Meet the artist

When Nial Adam’s fa­ther died, he found him­self ob­ses­sively paint­ing again for the first time in years as he strug­gled with his be­reave­ment, writes RACHEL BULLER

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

The beau­ti­ful work of Nial Adams

APOC­A­LYP­TIC brood­ing skies, the drama of wild froth­ing waves, still hori­zons dense with trees framed by a blood or­ange sun – Nial Adams paint­ings are things of great drama, alive with the wild majesty of the nat­u­ral world.

From his stu­dio in a cen­turies old barn in Hev­ing­ham, he metic­u­lously adds layer upon layer of oils, tiny strokes of de­tail, cre­at­ing a mag­i­cal depth and at­mos­phere to every paint­ing.

Nial started paint­ing as a boy – but it was the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of be­reave­ment which fi­nally led him back to an easel af­ter many decades away.

“My fa­ther Fred was an ex­tremely ac­com­plished and knowl­edge­able self-taught artist. I started paint­ing when I was about 10 and it was some­thing we did to­gether. But af­ter A-Level, I had no thoughts or plans to do any­thing in that field,” he says.

“Then in 2013, my fa­ther passed away and it re­ally was a cat­a­lyst for me to change my life. Noth­ing pre­pares you for los­ing a par­ent.”

So Nial picked up a brush and be­gan to paint.

“Man­i­cally,” he says. “I just started paint­ing and paint­ing. I in­her­ited all his old ma­te­ri­als, his brushes and his old French easel and it felt like the most ob­vi­ous thing in the world. I guess there were el­e­ments of guilt at not paint­ing along­side him more, I felt an idiot for not find­ing the time. There were also those feel­ings of re­gret and loss.”

His ca­reer now is a far cry from his pre­vi­ous pro­fes­sional life, a path which had led him from high risk se­cu­rity work in Rus­sia and the Ukraine, via the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try and then mar­ket­ing.

“The se­cu­rity work was well paid but dan­ger­ous – it was a great life, in­cred­i­bly thrilling, but gal­li­vant­ing around play­ing James Bond wasn’t a good way to live when I had a wife at home.”

He re­turned to Nor­folk and be­gan work­ing at Vir­gin be­fore even­tu­ally set­ting up his own mar­ket­ing com­pany, work­ing with global brands as well as closer to home with small busi­nesses.

“Work­ing with those small start ups was in­cred­i­ble sat­is­fy­ing, help­ing them go from zero to hero. But one day I was tap­ping away on my key­board and al­though I en­joyed it, I found my­self look­ing out of the win­dow think­ing that be­ing a pro­fes­sional artist would be a pretty per­fect thing to do every day.”

Ini­tially, Nial worked at home in his con­ser­va­tory, but a nearby farmer had a barn to rent – and af­ter a lit­tle bit of ren­o­va­tion,

it be­came Nial’s stu­dio and haven.

“Al­though I hadn’t prac­ticed my art for a num­ber of years, some of that knowl­edge was still there. My dad’s un­der­stand­ing of art his­tory was amaz­ing; he could talk on any artist and from any pe­riod. It was a huge repos­i­tory of knowl­edge built over a long time,” he says.

“The funny thing is, when I was young I would paint some­thing and then ask him for ad­vice. Sud­denly he wasn’t there to ask and I found that in­cred­i­bly tough. I would step back from a paint­ing and would find my­self say­ing ‘right, what would my dad say if he was here, is it too dark, too light?’ The strange thing is the an­swer would al­ways pop into my head, like he was still there telling me.”

Like his fa­ther, Nial works in oils, painstak­ingly build­ing up lay­ers of paint

to cre­ate depth and drama. His tech­niques are well honed, in­spired by the masters he adores – in par­tic­u­lar his favourite, Turner.

“I love work­ing in oil be­cause there are things you can do which you can’t do in any other medium. I am not snobbish about art, but I love the pure­ness and tra­di­tion of it, there is a mys­ti­cal kind of alchemy in how you use oils, the com­plex tech­niques and the lay­ers and lay­ers which make up the paint­ing. Some­times it can take a week to en­able a layer to dry be­fore I can be­gin work­ing on it again. Some of my paint­ings take months to com­plete.”

The Nor­folk land­scape is un­doubt­edly his in­spi­ra­tion and he spends time at the coast, tak­ing pho­to­graphs and sketch­ing, pulling over ex­cit­edly to snap a cer­tain sun­set or cloud for­ma­tion as he drives home.

“My kids used to moan that we would never get any­where, but now my el­dest daugh­ter Vic­to­ria takes pho­to­graphs of skies and sends them to me for in­spi­ra­tion. I take all these things back to the stu­dio and be­gin work­ing on ideas rather than copy­ing ex­act scenes. I pre­fer to free paint, to cre­ate some­thing with­out a pre­con­ceived plan, I think from a cre­ative point of view that’s the most in­ter­est­ing way of paint­ing.

“Friends of­ten tell me my work is in­cred­i­bly dark but to me, they are just re­flect­ing the drama and won­der of the nat­u­ral world and our land­scape. Some peo­ple find a walk on the beach on a stormy, dark win­ter’s day, as up­lift­ing and beau­ti­ful as on a sum­mer’s day when the sun is shin­ing and the sky is blue. It is about per­cep­tion.”

Nial grew up in Nor­folk and went to the City of Nor­wich School, his par­ents hav­ing moved to the county from Lon­don be­fore he was born.

“They met at an art class in Lon­don, my dad was the teacher and my mum went along just to keep her friend com­pany. They came to Nor­folk on hon­ey­moon and fell in love with it. When they moved here he opened a small shop as a framer and re­storer in Elm Hill, but sadly, dur­ing the 1970s it didn’t sur­vive. He ended up do­ing a num­ber of nor­mal jobs but he al­ways car­ried on paint­ing.”

Nial’s work al­ready has a strong fol­low­ing and de­mand for his work is grow­ing. Last he was a run­ner up in the EDP Nor­folk Land­scape Painter of the Year com­pe­ti­tion.

Be­low his stu­dio, he now has a gallery which he opens one day a month. The an­cient crum­bling bricks and the old iron work stick­ing out from the walls re­main un­changed, his work tak­ing cen­tre stage.

“It is a real thrill, and deeply hum­bling, peo­ple want­ing to see and buy my work. It isn’t some­thing util­i­tar­ian, like a car or a wash­ing ma­chine, they don’t need it, they want it, and for me that is a real priv­i­lege,” he says.

“My only sad­ness it that I stand here and look at these pieces and I want to say ‘Dad, what do you think?’ But con­versely, I would never have painted them if he hadn’t died. That was the cat­a­lyst for all of this.” See big­nor­folk­skies.co.uk

Nial Adams at work in his stu­dio

Above: Forces of Na­ture by Nial Adams

Left:Re­lin­quished Light by Nial Adams

Cas­tles on the Beach, by Nial Adams

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