Profile of Keith Proctor

I have been painting all my life; having had no formal art training, I am a self taught artist. I was first encouraged by my late father Mark Proctor, who was a commercial artist. My father could sketch almost anything very well and quickly; which always fascinated me, and I wanted to be able do it to, so he showed me how.

My first paintings (which I still have) were of birds, as I have always had a big interest in Natural History. Aged nine I illustrated a little book of my own that was “copied” from the British book of birds; which was illustrated by my now favourite artist Raymond Harris Ching. I suppose from the day I completed that little book I was hooked!

My school days were spent day-dreaming; fly fishing and chasing girls called Deborah! Not as part of the school curriculum but as part of my own little learning curve. I used to wave goodbye to my mum in the morning, ride off on my bike and promptly dump it at my pals house, then jump the bus for a 25 mile ride out to the river Coquet at Felton in Northumberland. My Dad would then run me up to the river and back in his car at weekends not knowing that I had already spent the entire week there, a bit of a villain I was!

This time that I spent on the river had a massive influence on my life. It seemed to slow things down for me and help me to think, help me see the real quiet beauty of nature, thus encouraging me to draw and paint it. I started painting the river then birds, dogs, horses, people and town scenes of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

During the 90’s I exhibited my paintings in London at the Tryon Gallery and in the USA at the Klausner Cooperage Gallery. The past two years have seen a return to full time painting for me, as I had previously taken some time away from the obsessional painting routine I had fallen into. I have returned to painting with a fresh new outlook. To combine a life of “painting,” with our gorgeous young son “JACK” is just unbelievable. It’s going to be nice to have Jack with me on this journey with Washington Green and I am looking forward to it.

Ideas & Inspirations. I am a paint-o-holic; when I am not painting I am thinking about painting. I have a restless energy and am constantly on the go. Painting, drawing or studying for my future paintings usually occupies my time.

It’s not so much subject matter, but “actually painting” that inspires me; to be recognized as someone who can paint well is the most important thing to me.

I find inspiration for my work all around me all the time, “like most artists” I am constantly observing shape, light and colour. It is the colours in reflected light, and the study of the effects that colours have on each other that interests me most. Other artist’s work I admire and who have inspired me are Raymond Harris Ching and the late Manfred Shatz; as I think they have both painted the effects of light, shade, and colour so well it takes my breath away.

I have previously painted most subjects but have recently concentrated on people again. Simple studies of everyday people doing everyday things, the way a person walks or stands, sometimes just the shape of some people fascinates me. I love to watch and paint them. I included my son Jack in a recent painting (Footsteps) and that has led to more and more paintings of him. He “like all young children” is beauty in motion; a totally free spirit without the weight of the world upon him yet. As we grow up life shows on us all, but kids are “truly natural” and that’s what I want to show in the paintings of Jack, a lovely little boy doing little boy things.

From Palette to Picture. My Father told me, never draw a straight line and never draw a whole line, always break them up when you sketch, and change the weight applied to the pencil to make your marks interesting. What great advice this was! I still sketch this way today, as it is very important to be able to sketch with ease.

I paint in oils, in daylight only. I start with a charcoal sketch; concentrating mainly on balance and composition before I begin painting. I always work with a very large mirror behind me and keep on glancing over my shoulder to check things out from a different angle. I work very quickly indeed and rapidly apply the paint. I use a “strictly” limited palette and mix with care before painting. It is bold, fast, confident brush work that makes things work for me, as once I slow down and start picking at the work I know it is finished. Its on these occasions, that I can hear my Father shouting “leave it alone.”

I always listen to music as I paint. I listen to everything from rock music to Rachmaninoff; and go through stages of working to certain music, even individual songs. All of the Jack paintings to date have been painted while listening to Tony Bennett...strange isn’t it!

A day in the Life of...
Our daily routine starts at 7am with ‘Tom and Jerry’ and toast. Jack has just turned four and is now at nursery school in the mornings, and as we live in quite a remote spot, his only play mates so far have been his mum, dad and our dog Charlie so he loves to go to nursery.

I start to paint at around 9am and usually work non-stop through lunch and finish when the light has faded. During the light nights of summer I stop painting at tea time then it’s usually games and a long walk in the woods with Jack and Charlie.

I go back into the studio in the evening to look at the days work with my wife “Deb,” as she is honest in her opinion and gives Judgment with a fresh eye. I then draw out for the following day and plan future paintings.

Don’t tell anyone but I like to do a spot of metal detecting when I get the chance!