Artist Bob Barker - All art work available, originals and signed limited edition prints. It was on Christmas morning, when I was twelve years old, that my mother gave me one of the best presents I have ever received - an oil painting set. That was the start and I have been painting ever since. I was immediately captivated by what could be achieved with a brush, some oil paint and a few small squares of hardboard; I used to paint on the reverse side because I thought it looked like proper canvas.
My mother was a weaver in a mill not far from my school and when my day there ended, I used to walk to the mill and wait for her to finish work. I loved the smell of the looms and talked to everybody in the spinning sheds, the burling and mending room, the winders and tuners, along with my grandmother who was the 'cha' lady there. This is where my love of tea comes from, as well as the images I now paint. With no formal training I have just enjoyed painting in many different styles and with numerous subjects, developing and honing my techniques of brush and palette knife.
Although I am Yorkshire born and bred, during my youth I spent a little while in Cornwall. There I met two prominent artists (Keith English & Tom Gower) and spent hours watching them paint. Conversations with them made me believe I could be a professional artist.
However, as life goes on, marriage to my lovely wife, mortgage to whoever was the cheapest, and children who I wouldn't be without, meant that painting remained as a hobby. I ran my own business in video and media production for more than 20 years and this took me around the country and abroad, filming for many clients and running workshops teaching primary school and A-level students the art of video making. My daughter-in-law now runs the business and this has released me to achieve my lifelong dream of being a working artist.
In 2000, I started selling my paintings to local galleries and through them my work went nation-wide. My older brother Colin ever-so-nicely, yet relentlessly, forced CD's featuring my images on to many fine art publishers. This created a good interest in my work. In 2005, I exhibited at the Autumn Fair in Birmingham and there I was introduced to Glyn Washington of Washington Green and the rest, as they say, is history.
I believe that inspiration somehow comes from within. This always 'kicks in', so to speak, as I see ideas for paintings which are almost everywhere I look - from the sky to buildings, at dawn or at sunset, even at night under a bright moon. Add to these the weather and the pictorial list becomes endless.
Nostalgia also spurs me to paint by looking back to childhood memories with adult eyes; this allows me to be quite free artistically. In my neck of the woods, with the subjects I paint, most people see soot blackened stone and polluted skies. I see colour. Like wet Sienna cobbles and Prussian blue shadows with burnt umber and cadmium skies. I view the world, along with my memories, in the subtle blended hues of my paint box.
Where I live it is impossible to walk a dozen yards from home without seeing old weavers' cottages, cotton and woollen mills, Yorkshire stone flags or cobbled streets that have been there for decades settling in and maturing, watching the landscape change around them.
Every day I get to see and paint this history and people get to share it with me through my paintings. How wonderful is that!!
Before I squeeze the first drop of oil onto my palette I sit and gaze at the blank canvas, sometimes for quite a while. With music always playing in the background I visualise the composition, change the colour of the sky, nudge buildings into new locations, make it rain and many more combinations until I am happy, in my mind, how the work is going to look. I then make a few very quick lines on the canvas, just to set the scene, because by now I am impatient to get some paint on the canvas.
I do not have a set way of creating a piece as I love experimenting with the way oil paint can be applied, but I usually start with the sky as this establishes the mood and the all important light for the rest of the picture. As I enter the artistic time warp where hours seem to fly by in seconds, I tend to loosen up and paint quite quickly, getting the majority of the picture done in one sitting.
Although being naturally right handed, whilst in this state, I sometimes find myself swapping the brush or palette knife to my left hand, applying a few strokes and then swapping back. Albeit, if I try to use my left hand consciously, the results would be consigned to the 'need to be painted over pile'.
When the initial painting is dry I usually re-work it by applying glazes (these are thin washes of oil paint which allow the colour of the under-painting to show through) either to the whole canvas or to individual areas, thus creating more intense contrasts which in turn achieves a more luminous quality and greater depth to the piece.
This is now the time to put my signature on the bottom to stop me from over-working the painting. Sometimes knowing when to stop and say 'this one is finished' is as important as the starting process.
As my wife will undoubtedly confirm, I am not an organised person so I do not follow any set regime to paint. Images of light, colour, content, and painting in general are constantly running around my head so I tend to paint most days, and sometimes nights, as much as I possibly can before being commandeered to do family things, such as eating, shopping and (the best bit) spending time with my grandchildren.
I have a studio at the side of my house, or as my youngest son calls it "The 'ut ". This reflects my unorganised nature; as much as I try to keep it tidy there is always paint daubed cloths, empty tea cups, bits of sketches, CD's out of their cases, open books (usually with paint smeared on them), brushes and palette knives strewn about and canvases propped and hung everywhere. It is close enough for me to shout for a constant supply of tea and I am frequently told that I never give the kettle chance to go cold. What they don't realise is that tea is so important whilst painting.
"The 'ut " looks out over my garden so I am not completely isolated as I can see who is coming and going and, being quite nosy, this is ideal, or as they say in Yorkshire, "suits mi dahn t' ground".
Basically I eat, breathe and sleep painting,
And I love every minute of it.