The first of a three-part story about an artist I’ve had the pleasure to get to know through the cyber-world. Greg Howes is a multi-talented artist, gardener, historian, writer, actor, and generally very creative person. This is a bit of his story…
"Ohhhhhh". 2006, Photomorph. Copyright Greg Howes.
When Natasha Henderson asked me to write about the motivation behind my art work, I was a little perplexed as what to say. I tend to just “ do” something because I want to, rather than think about why I am doing it. Perhaps that is a failing, perhaps not? Maybe it’s because I am never short of inspiration or enthusiasm.
At present a lot of my working life revolves around researching family history and genealogy for private clients, television programmes, et cetera (see http://www.welshfamilyhistory.co.uk/) . Although I specialise in Welsh family history, I also research for people who have English and Scottish ancestors. When I am not tracing back family trees I am also a semi professional designer/photographer/mixed media art man. I paint/print/glue my images onto canvas/card/textiles and sell them on-line or in local art and craft shops.
I left School in 1980 aged 16 years. It was a time of a huge economic slump, possibly not quite as huge or as global as it is today, but unemployment was far higher than now and Britain had the worst unemployment rates since the 1930s… so jobs were few and far between. I knew what I did not want to do but all of the things I did want to do were all sadly unrealistic (or so I thought). Consequently most of my jobs in my mid to late teens and early twenties were very uninspiring (though I did find time to take an O level in art at Oxford).
Floral Mantra. 2006. Photomorph, copyright Greg Howes.
Occasionally there would be one or two jobs that paid reasonably well but this usually meant working from 7.00 in the morning until 6.00 at night and Saturday mornings. The only oasis in this wilderness of employment was a short period of self employment printing and designing punky/patterns/slogans for T shirts. Much as I enjoyed this it would not keep me in house or home. These were the days before the internet and as designer, printer and market trader the overheads were just too great for it to be sustainable.
Punk 33. Photomorph and collage, copyright 2007 or 2008 Greg Howes.
My big break came when I was accepted as an employee/trainee horticulturalist at the wonderful Waterperry Gardens and Horticultural Centre in Waterperry near Oxford. At Waterperry I managed to combine my inbuilt love of the natural world and its processes, as well as satisfying my passion for creating in the propagation of plants and research. I imbibed all I possibly could about different plant names, where they originated from, when were they in flower, how they were propagated and so forth. I know my time at Waterperry changed my life and my outlook on life completely, before then I had always seen myself as some sort of frustrated artist and poet (though I use these terms in the most loosest terms possible) without any realistic direction.
That said, I could always use words to convey my feelings adequately in poetry, but sadly I had no real skill (and/or patience) with pencil or paintbrush. In my spare time I did dabble with drawing and painting but I was rarely happy with the results, though I always enjoyed the pastel work. The only thing I took out of this was a feeling that I could always invent something even if I could not copy at all.
Pastel. 2007. Pastels. Copyright Greg Howes.
Greg will continue his story here on Fleurbain tomorrow…