Open Studios: John Pocock

It's that time of year when you start to see those bright yellow covetable brochures appearing in local shops and galleries, as once again Open Studios takes over Cambridge for 4 weekends in July. Karen and I were again delighted to be asked to visit and interview just a handful of the wonderful artists that take part in this locally-renowned event.

We start our series of interviews with painter John Pocock who's vibrant, light-filled paintings are a regular highlight of the Open Studio calendar....

When did you become interested in painting?

Art was the only subject I really enjoyerd at school and, throughout my life, I have experimented with the occasional painting. I have tried watercolour, oil, pastel and acrylic.

Have you had any formal training?

The only training I ever had was Art lessons at school in the 1950's. People have bought me books for Christmas but I'm not good with books and have never read them!

What is it about a place/landscape that makes you want to paint it?

My wife and I enjoy walking, whether at home or abroad and I always take a camera with me. If I see a scene, view, object or any subject that appeals to me, I will take a photo, load it onto my computer and possibly use it later as a basis for a painting.

How much time do you get to devote to painting?

I have always found painting to be a totally absorbing hobby and, in recent years, it has been a wonderful form of relaxation to counter the stresses and strains of a hectic business life. Unlike most of the people I know, I have great difficulty in retaining an interest in reading a book after more than a couple of pages, and painting is the only activity I have ever found in which I can become totally "lost". When I have a brush in my hand, even my wife finds communication difficult! I was painting at weekends and in summer evenings until 3 or 4 years ago when I decided to give myself one day a week off work, specifically to paint, and this year, having decided on semi-retirement, I am likely to devote even more time to it.

Describe your workspace.

I am fortunate to have had the space and the ability to build my own studio in the garden in recent years and, whenever I have spare time, you will find me in my special "shed" which, in contrast to the main house (my wife's domain) is in a permant state of untidiness, except when I have to make an effort to create space before "Cambridge Open Studios" in July.

At the moment you use acrylic paint in your practice. What is it that you like about this medium? Do you have plans to use other mediums in the future?

Since I started to devote time, seriously, to painting, I have, in the main, chosen to use acrylics. I find this is the medium that best suits me, mainly because I rarely have more than 2 or 3 hours to work at a time and the preparation and cleaning is minimal (two brushes under the tap at the end). Additionally, with the paint drying almost instantly, it allows me to make additions and alterations straight away, at any time.

Your paintings are of real people and places. Do you stay true to the scene, or add some extras?

I paint a wide variety of subjects and enjoy the variation. There are portraits, landscapes, seascapes, still life, buildings and any scene that might suddenly take my fancy, but almost always with plenty of light and shade, depth, and bright colour. Most of my work is done at home, in my studio using the photos I have taken. The resultant paintings are true to life but I do use some "artistic licence" to leave things out or make additions to add interest.

I understand that you donate any profit from your paintings to charities. Which ones do you like to support?

For me, painting will never be more than an absorbing hobby for as long as I am capable of doing it. It is thoroughly enjoyable and very satisfying. I certainly have no desire to benefit financially but when I do get chance to sell my work or undertake commissions, I am happy to do so. All proceeds of sale go to charitable causes, mainly in third world countries and, ususally, for the benefit of children and their education. Over the years, one particular small village (of mud huts) in Zimbabwe, which my wife and I originally visited on holiday, has had our regular support and, though local contacts, we have been kept in touch with progress.

We have been instrumental (with others) in improving the local school, constructing sports facilities, generating electricity and providing water form a well and pump. We have been fortunate enough to pay a second visit to see what has been achieved.

I have an excellent relationship with my local doctor's surgery and continuously supply paintings for sale, hanging on the large white waiting room walls, with the proceeds of sale being shared between my charities and theirs (which happens also to be a medical charity helping in Africa).

Do you do commissions?

I am always happy to accept commissions and, in the last few years this has included wedding scenes, churches, houses, other buildings, portraits, pets, horses and even a fairground. I normally charge around £250 for these.

What plans do you have for future paintings?

Having recently acquired a holiday home on the North Norfolk coast, the varied scenery is likely to provide plenty of inspiration for land and sea-scapes, which is likely to influence a number of my future paintings, but, as ever, I will keep seeking variety, with something different every time I put a canvas on my easel.

Which weekends can people come and see your work at Open Studios?

I have always tended to go away for holidays in the winter, spring or autumn, preferring to spend the summer at home in my own garden and, even with the new "holiday home" I am likely to be around my studio at weekends, so I will be very happy to welcome visitors to my Open Studio on all of the weekends in July.

John's website:

Open Studio Guide


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