HISTORY & BACKGROUND
I was encouraged to start drawing and painting from an early age by my art teacher. At school I adopted a large part of the art room, gaining 100% at GCSE and an A with distinction at A Level, even though I failed two other subjects in the process, due to my commitment to art.
After leaving school I studied for a BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design at Bournville Art College, Birmingham. On successful completion of this course in 1995, I enrolled at The University of Wolverhampton for three years, where I gained a BA Honours in 'Fine Art' specializing in painting. It was in Wolverhampton that I learned the practice of going into the studio every day to paint, living and working as an artist.
After graduating I organized a few small shows in bars and clubs around Birmingham and Manchester. Although they all sold out, I still found I needed a regular income to support myself and my painting. This is when I joined the Halcyon Gallery, as a framer in their warehouse.
Seeing all the art passing through my hands as a framer I became re-invigorated and encouraged to start painting a wider variety of subjects again. I had purposely left a few of my paintings around the workshop and eventually, as I had hoped, one of my colleagues showed them to Glyn Washington who promptly arranged a viewing with me. The response that I received from him was so positive, exceeding all my expectations. It was this response that inspired me to continue painting and provided me with new wealth of confidence. In the two years since joining Washington Green I have developed more as an artist than ever before.
IDEAS & INSPIRATIONS
During my degree at Wolverhampton, a lot more emphasis was placed upon theory and ideas, rather than the actual practice of painting. Being quite a practical person I was able to discover and teach myself the physical qualities of paint, which interested me more than becoming tied down with deep theories behind my works.
I was almost forced into thinking about why and what I painted, and when I did my final year thesis I came to realize that I had chosen art for the simple reason that I got pleasure from it.
From then on I painted what I enjoyed doing and enjoyed looking at. I painted pictures that bought me, and hopefully others, pleasure. This is still the main reason behind what I choose to paint. I don't paint a particular subject, I try to depict an atmosphere, which can be anything from relaxation, solitude, comfort or something that makes me feel at ease when I look at it. A still picture gives me something that I do not get from a photograph. There is also a visual element that inspires me – colour, light, distance, or an interesting contrast that catches my eye.
Keeping my painting fairly loose means I can concentrate on enjoying the use of paint, and I believe that the enjoyment I get from painting a picture also shows through for the viewer to enjoy.
FROM PALETTE TO PICTURE
I discovered oil colour at school. My first proper exam piece was in oil and I have since found this to be my preference.
I am quite an energetic painter, I paint quickly and loosely with large brushes to create a base. I focus on the whole area to achieve a harmony of colour and composition, before I start to work into certain areas. This is why I love oil, along with a rigid surface to paint on. I can really manipulate both, putting paint on and taking it off at any stage throughout the whole process.
I like to leave an initial painting to dry and then re-work it with further washes, picking out certain strokes. I find that this adds another depth and translucency to the paint. It also helps to create the feeling of space and distance. Oil also gives the freedom to move the paint around as much as I like. I love the versatility of oil. I use the paint straight from the tube, as well as in very thin washes, which enables me to create a balance of colour that ties the whole picture together. This balance is important to me. I always want the painting to look natural. It is this balance, along with light that helps to create a peaceful, tranquil look. It is the ability to describe an atmosphere in this manner that I wish to achieve. To me that is what provides an individuality to the painting.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF REUBEN COLLEY
I can honestly say that I have never been so committed to anything else as I am now. I consider painting to be much more than a job or a career - it is a lifestyle. I am never 'not' a painter.
My days vary between time painting in the studio and time out collecting reference. Most of my time is spent in the studio, although most reference trips are spontaneous, when I feel that the light and conditions are appropriate. I travel all over England to visit friends, and often combine this with going out painting, collecting reference material and taking photos. On a successful day I know exactly why I love being a painter. Trips abroad have included Barbados and Kuredu in The Maldives. I do rely heavily on good reference, as I do not believe a natural feel and atmosphere can be achieved without actually witnessing the subject.
I also enjoy spending time in my studio, which is my own space. I can often be in there for thirteen to fourteen hours a day, with just my music and the fantastic view of Birmingham from my window. On the rare nights I decide to have off, I still find myself looking at work in progress to remind myself of what has to be done next. I like to leave an initial painting to dry and then re-work it with further washes, picking out certain strokes. I find that this adds another depth and translucency to the paint. It also helps to create the feeling of space and distance. Oil also gives the freedom to move the paint around as much as I like. I love the versatility of oil. I use the paint straight from the tube, as well as in very thin washes, which enables me to create a balance of colour that ties the whole picture together. This balance is important to me. I always want the painting to look natural. It is this balance, along with light that helps to create a peaceful, tranquil look. It is the ability to describe an atmosphere in this manner that I wish to achieve. To me that is what provides an individuality to the painting.