Interview with Richard Paulley

My name is Richard Paulley, I’m based in Winchester and most of my daylight hours are spent pursuing my ambition of becoming a Wildlife Artist

Q. What medium do you work in and why?

My medium of choice is graphite. I find working with a limited pallet of black and greys and utilizing the white of the paper for highlights very challenging but extremely striking and rewarding once complete.  

Q. Tell me your story?

I was born in Winchester in the mid 1950’s and was part of a generation that existed without many of the technologies and influences which we take for granted today.

That must sound awfully dull to a lot of people but one of the positive benefits of that technology free society was that it meant you were left to your own devices in finding and developing your own forms of entertainment.

My mother and father were both very creative individuals and they would often make or mend using traditional methods rather than buy new. That said we were not a poor family and we never went without – it was a very happy home.

With fewer distractions we did spend a lot of time out of the house and as we did not have a car we would spend most of our spare family time on country walks. My father had a very healthy respect for the countryside and nature in general and he encouraged us to really appreciate this to the full.

I was a fairly average student at school but always had a particular fondness for natural history and I really enjoyed the sciences, geography and most of the creative subjects.

Throughout my early teenage years, I had two main ambitions regarding a future career. My first love would have been to work with animals in some way but later my thoughts moved towards training to become a commercial artist.

Unfortunately, my parents were not in a position to finance further education and student loans were a thing for future generations and not readily available at the time.

Q. So drawing was really important to you in childhood, what about later in life?

I left school with a handful of GCE’s and CSE’s and initially started work as a trainee manager in the retail trade. It was during this time that I met and married my wife who has been constantly by my side and a great support over the past 47 years.

I soon realised that retail was not where my future lay so I moved into the structural engineering industry with a local company where over a twenty-year period I held several positions ranging from stock control to computer programmer. I eventually progressed to Production Process Manager.

Due to the recession in the early 1990’s the company closed and redundancy forced a change of direction and I became Operations Manager with a catering equipment distributor. This company was taken over by a very successful engineering company based in Southampton where I later took over the buying operations and became their Procurement Manager.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my working life I was suffering with a few medical issues which collectively I felt were having an effect on my ability to function to the high standards I had set myself.

One of these medical problems resulted in an operation on my lower back and as I had already started to return to drawing on a therapeutic level I decided to tackle a larger piece of work as part of my convalescence.

The drawing was of two elephants with their trunks entwined which I later entitled ‘Embrace’ (above). This was the first detailed drawing I had completed for some years and it made me realise that I still hankered after a life in art.

So, a couple of years later I took the difficult decision to take early retirement and try to combine my love of art with the natural world as a Wildlife Artist.

The Great Grey By Richard Paulley - Graphite - Framed Original - £350
The Great Grey By Richard Paulley – Graphite – Framed Original – £350

Q. Where did your love of art begin?

As I mentioned in answering a previous question my early recollections of my childhood did not include any of the distractions which are prevalent today, indeed I was about ten before I can recall having a television at home.

My father was a painter and decorator by trade and as a consequence we always had plenty of off cuts of lining paper in the house and I can remember quite clearly spending hours led on the floor drawing, always birds and animals.

Q. Your website says you were self-taught, describe that process for us

Self-taught is the simplest way I can describe the fact that I had no real formal training, that said I did do GCE level Art but where I found art a reasonably natural thing to do, the teachers generally left me to my own devices.

Using paper stumps and cotton wool for blending rather than my fingers and putty rubbers for highlighting in place of plasticised erasers has all been part of this trial and error process.

The basics of working from light to dark and using hard and soft leads is relatively standard nowadays, but when I first started as a young boy all of this was done using a standard HB pencil and normally on poor quality paper. The lightest of touch combined with even layers and gentle pressure on the paper was essential if you wanted to achieve positive results.

I also seem to be fairly unorthodox in my approach compared to most artists whereas I very seldom do layout drawings, preliminary sketches or use tracing paper. I tend to get an idea and develop it directly on the paper.

I also tend to use the softer leads quite prominently in my work to accentuate shadows creating additional depth to my work.

I do use reference photographs to ensure the accuracy of the subject but background work is generally made up as I go.

Although I use reference pictures to ensure the accuracy of the subject it is worth noting that I do not see my work as being photo-realistic.

I try as much as possible to ensure that anyone viewing my work is able to tell that they are looking at a drawing and not a photograph. That way I feel they can really appreciate the artistic skill and the various techniques used.

Q. Am I right in saying that art only turned serious for you relatively recently?

In some ways you are right. If you are referring to my decision to try to develop my ideas into a commercial enterprise, then yes, it’s a decision I took about 5 years ago.

But my passion for both the natural world and art has always been there from a very early age and as I previously mentioned it was my early ambition to train as a commercial artist.

My father often did sign-writing work which is where I believe my drawing and technical accuracy comes from. My Grandfather worked on a farm for many years and I used to spend hours with him during the summer months.

In truth it was probably the combination of both of their influences which helped to mould my personality and love of the countryside and the eventual direction I took.

It just took a long time for me to get there.

Q. But you’ve now got these great ties with the Southern Nature Art Exhibition, how did you get involved with them? What does it bring you?

You are right, I have very close ties with the Southern Nature Art Exhibition which initially was born out of a mutual art society some of us were members of some years ago.

I try to do all I can to ensure that the exhibition is a success and my ties I hope are a little more than just using the facility to promote and sell my artwork, although it is always nice to get sales.

Because the exhibition is predominantly based around the theme of the natural world, it brings together like-minded people. It seems it’s not just the artists who are passionate about the natural world but also the general public and potential customers who come to view the work. The fact that there are so many accomplished artists available to interact with the public gives the venue genuine warmth.

I suffer quite badly with a lack of self-confidence but this event is one where I feel comfortable enough to demonstrate my various drawing techniques and talk openly with visitors about the outstanding artwork on display.

It is also important that the exhibition runs over the August Bank holiday which enables the organisers to coordinate the event with Hampshire Open Studios and maximise the footfall that this association brings.

But most of all the exhibition is the largest of its type in the south and is run by wildlife artists for wildlife artists. Even though it is essentially a commercial venture it genuinely has the comradery of a society and that is because it is run in a very friendly, professional and sympathetic way.

It really is a pleasure to be associated with both the exhibition and the organisers.

New Day Dawning By Richard Paulley - Graphite - Framed Original - 64x51cm £350
New Day Dawning By Richard Paulley – Graphite – Framed Original – 64x51cm £350

Q. So much of your work looks at the natural world, especially wildlife, which you seem incredibly knowledgeable about, what is it about nature that you find so inspiring?

All of my work (with exception to the odd pet commission) is based on the natural world and the creatures we share our planet with. The main inspiration for my work is protected and endangered species although like most artists there will always be commercial decisions behind choosing some subjects.

Regarding inspiration, I’m not sure, I guess it’s just the fascination and passion I have for wildlife.

I’ve always been intrigued by our planet, the creatures we share it with and the way different animals have evolved in their various climates and habitats.

I don’t think of myself as necessarily being knowledgeable but I suppose if you are passionate and show an interest in any topic over a long period of time you will inevitably become comparatively knowledgeable by default.

Q. What does art do for you personally, what does it mean?

This is quite a difficult one to answer without sounding corny or overly dramatic.

I was at a point in my life where years of total commitment and service to other people’s businesses had taken its toll both physically and mentally on me, and I was fortunate enough to be able to finance my early retirement without it having a detrimental effect on my family.

So, in a way having art and an understanding family has almost certainly extended my life expectancy.

Q. What’s it like to be an artist in lockdown, what changes, what are the challenges, what are the opportunities?

The biggest problem is not having the outlets for artwork, if you are an artist who is still trying to develop a niche market, promote your name and artwork you need gallery’s and exhibitions.

I’m fortunate that selling my art is not vital to put food on the table or pay the rent but I really feel for those who are struggling.

To me the shutdown provides me with an opportunity to build my port-folio and confidence to be ready for what next year might bring.

The one obvious thing that has remained busy and open is social media. Most of my latest work has been published via Facebook and Instagram which at least enables me as a relatively new artist to keep in touch with my followers.

Q. What advice do you have for somebody who desperately wants to follow in your footsteps, or just somebody thinking of picking up art as a hobby?

If you are thinking of taking up art as a hobby it will probably be the best decision you will take.

Why?

Because if you are thinking about it then you probably already have an appreciation of art to start with.

Make sure that you initially choose a subject matter that you have a passion for and choose a medium that suits your personality.

For example; working in graphite can be quite an intense and painstakingly slow process especially if you want to capture fine detail. A drawing of approximately A2 size will take an accomplished artist like me about 50 hours to complete, so it is quite common for 2 or 3 months to pass just to finish a piece of work.

So, if you are not a patient person, graphite might not be for you.

It’s also worth considering price at this stage, if a drawing takes 50 hours and the market dictates that framed graphite work can only command a £400 maximum price tag then selling original artwork alone is not sustainable. So, it is important to draw subjects which have an appeal in the limited or open edition print market.

The most important thing to remember is that unless you have something unique to offer or you are extremely lucky you are unlikely to make an immediate impact on the artworld.

In short be certain that any venture you undertake is financially viable but most of all: enjoy your art, it really is the most rewarding hobby/job in the world.

Richard

Find Richard’s art on his website: http://www.richardpaulley.com/

Phone: 07500 948014

Email: richard.paulley@btinternet.com

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