The Artist Magazine May 2010 issue features John Dyer

Published on 04/7/2010

Full of heightened life and colour, John’s work offers a striking contrast to the calm, subtle hues of Godfrey’s work. Born in Cornwall into an artistic family, John is painter-in-residence at the Eden Project and has been involved in a large number of community and environmental projects. It is this enthusiasm that led him to the National Trust. ‘The fun and energy that people display in the maze at Glendurgan Garden is the real attraction for me. I visit the garden regularly with my family and we all enjoy rushing around, finding our way into and back out of the maze. The garden is full of happy noises and shrieks, all set in the most magnificent sub-tropical valley garden setting.’

The National Trust purchased John’s large painting Amazing Mayhem in the Maze in May, Glendurgan (above) for display at the entrance to the garden. This led to a close association with the Trust, including regular workshops within their grounds and John working with the Trust to develop a tropical garden in a nearby primary school. So how does John work? ‘I always try to paint a new subject from life in the first instance, if it is possible. Once I have painted on location I have a full day of memories, feelings, sights and interesting snapshots of life that I will have witnessed. I make simple drawings and do use photos as reference.’ His images suggest spontaneity and movement. They make you smile. ‘The way I paint is very vigorous and immediate. I use acrylic paints and a pile of rather old and ragged brushes, but that combination works really well for me. In the heat and sun of the Cornish landscape you have to make decisions without hesitation or it all sets and that's it, finished before you’re ready! I do a rough “air drawing” with a dry paintbrush dragged over the canvas, to decide briefly on the main composition and large areas of colour. I always do the sky first, and the people, dogs, birds etc, last. The painting will last all day and if something interesting flies by, like a raven, then in it goes. I consider my paintings autobiographical – a record of a day in my life. ‘The paintings slowly build up – layer on layer. Sometimes I obliterate things by adding another element, but if that is what the painting wants, who I am I to argue! Painting is certainly a two- or three-way conversation. When I take my loaded brush to the canvas and can't immediately see where to place the next mark, the painting is telling me to stop. And I do.’ John echoed Godfrey’s advice about approaching the Trust. ‘If you want to paint at a location, check with the staff onsite to see if they are happy to have people setting up easels. You never know, they might have a good reason not to allow it – or they could rope off a private area for you!’

Richard Hearn - Posted on 07 Apr 2010

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