News

In this blog I talk about the different series of paintings, what I'm working on at the moment and what's behind the process of painting for me. For some people it's important to know "the story behind the painting", I will endeavour to tell it. I will also be updating and adding new paintings to the site and will be talking about the ideas, feelings and inspiration behind them. Having painted all my life there are so many different pictures and sketches in my studio I hope to bring some of them to life via this site. I hope you enjoy your viewing.

Some thoughts on Art and Paintings

Published 13 November 2014

Art - Paintings by Colin Baxter

Tools of the trade | Colin Baxter

If we think of photography- then we see basically a science, which can become an art in the hands of a good photographer. However the photo is immediate,usually a snapshot, an instant in time.
Nowadays people want immediate rewards and they are usually superficial.
Painting is about time, held on a canvas.
It takes time to do it and time to look at it.
When attracted immediately to a painting,(a gut reaction), it is good to trust this rather than intellectualise too quickly. But a painting that superficially attracts is often “formulated” to do this, and lacks any depth and mystery.
A painting that copies the  photographic image, at best shows great technical skill, but is usually trapped in the confines (design, colour, etc) of the photo.
To move into “art” one has to start to move and rearrange the design and picture elements, to see what will happen. Change colours and learn from what happens. Be open, (loose) enough to let chance/accidents lead to new directions, (as in life !!)

This is the arena of art.

There needs to be one more thing,”mystery”, because this feeds the observer of the painting, being drawn in, to think, to participate.
For this is the most important element:
Is anything being communicated?
Is the observer taking an active role?
Can there be a dialogue?
Does it change a little, the way they see the world?

Colin Baxter.

Looking at Paintings by Jill

Published 3 November 2014

Jill talks about looking at paintings.

Colin's studio
Colin's studio

A lot of people, me included, are apprehensive about walking through the doors of a gallery, or a shop selling ‘Art work’ , or going to an exhibition of an artist’s work. A shop in town looking like a boutique with a painting balanced on an easel in the window attracts who? and if you did dare to walk in you may have to speak to someone, cast an opinion on what you see.You would want to sound constructive in your criticism but what words spring to mind.  ‘I don’t like abstract art’, ‘I only like realistic paintings’, ‘I want something blue'.

If you did have an idea of purchasing a painting I think most people would play safe and spend a long time looking at paintings on other people’s walls. but what better way now than to browse a web site.

If you are curious to know what motivates an artist, read Colin’s description of the way he approaches a new series. The word imagination crops up and in his contact with the people who have his works hanging on their walls, they themselves feel a connection and through searching  have discovered new images and dimensions not apparent straight away. His use of the word anchor point sums up the idea that an abstract image can flow onwards deeper into the painting,  up and down or hint at something hidden behind a curve or shadow.

These are just words, the paintings speak for themselves.

The story behind Colin Baxter the artist

Published 10 April 2014

Colin's experiences from college to teaching, from producing pots to building his studio and life in France.

The cutting edge
Building the potter's wheel
Dinged pots

Studies

After attending Ramsey Abbey grammar school and Huntingdon grammar school Colin left to join the RAF where he studied radio and radar at Locking Air Force base in Somerset. Whilst there he enjoyed playing football and was captain of the 99th entry football team. He also got permission to leave the camp to go to Art evening classes in Weston-Super Mare. The only person ever, to be issued with an “art pass” ! It was as his interest in painting and drawing increased that he decided he wanted to leave the air force, so he continually put in requests to be allowed to leave. Each time he was refused, being reminded that he had signed for twelve years, but still he persisted until one day he was summoned to see the commanding office and was finally given permission. The reason being that there were too many people in his training group so it seemed logical to let him go.

Before leaving he applied for and got an interview at Hornsey College of Art in north London. He arrived wearing his uniform, carrying his port folio and with a good recommendation from his art class teacher he was accepted. In September 1964 he started a four year course in Fine Art.

As a “mature” student at aged 20! and having spent nearly three years in a controlled environment  he appreciated the freedom but also the privilege of spending days studying the thing he most enjoyed and having the facilities provided. He learnt the skills of stretcher making, mixing the ground to cover the canvas and using the different pigments in the oil paints. Alongside the practical work there were classes in philosophy and art history plus the occasional visiting, sometimes well known, lecturer. He also spent time in the sculpture department and he learnt to throw pots and sculpt in clay. “All this during the swinging sixties”!

Earning a living

After graduating he spent several years working in the building industry where he gained skills that proved to be invaluable later on. Looking back on those times, it can be seen that a pattern has emerged where the tasks for earning a living have co-existed with his determination to continue painting and this is echoed in his art work. His involvement with the physical problems of building structures are in themselves sculptural and his sketch books are evidence of a mixture of calculations and hastily drawn images of children, cats, flowers whatever happens to be going on around him.

Earning a living meant knuckling down to something more secure than occasional work so he did a one year teacher training course at Brighton and immediately got a job in Lancashire. Teaching for twelve years did not stop him finding the time to create.

Pottery

He decided to make his own gas kiln and potter's wheel. In the end house on a terraced street the neighbours were curious to know what was happening and called round to watch progress. The kiln was made from a big oil storage tank 1m3, with one side cut away using an acetylene cutter to make a door. The hinges were provided courtesy of a local firm, unbeknownst to them, the motor for the wheel was from an old washing machine and the kiln itself was extremely economical. He had done some research into the latest insulation materials by contacting the company 'Carborundum'. They sent a representative who explained the different qualities and together they decided on several layers including one which had been used on the latest space shuttle. It was expensive, but proved it’s worth.
The size of the kiln meant it would hold a lot of pots and again make it more economical to fire. The cellar was the workshop and the shed built on the gable end, housed the kiln. On a freezing day with snow in the garden, the firing made the shed a hothouse.

France

In 1989 came the big decision to move to France. All those skills learnt in the building trades finally paid off. Colin and Jill renovated an old stone house making two self contained apartments as well as their own home. In 2006 the art studio was finished.

A life full to the brim and still developing!!

The story so far by Jill

Published 25 February 2014

There is always a story behind a painting and this is the story behind the artist.

The Back Street, Trawden, Lancashire
After the Storm

My life with Colin has been an adventure, starting a long time ago when he was a student in London at  Hornsey College of Art and I at eighteen moved there to be with him.  I found work easily and weekends were spent lounging, sauntering the streets and parks and talking about everything we saw. During those walks I learnt to look at things from a different angle, a bend in the road, perspectives, the spaces between objects. Having considered myself no good at drawing or painting I listened and learned to see beyond the obvious and I began to understand, but I never took up a brush to carry it further.

Years passed and our time was occupied with more urgent things like earning money to keep a growing family but Colin’s need to paint never disappeared. During his years at the college he took advantage of the space and time to do sculpture and to make pots. He learnt from the technical assistants at college how to stretch his own canvasses and to prime them using stinking rabbit skin glue heated on an old camping gas stove and then to coat them with a chalk based ground. He sourced all the basic ingredients from local hardware stores and used  Cornellisen’s in Great Russell St. London to buy canvas. That was/is a magical shop, full to the brim with everything an artist would need. Another shop he used was Russell and Chapel.

We moved out of London to the midlands and then to Lancashire where we stayed for 16 years while the children were at school and then we moved to southern France. It was at the time when the idea of making a go of things abroad was a new trend. We cut all ties with the UK, sold up and put our faith in doing it ourselves. Literally buying an old stone ruin. Roof to basement needed attention and we did it. We borrowed muscle from male friends for the really heavy lifting of roof timbers but the rest was us and the children when they showed up during holidays. No swanning by a blue pool and sipping wine, not then anyway!

During all those years Colin sketched and painted and we have files of sketch books showing glimpses of the family and cats. The painted canvases stacked up. His studio, at first, was part of the roof space and we lived with the smell of turps.
I like to write and I have kept a diary of our life. I stumble on those tatty books occasionally and pull one out to remind me of what we were doing and I am surprised by some of the things as they have faded from our memories.

In 2006 we had dreams of building a pool and at the same time we wanted to build a garage alongside the pump room. By 2008 we had finished the pool and garage and had also constructed Colin's studio above the garage with plenty of space and light and a stove to warm him in winter, a place for people to visit.

We created two self-catering gîtes and have welcomed hundreds of people over the years. Many have shown an interest in Colin’s paintings and have become patrons of his work. A lot of our guests return and have become good friends.

There is always a story behind a work of art as there is a history to human friendship which lasts many years.

Paintings in your life by Anna

Published 10 December 2013

A painting is whatever you feel it is. It may remind you of something, evoke a memory or mood or it could just be that you love the colour, the contrast, the form.

Painting by Colin Baxter. 
Brother and Sister
Painting by Colin Baxter. 
How does he do that?
Painting by Colin Baxter.
Setting up for the night
Painting by Colin Baxter.
The white van

Paintings in your life

One of the reasons for creating this website was to allow more people to see Colin’s paintings. There are a lot of paintings; in his studio, in his house and of course all those paintings that are now residing in other people’s homes and offices.
I think paintings should be shared and seen so it’s a shame that all these amazing paintings are stacked up in his studio when they could be living another life on someone’s wall somewhere.

Memories

Paintings mean a lot to me, I grew up with them. Colin is my dad and although I don’t paint I can see what’s going on in his work, not always, but that’s the thing about paintings - everyone has their own interpretation of what they see and feel.

Colin did lots of pencil and ink sketches of us, my brothers and I, when we were growing up. It’s our equivalent of a photo album; camping in the old VW van, cycling on the street, tying up shoe laces, picnics by the river...

Nowadays I think there are a lot of people who just don’t consider paintings in their everyday life and certainly would never buy one or ‘dare’ buy one. I’d like to convince or reassure people that looking at a piece of artwork doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a particular opinion or have to come up with some deep and meaningful statement about it. A painting is whatever you feel it is. It may remind you of something, evoke a memory or mood or it could just be that you love the colour, the contrast, the form.

Take a long look ...

It is amazing how many people will say that they ‘don’t really like abstract paintings’ or that they ‘are not that keen on figurative images’ and then as they look at Colin’s work they are suddenly taken with an enormous green abstract painting or a very simple drawing of figures by the river. You can’t label or categorize your tastes and feelings - you would be surprised what you can see in a painting if you look long enough.

Colin’s paintings range from water colours of the Irish coastline through oil paintings of landscapes in England, France, Norway and Italy to abstract cityscapes and mystical forms.

He is experimenting and discovering all the time.

My First Painting

Published 12 June 2012

This is the earliest painting I have, painted while at Ramsey Abbey Grammar School. I’ve been painting ever since, so excluding the paintings sold over the years, they are “mounting up”, excuse the pun, and the output is increasing. Living in a remote part of France, and with the help of Jill & Anna, we are letting them “air”.

Still Life painted at school, oil on board, 1959
by Colin Baxter.

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