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!!

How to contact me

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Phone: +33 (0)4 66241569
Email: info@colin-baxter.net

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