I am fundamentally an Artist Restorer and Cabinet maker. Restoring and making new sculpture. Creating Faux paint finishes of woodgrains, marbles and Stone. Scagliola and plaster finishes. New “ original” Old Master oil paintings…...
From boyhood I was always the ‘Artist’ of the class. I had great admiration for the Old Master painters copying anything in colour I could get my hands on ( in the 1960’s). Due to costs and lots of parental doubts my only medium was a pencil and paper except for school powder paints . Painting in oils coincided with an interest in Antique furniture and how to make things look old.
I yearned to own some fine furniture and pictures and duly attended an auction. I was horrified at the values of quite ordinary pieces. I had an ability with my hands and set about making my own ‘period pieces’
I was 21 year old Police Officer and found two talented Antique restorers on my beat. I found myself bugging them with my questions which matured into hanging up my tunic and donning an apron. I learnt everything from French polishing to gilding as well as some of the more intricate skills such as graining and marbling, dashing out when my radio crackled into life demanding my attendance for some mundane crime.
Later I showed the restorers my skills as a painter. I was given old furniture panels on which to paint which they then ‘faked up’ to resemble not so much Old Master works as Old journeymen stuff such as farm animals and children. These were sold at auction through a contact one of the guys had. Proceeds were very little and were split.
One day I was given a pair of matching panels on which I painted a girl with a kitten and a boy with a puppy. These fetched over £2000 at auction which in the early 1980’s was a considerable sum and one sufficient to frighten me as a serving Police Officer into fears of imprisonment for fraud!
I decided to stop!
Due to contacts made in Italy the famous Art Forger Eric Hebborn turned up at the workshop… this could cover a few chapters on its own.
However, I met him and had the great privilege of speaking with him and picking his brain. He suffered my inquisition because of the presence of a young Italian boy who was learning English and restoration skills in the workshop. He taught me so much that will die with me as much more did with him.
Lessons were also business advice in the Antiques world. I have not followed his path but my skills have attracted dishonest interest. I can now, given the right canvas, copy just about anything. I’ve been commissioned to copy pieces long since sold or lost to deceive family or Trusts of their continued existence. My part at least was not dishonest!!
It’s been many years since my ‘dodgy’ commissions. But, there’s far more to tell.
Today, I’m restoring an Old French farmhouse and barns; built an Orangery I call my Lockdown project. Using graining and marbling where possible to save the use of rare timbers ( and their unavailability).
Currently I have several pieces of French furniture to restore, mostly missing veneers, handles and a missing marble top.
A new interest in Flemish tapestry has given me a challenge…. ( not being in a position to purchase the genuine article) my aim is to copy them in oils on very coarse canvas in a manner resembling the woven look of antique wool and silk. By using a genuine border and curtain weights I hope to achieve the look.