How did you become resident artist at the Tower Room?
I’ve been an art tutor to Lady Cowdray for nearly seven years. She used to come to classes at my West London studio. When I moved to West Sussex three years ago, I was offered a studio at Cowdray House.
Can you tell us about the history of the studio?
It forms one end of the original Cowdray House, which was built in the early 16th century. It was one of the great Tudor houses of Britain – King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I were guests. For years the tower was unused. One day during one of my painting classes, Lady Cowdray suggested the possibility of converting it into a medieval artist’s studio, teaching materials and techniques practised during the Renaissance. Many of these techniques, such as painting in egg tempera, gilding, chiaroscuro oil painting methods as well as making paints from earth, rocks and plants, are no longer taught but I had been teaching these lost techniques at my London studio, as well as at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. It was an opportunity not to be missed. The Renaissance Art Studio is unique and represents a bridge between the craft
knowledge of the past and modern times.
Can you tell us about your painting techniques and philosophy?
I did an MA at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Afterwards I met Cecil Collins and worked as his apprentice. Through Cecil I learned of the significance of the artist’s gilding. The studio is equipped with beautiful oak easels from Paris and all the apparatus one would expect to find in a medieval artist’s studio. The Tower Room reminds one of participating in a tradition, which is ancient and timeless, as well as at the cutting edge of contemporary art.
You take workshops in the Tower Room – do you find it inspires people?
The space is an incredible inspiration for my pupils. At the start of the week they have a blank canvas and, by the end of day five, they have a wonderful painting. We think the surroundings in the Tower Room and the heritage site (known as the Ruins) have a huge influence on their work.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on several private portrait commissions, as well as a series of still life paintings based on the work of the master potter Joe Davda. I make all the paints I use myself from rocks, earth, plants and bones. My paintings are born out of a journey and, if successful, they embody the integrity of that journey. For me, the craft, journey and painting are one.
materials: how pigments come from the earth, rocks and plants. I learned about the ancient art of alchemy, hermetic tradition and how this philosophy lies at the heart of all craft. Cecil taught that creativity is a bridge, uniting inner realisation with the outer world of experience. Ever since I was a young boy, growing up in the bush in Australia, I have believed that art’s purpose is to reveal this invisible world of mystery into the visible world of matter.
How has working in this unique space informed your work and practice?
The studio is a sacred space; a conducive environment in which one is able to serve creativity. Working in the studio is like being in an alchemist’s laboratory; one is surrounded by apparatus for grinding semi-precious rocks for making pigments, plant products for preparing dyes that are then precipitated to make pigments, with glass mullers and grinding stones for making paints and gold leaf, and for