John Mcewen com­ments on Wil­liam–labourer

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting -

Peter Burns was born in ru­ral Gil­s­land dur­ing the war. His fa­ther, af­ter wartime ser­vice in the royal navy, was a clerk in new­cas­tle. His par­ents en­cour­aged his tal­ent for draw­ing and paint­ing and, from the age of 11, he was de­ter­mined to be an artist.

At 15, he joined the swan Hunter ship­yard on ty­ne­side as an ap­pren­tice and worked in ship­build­ing un­til the yard’s clo­sure in 1991. ‘I ac­tu­ally liked to go to work. I sketched at lunchtime and the men were very oblig­ing to sit for me. Work­ing in the ship­yards was vi­tal for my imag­i­na­tion and sub­ject mat­ter.’

reg­u­lar ap­peals to north­ern Arts proved fruit­less but his il­lus­tra­tions for a his­tory of Wallsend, ‘Where the WALL ends: REC­OL­LEC­TIONS OF A ty­ne­side town’, led to an 18-month artis­tic sec­ond­ment from swan Hunter to Bri­tish ship­builders. the work was shown at northum­bria univer­sity and led to com­mis­sions from shell. He il­lus­trated the 1984 com­pany cal­en­dar, Shell and the com­mu­nity, which won the top award at the Busi­ness Cal­en­dar ex­hi­bi­tion in stutt­gart and later fea­tured in That’s Shell That Is at the Bar­bican.

Wil­liam—labourer shows an odd-job man. He wears the tweed cloth cap, a con- ven­tion that be­gan to dis­ap­pear in the 1980s. to­day, Mr Burns’s work is rep­re­sented in sev­eral pub­lic col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing the Laing Art Gallery and Dis­cov­ery Mu­seum in new­cas­tle upon tyne and the shell Her­itage Col­lec­tion in Beaulieu, Hamp­shire.

He lives in Gateshead, is cur­rently work­ing on a land­scape of his favourite Lind­is­farne and is de­cid­ing on a suit­able venue for a retrospective ex­hi­bi­tion. His ad­vice to young artists is: ‘Don’t ever give up, keep try­ing, ap­ply for any fi­nan­cial help avail­able—and never lose your sense of hu­mour!’

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