Landscapes in the City by Paul Kenton

A pivotal moment in the young Paul Kenton‘s life was a move from his birth place in Derby to the West Country when he was eight years old. As a teenager he learnt to surf on the wild beaches of North Devon and as a keen surfer he has travelled the world realising inspiration for another passion; his art. Now settled in Ilfracombe with his Brazilian partner, Alexandra and two young daughters, Kenton still surfs when he’s not in the studio or enjoying the hectic pandemonium of family life.

Paul showed an interest in painting from an early age; while others wanted to be doctors or pilots he clearly remembers telling a friend that he wanted to be an artist. This was cemented when, at the tender age of twelve, he won a national colouring competition – winning a prized set of paints. He continued to draw and paint all through school becoming proficient in watercolour but was disappointed not to be awarded a place at Art College due to his English grades. His disillusionment drove him in another direction and he studied the rigid disciplines of industry and was awarded a Bachelor in Engineering from Stafford University. After University he worked as a draughtsman for several years while still painting in his spare time.

In 1995, supported by a grant from the Prices Youth Business Trust, he took the plunge and started to paint full-time and began exhibiting. Working in acrylic and oils he took inspiration from his world wide travels; the cityscapes, cafes, harbours, bridges and seascapes. Kenton’s style has evolved over the past ten years into a free-flowing fusion of various media, capturing the essence of the location rather than “the fiddly details of what something looks like” creating an atmosphere with free shapes, dripped lines and colour.

The younger ‘Monet’ has always been a hero of mine ever since I discovered art as a teenager. I love the way his paintings evoke a mood (in the same way a short film clip does) rather than simply being a physical representation of a scene. In the same way I see my paintings as a short film clip rather than a photographic still.

As I am a keen surfer I love the sea. The ocean has many moods; the way in which water and light interacts at the end of the day fascinates me. The recurring themes of reflection and movement frequently appear in my new work. Equally I love capturing scenes late in the day and into the early evening due to the last drops of warming light filling every available surface. My Cityscapes reflect the many moods of manmade landscapes; I find it exhilarating to express furious movement, artificial lights and the vibrancy of a busy City centre at night as well as the subtler moods of a misty dawn at the same venue.

I use my photographs and rough sketches to rekindle emotions and feelings of a particular scene; sometimes I even scribble odd words or phrases down to help this process. I like to paint my canvases flat and have them a couple of feet from the floor so I don’t have to bend over too far. I feel quite energized by the blank canvas; it’s a mixture of excitement and anticipation – similar to the feeling you get when you ‘take off’ on a blank canvas of a wave.

I don’t sketch anything out; instead I simply dive in feet first with huge brushes dipped into large pots of paint and drip on an outline before throwing the paint on. I love the freedom and am so pleased with the effects of this technique. I build up each layer with broad brushstrokes and drip colour to create form until I can sense the atmosphere I want. To keep the piece fresh I try and stop before it gets too fussy. I value the opinion and feedback from my partner Alex as we have often been to the places together and our moods and views are often represented in the pieces.

My day starts early when my youngest wakes us up, usually around six o’clock; I need a cup of tea before anything else. I have an early swim two or three mornings a week clocking up a couple of miles in each session, so I either nip off to the pool or help with the girls’ morning routine. After breakfast I like to do the school run to Woolacombe and then I usually take the dog for a walk on the beach, if there are waves I like to have a surf before the crowds arrive. I love the freshness of mornings, this is when I plan my day and start to think about the piece I’m working on or develop some fresh ideas. I have a small studio in what used to be a railway building, where I can escape and really concentrate on my latest piece.

I paint most days and try to discipline myself to regular hours but it doesn’t always work out that way. The studio does have a music system but it doesn’t seem to affect my paintings whether I listen to music, the news or a play on radio four; sometimes silence is nice. I try to finish on time so I can spend time with the girls as we always try to have a family dinner together. I’m not a late night person really but sometimes we watch a movie or have friends over in the evenings.

See Paul Kenton’s work at Heart Galleries in Staffordshire.