Aled Prichard-Jones was born in Bangor Gwynedd, in 1945 and lived in Snowdonia until leaving to study Architecture at BathUniversity from 1964 to 1969. After initially working in Aberystwyth and then Hull, he moved with his wife Mary and young family to Pembrokeshire where he worked as an architect until retirement in 2000. He then took up painting full-time and after a brief period living in the North East of England moved back home to live in North Wales.
Since childhood he has walked, climbed and loved the mountains of Snowdonia. The majority of his paintings are inspired by the sense of place and atmosphere of the Eryri landscapes. He invariably paints in pastel; he paints quickly and has always wanted to convey the magic, mystery, strength and beauty of where he lives.
The Sioe Gelf television programme documented his move to full-time painting in 2003. He has exhibited regularly at various galleries throughout Wales with shared and mixed shows at the Albany Gallery since 2004 and more recently at the Attic Gallery. His work has been exhibited at the Welsh Artist of the year at St. Davids Hall, Cardiff (2005/6) and at the Royal Cambrian Academy, Conwy, Battersea Art Fair (2013), Royal Society of Marine Artists Open Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London (2013). Solo exhibitions include The Galeri Betws y Coed (2006), Plas Glyn y Weddw, Llanbedrog (2007), Tegfryn Gallery , Menai Bridge,(2006 & 2008) at Oriel Ynys Mon (2009), Galeri Betws y Coed (2009), Albany Gallery, Cardiff (2010), Attic Gallery (2011 & 13).
"I paint in pastel because I like their immediacy. Pastels help me keep the painting alive and their brilliant colours are ideal for painting the fleeting effects of light and the ever changing mood of the Snowdonia mountains and lakes. Pastels are everlasting, do not fade and retain their colour and vibrancy for ever. I am fascinated by the effect of light on water and always come back to trying to catch the movement, the glare and reflections in the mountain lakes and rivers.
I work on strongly textured sandpaper surfaces because they grip the soft pastel so well. It also enables me to layer the pastel without the colours getting muddy and helps to keep the painting process loose and spontaneous."
Two artists with a passion for Wales’ wilder places exhibited together for the first time at the Attic Gallery in September 2013. Jenny White spoke to them both for the Western Mail.
They may paint markedly different scenery but Maurice Sheppard and Aled Prichard-Jones share a passion for the Welsh wilderness. The latest exhibition at Swansea’s Attic Gallery – their first ever joint show – evokes the sense of stillness that comes from being alone with nature but never ventures into twee prettiness; this is real Wales, unkempt and untamed.
A significant British landscape painter who became the first Welsh President of the Royal Watercolour Society and has work in numerous public collections, Maurice Sheppard’s particular focus is Wales in winter. “I’m probably after a sense of spiritual calm – something that calms the soul, makes you feel empowered,” he says. Simplicity and plainness are watchwords for him; he feels an empathy with the Essenes – an ancient Jewish sect whose spirituality was linked to time spent in the wilderness.
“I feel as though I’ve spent most of my life in the wilderness,” he says. “People are still very afraid of the countryside - the prickliness of it, the bareness of it. I feel like going out and painting in the wilderness was my purpose. I won’t allow myself summer. I’ve got to stick to the rigorous line of winter – that’s my job.”
His abiding fascination is the tangled, wooded lanes and riverside paths not far from his home near Haverfordwest – the area he grew up in and returned to in 2003. This month’s exhibition is a significant one because, at the age of 66, he has decided to stop creating large scale paintings; the bigger paintings in the show will be his last of that size.
“The physicality of dealing with big work is something I don’t want to do any more,” he says. It marks a pivotal point in a career that began over 40 years ago when he finished his postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Art, where his tutors had included greats such as Ruskin Spear, Donald Hamilton Fraser, Robert Buhler and Carel Weight. Prior to that he had studied at Kingston upon Thames where his skilled draughtsmanship clashed with the focus of his tutors, several of whom tried to force his work in a more abstract expressionst direction.
“I was a very unhappy student until one of the tutors, a man called Alfred Heyworth, came up to me one day and said: ‘You can draw really can’t you – why are you messing about doing this stuff?’ He made me go back to drawing from nature which I’d done as a teenager,” he says.
Heyworth’s advice chimed with that of Sheppard’s tutors at the Royal College of Art, notably the renowned painter Carel Weight.
“The most important thing he taught me was being your own person,” he says. “It was under him that David Hockney was David Hockney and Ken Howard was Ken Howard. He liked individuality.”
His dedication to a relatively traditional approach is mirrored in Prichard-Jones’s pastel paintings.
“Our work complements each other – we are talking the same sort of language,” says Prichard-Jones. “It’s got nothing to do with creating art for art’s sake, which I find grates with me – I just like to paint what’s there and if I paint it well and work at it properly I think that’s enough.”
Prichard-Jones’ career as an exhibiting artist began in earnest when he retired from working as an architect in 2000. He discovered pastels by accident after being given a free set with a Reader’s Digest book, and quickly discovered that they suited his approach to painting.
“The range of colours is great and they’re so quick and easy to use – you can just pick one up and start painting right away. I like painting quickly; I find that using soft pastels gives me that freedom, and by painting quickly you usually end up with a freer end result rather than getting too stiff and technical. I like that spontaneity that comes through in the painting.”
Much of his work springs from walks through Snowdonia; the aim of the paintings is to communicate his passion for the scenery, connecting with the viewers’ own experience of that place or inspiring them to go and visit it.
“I hope there’s a sense of place because I like to paint things that people can relate to,” he says. “I try to put across the sense of majesty and magic you get from Snowdonia; lakes like Llyn Idwal, for instance, are very mysterious, quiet places and that’s what I try and convey in the painting. Other times it’s very stormy, fierce and rugged.”
Viewed side by side, the two artists’ work presents a journey through some of Wales’ most wildly beautiful scenery. It invites you to share their passions; as Prichard-Jones puts it, “I hope people enjoy them and that they will share some of my obsession with the beauty of Welsh landscapes.”
The show ran at the Attic Gallery, 37 Pocketts Wharf, Swansea from September 21 to October 12 2013.