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As Vice Chairman of the National Maritime Museum Art Club I was asked in 2014 to give an art club perspective of the exhibition "Turner and the Sea".

It is no easy task to chart the career of the most important marine painter of his or any generation, but this is a “must see” exhibition for anyone interested in the sea.  It evokes the golden age of marine painting.
As a marine artist and member of the National Maritime Museum Art Club, I feel “Turner and the Sea” at the Museum presents a priceless opportunity to see Turner’s iconic marine work.  In particular, I found it is very exciting to see his unfinished watercolour sketches.  Some have never been exhibited before. Turner produced many such sketches, exploring a thought or a fleeting moment. Often they were not developed further but they give a tantalizing snapshot of his thinking.
Several other things stand out to make this exhibition remarkable.   Perhaps the most surprising is that this is the first major exhibition exclusively of Turner’s marine work.   It largely follows the chronology of Turner’s career with a brief diversion outlining influences as diverse as van der Velde the younger, Claude-Joseph Vernet, Richard Parks Bonington and John Constable. Many ‘A’ list Turner marine paintings are also on display including early narrative beach and fishermen compositions, his numerous storm and tempest paintings including, “Calais Pier” painted in 1803,  “The Shipwreck” painted in 1805 and the highly experimental “Rockets and Blue lights” of 1840,  an impressionist painting, thirty years before the term existed.
Familiar and previously unseen paintings are also there.  The majestic “Trafalgar”, commissioned by George IV, is not my favourite, nor was it in some of his critics’, eyes.  “The Fighting Temeraire was however, voted the Nation’s favourite painting in 2005.  It may be factually incorrect, but it is full of symbolism and part of Great Britain’s artistic DNA.
Bravo to Christine Riding, curator of the show. “Splice the mainbrace”!
Kevin Clarkson, Vice-Chairman National Maritime Museum Art Club
Edited by Ann Whitehead National Maritime Museum Art Club


Spotlight On Painter Kevin Clarkson

JUNE 13 2011 By

Being a painter. Please give us a few words of introduction about yourself
I have always worked in the creative industry, largely the commercial sector as a designer in advertising, design and marketing. Before becoming a full time painter last year.

How and when did you start out as a painter?
Painting is in the blood. I have always drawn or painted. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting an uncle who worked for a printer and was able to provide me paper off-cuts to draw on. I have done a few pieces of commercial illustration over the years but I only decided to take the plunge as a painter last year.

What training did you have?
My training started out conventionally, I went to a local art school close to where I grew up in Yorkshire, for a years art foundation study, then applied to a Polytechnic to pursue a BA in Graphic Design. I graduated with a 2:1 and went on to do an MA. This involved designing a flight safety information programme for the Royal Air Force. I think this was possibly a unique situation for an art student because it involved spending time with the RAF and some fast jet flying! In today’s risk averse culture it is unlikely this would be allowed.

What has been your best creative achievement so far?
I hope my best is still ahead of me!

Who is your favourite artist?
My work is landscape, coastal, marine and aviation in bias and I admire a number of artists working in those areas. In watercolour I am particularly fond of the impressionist works of Edward Seago and Jack Merriott. For marine work I like Montague Dawson and Geoff Hunt. In aviation the master for me is the late Frank Wootton.

What are you aiming for?
Simply to earn enough at painting to be able to carry on painting.

How will you get there?
By continuing to develop my techniques and subject matter and hope to get noticed.

Is anything holding you back?
Not at the moment, family and friends are very supportive and I feel very positive about the future.

You and painting. What sort of reactions do you get to your work? Are you ever surprised?
I am sometimes surprised that other people want to own my work. I only paint subjects that have some form of resonance to me (unless I am working on a commission) I don’t necessarily expect others to make the same connection to a subject.

From start to finish, how long does it take for you to create your work?
This depends on how you measure it. If it is a straight landscape or seascape painting and I have the sketches notes and photographs to hand, usually three days to a week. Recently I have been working on historical aviation paintings, this requires research before the composition can begin.

What music do you like to listen to when you work?
The music I listen to is always determined by mood and usually has no connection to the project I am working on. My taste is varied, in the morning it is often classical and the afternoon jazz or contemporary.

What is next in the pipeline for you? Any new directions or shows coming up?
I live and work in Kent and have a couple of shows this year. One in June at the Ignition Gallery in The Historic Dockyard Chatham, the second is at the St. Julian’s Country Club Sevenoaks Kent, from 6 October to 10 November. I am frantically producing work for both at the moment.

Who (living or dead) inspires you? And why?
At the moment I am enjoying Frank Wootton’s aviation paintings. He was a landscape painter in the John Constable tradition but put aircraft into his work in attitudes that actually made them look as though they were flying.

What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as a painter?
My inspiration does not necessarily come from paintings, it often comes from history.

What is your favourite work that you’ve produced so far and why?
My favourite is always the last one I have completed.

Have you got any advice for those starting out as a painter?
If you have the compulsion to paint and it must be a compulsion, then paint. Listen to constructive criticism but don’t be put off.


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