain and focus on my new abilities. We decided I should strive to become a professional artist.
My first ever oil painting was a portrait of a soldier of mine, Private Gavin Elliott, who was killed in action in 2009, which I gave to his mother. My most ambitious portrait at the time was of Rupert Bowers, killed in action in 2012, that I gave to the Officers’ Mess 2 Mercian; we had served together in the same Battalion and on two tours in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009. His widow Victoria gave me the best compliment I will ever receive when she saw the finished portrait “I just want to hug him”
I realised the emotional power of portraiture. This is why I want to be a portrait artist.
In 2015, I won the Armed Forces Art Society (AFAS) Exhibition’s Great Art Prize and the Army Art Society’s Exhibition Sir John Stibbon’s prize for my work Portrait of the Artist’s Wife. I also won the Great Art Prize at the AFAS 2017 exhibition at The Lighthouse Gallery in Glasgow for my self portrait ‘I AM’.
Final round of the 2018 RA Summer Exhibition for Margate A Mirror of My LIfe.
Military portraits are, and will continue to be, important to me but I have also undertaken portraits of people from all walks of life. See some examples of my work.
I have also found rehabilitation and a joy for living through other means: theatre work, writing, singing and participating in charitable causes. I am delighted to have raised over £90,000 for charity over the last few years, in part by selling some of my artwork at charity events. I have recently featured in some promotional videos for the Veterans Foundation, using some of my vignettes I developed for my professional talks. Both of them resulted in over 2000 people signing for the Veterans Lottery, thereby expecting to raise over £360,000 in 18 months.