Jonathan Taylor was born in the West Midlands in 1962. He studied in Worcester and Leeds between 1982 and 1987 before turning professional in 1988. It was whilst at Leeds that he discovered his love of painting his surroundings. His inspiration always starts by being there, in the landscape and experiencing it's moods. He paints using watercolours and pastels.
He has exhibited for many years in Swansea as well as at galleries in Surrey, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Yorkshire and Sussex. He has exhibited at The Mall Galleries in London showing with The Pastel Society and R.I. (Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours) and has won prizes with both. In 2010 his paintings won the Rowland Hilder Award and the Matt Bruce Memorial Award at the R.I. exhibition in London.
He is a frequent visitor to Gower, and in 2006 his paintings of the Gower Peninsula were featured in BBC TV's 'Countryfile'.
"My paintings always start with the scene itself. I am fascinated by light and how it transforms landscape, how it will completely alter the mood of a place. I am interested in how a scene can have an almost physical impact on me and I try to convey these emotions in my paintings.
I like to complete small studies on site and then work them into larger paintings in my studio. In all my work I am always looking to achieve a 'sense of place' or a 'sense of time' or a 'sense of mood'. This could be the heat of a summer's day on the beach, a wild mountain in bad weather, the glow of early morning light, the texture of weathered stone, almost anything really. As both watercolour and pastel are direct mediums, I feel they suit the transient moods I am trying to capture.
Jonathan Taylor’s exhibition at Swansea’s Attic Gallery in June 2013 reflected his fascination with the landscape of Wales. The Worcester-based artist spoke to Jenny White for the Western Mail as to why the country is so close to his heart.
One of the most striking things about Jonathan Taylor’s watercolour paintings is the way his palette shifts to reflect the distinctive light and colour of each place he depicts. From the mellow brilliance of Venice to the earthy hues of the Gower Peninsular, he has a gift for creating a strong sense of place.
“That’s a priority for me,’ he says. “Different places have their own particular atmosphere and I really try to bring that out in my paintings, rather than producing just a generic seascape or a picture of cliffs; I like it to be very ‘Gower’ or very ‘Pembrokeshire’, so I’ll use the colours accordingly to bring that out.”
Watercolours are essential to this process because they enable him to sketch out a scene quickly before the light changes. A notoriously difficult medium, he first embraced watercolour as a student, when he was lucky enough to find a tutor who could help him develop his style.
“I was banging my head against a wall and was getting nowhere until I paid for a lesson with a local artist, Aubrey Philips. He was wonderful; he encouraged me a lot, and opened my eyes to it and helped me enormously. It was pretty pivotal in my life. These days it has gone full circle; I teach people who are struggling with watercolour.”
Born in the West Midlands in 1962, Taylor gained a Diploma in General Art and Design at Worcester Technical College, 1981-1982 and BA (Hons) Illustration at Leeds Polytechnic, 1984-1987 before turning professional in 1988. Still based in Worcester, he makes frequent painting trips to Wales to paint Gower.
“I’ve been painting Gower for about 20 years now,” he says. “I love it down there; I go three or four times a year really. I like the variety of it – it’s a very small area but the coast varies a lot; North Gower is very flat, and South you’ve got all those amazing cliffs and the beaches, so there’s a lot of different sorts of views.”
Another source of variety is the weather. Taylor is fascinated by the way in which shifting weather conditions can transform a familiar scene into something quite different. He often goes out painting when the weather is bad in order to capture exciting changes to the landscape.
“I like to go down when it’s cold and wintry and blowing a gale and raining,” he says. “A lot of the work is done it is outdoors; it’s all based on sitting there and recording what I see and responding to the landscape. I go out walking with my sketchbooks and paints and I do little small studies and then I work them up in the studio into bigger, more considered paintings.”
The paintings in his latest show, at Swansea’s Attic Gallery this month, cover a diverse range of subjects from Bruges to Venice, but Wales is by far the dominant theme, with the Vale of Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire and of course Gower all featuring strongly. He has a deceptively light touch with the paint, laying it down with fluidity but also precision. He captures texture with particular aplomb, from the slick, glassy surface of a wet beach to the dense tangle of scrub on a windswept hillside.
He says a variety of factors inspire him to stop walking and start painting a particular scene.
“It can be the shape of the land – an interesting silhouette perhaps, or it might be the colour. It might be the weather – just happening to see a scene in a particular light; it could be a combination of things. It’s really just a matter of walking around with my eyes open and waiting to see what’s going to hit me. It could be anything – maybe the way the sun happens to hit the cliffs at a particular moment, and then ten minutes later it’s gone.”
Besides his surroundings he cites a long list of painters as having influenced him, from JMW Turner and John Constable to modern painters such as John Knapp Fisher and Andrew Wyeth.
He himself has won wide recognition. He has exhibited at The Mall Galleries in London showing with The Pastel Society and RI (Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours) and has won prizes with both. In 2010, his paintings won the Rowland Hilder Award and the Matt Bruce Memorial Award at the R.I. exhibition in London. As his career has progressed, he says he is pleased to have been able to paint and exhibit in Wales – an area that looks set to inspire him far into the future.
“I have been painting the Gower peninsula for many years now and enjoy trying to capture all its various moods: from details such as a wind-blown tree or the shadow on a wall, to expansive views of the coastline and beaches,” he says. “It is a special place to me, one that I am coming to know well and to really appreciate its diverse aspects.”
The exhibition ran at the Attic Gallery from June 15 to July 2013.