Jim is one of the leading Cornish Naive Art Artists and at the age of 80 is still painting most days. His works are collected by many people around the world.
He started creating art when he retired at 63. He sold his furniture design business of 40 years, along with all of his shops and factories, and moved to Brittany, France, where he opened his own art gallery. As he had done many times in the past he changed direction and showed only his work and it paid for all of his paint and canvases. Jim lived above the gallery with his wife for six summers to try and find his own style of work. His sons also visited and helped with all the renovation work. Then his daughter asked to buy the gallery and move to France so he let her have it. He planned to open his own garden gallery in Cornwall as most of his work is linked to this part of the world.
Jim had always collected lots of Cornish Naive Art over the years as he was always passionate about it. His belief is that art comes from the heart and that’s not something they can teach you in formal education. The work he creates brings him happiness, his preferred medium is oils and he uses a thick layer to build up his paintings.
I met Jim via email while organising the virtual winter fair for the Association of British Naive Artists (ABNA) of which he is a long-standing member. Below are the responses to my questions which I’m sure you’d enjoy reading.
S: What inspires you?
J: Tying out new ideas and ways to do them. Not everything works out the way one thinks.
S: What would you advise artists that are just at the start of their artistic career?
J: All artists must do their own thing, if not art can get boring.
S: Do you paint more when you are happy or unhappy?
S: Who is your favourite artist and why?
J: There are an awful lot. Of course Van Gogh – I have visited his museum in Amsterdam and it was brilliant. Also Sir Stanley Spencer – I travelled up to Edinburgh to see a very rare exhibition of his Second World War paintings of the shipyards in Glasgow. In the war they were fantastic and huge. Some were 40 ft long by 12 ft. Hard to get your head around when he used such a small brush for all his work! He was an odd ball, taking all his work around in an old pram in Cookham. I have also visited his small gallery in Cookham. One of the reasons maybe for being drawn to Naive Art?
S: Are you influenced by a particular style?
J: Yes, too many to list…
S: The first thing that gave you reassurance in your art?
J: Some say it’s not their cup of tea but many say that they love the thick paint and love the naivety of it all. Some just want a painting of Cornwall or where they are on holiday here in Cornwall this is why I try to paint many different ports and beaches in Cornwall. But I do not do commissions anymore, only my version of any town or village.
S: What do people say about your paintings?
J: As above but ladies have a lot of different likes to men. I find they seem to like my flower paintings, beaches, lots of kids playing on the beaches. Men seem to like the boats, shops and seafronts with lots of leery type people around. But the ladies seem to get the ones they like I find.
S: Do you think you are born or made an artist?
J: Are you born an artist? I have no idea as so many things are classed as art nowadays.
Why do they have art schools if you are born an artist? I think that Francis Bacon never went to art school. Also Alfred Wallis, an old fisherman in St.Ives never went to an art school and never started painting until he was sixty and he used anything to paint on cardboard or old wood, anything that he could find. I have painted his cottage in St.Ives on a few canvases. All now sold so I must do another one soon.
Some artist take up art in prison for the first time and it works for them. They get art lessons from some of the art forgers that were very good at forgery. Like the one a few years ago who sold a lot of Lowry fakes in the auction houses but his fakes now are collected in their own right and he has become a successful artist. So how can you judge? If you are born an artist or not, is it by dealers and auction prices? I think not, as Madge Gill sold virtually nothing and also Van Gogh and hundreds of other artist around the world. Look at Frida Kahlo’s fantastic work for instance! Would recommend watching the film about here life, it’s very inspiring. That’s why I like Naive Art.
S: Which is your favourite place and why?
J: It’s Cornwall but I was very taken with Brittany in France as it’s like Cornwall in the 60s – very little traffic, very easy-going and laid-back. Where I was was close to the National park and forest area with a large lake and waterfalls. Also close to Quimper, a large town with cathedral and not far from Pont-Aven, the art town full of galleries, very pretty, so a great day out for lunch and a glass of wine. Me and my wife visited it on many occasions.
To discover more of Jim’s paintings and also if you are interested in buying his art, feel free to visit his profile on the Affordable British Art website by clicking here.