Ocean colour scene

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I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember and have drawn and painted since childhood. I’m self-taught and have always been fascinated with colour and shapes in nature.

As a child I used to sketch things like feathers and leaves I found while out walking our dog, or I’d draw creatures I kept in vivariums, like stick insects and Luna Moon moths.

Art college was a path I thought I would naturally go down, so being rejected by five different ones when I was 19 years old was a hard knock to take! But it made me more determined to succeed.

Having painted and been fascinated by wildlife since childhood, I took the leap to become a professional artist and decided to study and build a reputation in one particular subject area, enabling me to experiment with art techniques and mediums until I found my style.

Initially, I chose the oriental and beautifully ornamental fish Nishikigoi (koi) – for their power, grace and colour variations.

I do a lot of commissioned-based work, and one client liked my paintings so much that he commissioned one and then invited me to visit Japan to meet the most renowned koi breeders.

The trip was inspirational, and I have embraced the same work ethos that the most eminent Japanese koi breeders use in nurturing their champion fish: Dedication, patience, detail, enthusiasm and passion.

Fortunately, I have had many commissions over the years, from large paintings of apples for an individual client to shoals of tropical marine fish for a hotel in California.

My last two commissioned paintings were both paintings of koi, the first a triptych – three panels each 20-in x 60-in, the second a 47-in x 47-in box canvas depicting koi circling.

A love of colour, imagination and drawing eventually led me to writing, illustrating and self-publishing my own range of children’s picture books, too. My stories are based on things I care about or have seen – from our old one-eyed (Pirate Jack) cat, who is sadly no longer with us, to the rubbish in our oceans.

My main influences for my work come from life experiences. As a child growing up in the 1970s I was fascinated by the TV programmes of Jacques Cousteau and Sir David Attenborough.

In fact, it was a dream come true when I received a handwritten thank you letter from Sir David Attenborough after I sent him a copy of ‘Little Angelica – To Save our Sea’.

In 1991 I qualified as a BSAC diver as part of the Tunbridge Wells scuba diving club, experiencing diving around the British coastline and in man-made sunken quarries created for scuba.

I have since qualified as both a Padi Advanced and SSI Sport Diver, leading to inspirational scuba dives in Egypt, Israel, Malta, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Wales and, most recently, Tenerife, and what I see underwater continues to inspire my work.

I aim to create interesting designs with anatomically correct subject matter, creating a contemporary, dynamic and eye-catching look. Every painting is carefully researched and executed, often taking months to complete. In most of my fish paintings each scale is hand-drawn or embossed, then painted approximately ten times to create a three-dimensional effect.

I’m also influenced by the amazing Japanese wood block artists Hiroshige, Hokusai and Kuniyoshi and other works, such as James Marsh’s illustrations, particularly his record cover designs for the fantastic 80s band Talk Talk.

For about ten years I have taken part in the brilliant South East Open Studios event, and I’m always amazed by the variety of artistic talent throughout the region and particularly around Tunbridge Wells. I think we are very lucky here with both the art and music scenes.

My latest work will be on display at the Different Art Fair in London, where I’m one of just 30 artists exhibiting, but if you can’t get along to that then you can catch me at a few of the local Christmas Fairs, including one at Holmewood House School, where I will show a small selection of my paintings, prints and will be signing copies of my books.

I will then be concentrating on building a new collection of paintings ready for exhibiting in 2020, including the South East Open Studios event. My studio is open by appointment throughout the year so if you want to see my work or discuss a commission, do get in touch.

Keith will be exhibiting at The Different Art Fair, 14 Percy Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1DR from October 24-29.

Entry is free and the gallery is open from 11am to 8pm (6pm on Wednesday).

Other local artists taking part include Neal Scrase, Guy Portelli and Shelley Rose.


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