His paintings of his home town of Doncaster won artist Andrew Farmer the coveted first prize in this year’s Royal Institute of Oil Painters' Annual Exhibition at Mall Galleries, London.
The young dad who grew up in Denaby Main and Conisbrough was presented with the Winsor & Newton Young Artist Award for his painting The Garden. He is thrilled with the honour.
Andrew said: “I’m starting to notice the beautiful architecture more and more around the town. I love Chequer Road and this has become the subject for a number of paintings.”
His work that is helping to put Doncaster on the map as a cultural hub is recognised and supported by Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton.
She too was delighted at his exhibition success with the only national art society devoted exclusively to oil painting.
His work was hand-picked from 1,900 entries to appear alongside leading British painters, including Tim Benson and Ken Howard.
Creating images on paper was an early obsession for Andrew, he said. “At five years old I told everyone I was going to be an artist. It was cartoon and games characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog that first got me hooked.
“I did art at school, which was Northcliffe in Conisbrough, and then went on to Church View College, opposite the Minster in Doncaster.
“That gave me a great foundation in art, and it was a guy there who suggested I should go to Canterbury where he had studied, as my work is quite traditional. I managed to get an interview and it all evolved from there.
“My work is mainly portraiture and landscapes. I paint places I love around me. From where we live now, in Sprotbrough, I can walk among fields and ponds….it’s inspirational scenery. And I have this connection with Chequer Road in Doncaster, but am discovering more streets around the town.”
Andrew is one of a group who call themselves the Northern Boys. Friends who came together through their love of art, they all prefer painting live, and arrange meets at specific locations to work.
“Often we meet in city centres then find our spot. The reaction from the public when we do this is amazing,” explained Andrew.
“We are all-weather painters so you’ll see us out there in the rain and the snow.”
“It was a dream come true to take the first prize in an oils exhibition. The painting was looking back at the house where I live with my wife and two children, from the garden. I had four paintings chosen for the exhibition.
“I believe everywhere can be beautiful if perceived in a certain light. You can elevate the ordinary.”
He is bolstered by knowing that the president of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Tim Benson, said that he was a former winner of the same award early in his career too.
“That’s nice to know. It feels like confirmation I’m on the right track,” added Andrew. “Hopefully more doors will open for me and the credibility will encourage sales.”
His dream , he said, is to be able to support his family entirely through his painting, and to travel the globe, bringing exhibitions back to London and to Doncaster, and to “bring more young people locally on board.”
Married for six years to Sarah, he has two children, Jacob, five, and Eden, three.
He is aware, he says, that observational painting and drawing can be seen as old-fashioned, but feels it is coming ‘in to its own’ once more.
As a former teacher – he taught art for four years at Edlington – Andrew feels many schools do neglect the subject and that much more could be done to foster new talent.
Creativity of all kinds should be encouraged to the hilt, from the art field to writing, crafts, or any other form, he said.
“I paint exclusively in oils, but will do pencil sketches. Oils are more organic….you can move them around and they have this gorgeous buttery texture,” he explained.
“Even the smell of painting attracts people when you work outside….the turps and white spirit to clean the brushes is all so authentic.
“It’s a shame so many people work from photographs now. To go outside and be immersed in landscapes is such a rich experience. And there are so many chance meetings.
“While out at Cusworth Hall recently a little robin flew down and with a few brush strokes was included in my painting.”
Next year Andrew will stage a major solo show in Doncaster Art Gallery and Museum, in conjunction with a local poetry society. He welcomes visits to his Sprotbrough studio and can be found online at www.a ndrewfarmerfineart.com
“Like most artists, I struggle with self-promotion,” he admits. “But anyone is welcome to join me for a coffee, and watch me work.”