He is one of the best known artists to hail from Doncaster – and he is back after 40 years!
Back in the early 1970s, an up-and-coming painter called John Sprakes was delighted to get the chance to put some of his paintings on show at the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery on Chequer Road. And four decades on, he is delighted to be back.
John, a former pupil at Wheatley Boys School, has been selected for a major retrospective at the gallery, which incudes paintings of his home town among more than 100 he has worked on over 50 years as an artist.
The 79-year-old said: “I had an exhibition here in about 1974 – but this is the first one since then, which is more than 40 years.
“This is only a small proportion of the paintings I’ve done since then – I must have done around 700 paintings since then.
“I’m a Doncaster- born guy and it seems really appropriate to have a retrospective exhibition here, where I was born.”
Among the paintings on show are works depicting Doncaster Market as well as the Mason’s Arms pub, near the market.
John remembers how the men in the painting of the Mason’s became self-conscious as he worked.
He said: “I was sketching them and showing interest in the composition and they got quite self-conscious, and so they got combs out and wanted to comb their hair.
“I said, ‘No, just be natural. Just sit and have your smoke and have your drink, and I’ll try and paint you as naturally as I can in the pub.’”
The artworks in the exhibition chart the development of John’s work from early realistic paintings through to the semi-abstract style that he now favours.
Drawing is the starting point for most of his ideas, and it is discoveries made through the act of drawing that help John explore the visual world.
The landscapes of Norfolk, Suffolk and Northumberland are a constant source of inspiration to him, with the wide expanses and intense light found along those coastlines evoking emotions that inhabit his paintings.
Recently John has turned his attention to the landscape around Hadrian’s Wall, and this new body of work brings the exhibition right up to date, with some of the paintings being seen in public for the first time.
Talking about his work John said: “The movement of light and colour across landscape and interiors are a constant source of inspiration to me.
“Composition, form and texture play an important in the construction of my paintings, while creating the illusion of three-dimensional space on the two-dimensional surfaces produces the kind of visual magic that enables the spectator to experience a new way of seeing.”
Coun Bill Mordue, cabinet member for culture, said: “We are delighted to be hosting a prominent and successful local artist.
“It is great to celebrate a local, widely exported talent now returning to his home town to exhibit.”
The exhibition runs until April 9. This Friday at 10.30am, John will be in the gallery to lead a tour of his exhibition. Admission is free.
John studied at Doncaster College of Art under TA Anderson, Eric Platt and Jack Camm, all of whom gave him great encouragement.
After his initial training at Doncaster, John was awarded the Andrew Grant Scholarship to Edinburgh College of Art in 1954, graduating in 1957 with a DA Edinburgh and a post graduate in fine art.
While in Edinburgh he was tutored by some of the most influential Scottish painters, including William Gilies, Robin Philipson, John Maxwell, William McTaggert, David Clarke and John Hunter.
John says that their attitude to colour and draughtsmanship has stayed with him throughout his years as an artist.
After leaving college John lectured in various colleges of art, including Doncaster and Rochdale, but all the while concentrating on his own art.