Jonathan Armigel Wade creates distinctive curvy pictures of the countryside. Sara Walker interviews Jonathan about his inspiration, subject matter and why it’s so important to have fun.
If you’ve ever seen one of Jonathan Armigel Wade’s countrylife pictures, you’d remember it. The subjects aren’t uncommon – country scenes, landscapes and interiors – but the style is definitely unique. Jonathan (who also uses his middle name, Armigel, to differentiate his work from that of an Irish artist who died in 1973), has developed his own unmistakable style – ‘curvispective’. His paintings burst with life and energy and bound with witty little touches, and his portrayals of rolling countryside seem ready to roll right off the canvas. Jonathan, who prefers the term ‘picture maker’ to artist, is half-Scottish, part Irish and part English and loves all the British Isles, a fact which is evident from his subject matter.
CHB: Are your paintings as much fun to create as they are to look at?
JAW: “No, quite a slog but it’s exciting to do the initial quick sketches/ideas. To then convert that same idea which has been hastily scribbled down (often accompanied by a guffaw of laughter) into a slowly created oil painting while keeping it fresh and interesting is always a bit of a challenge (even the small pictures can sometimes take a fortnight to make, larger ones much longer).
“I also make nearly all my own frames which is also a slog but they are very much part of the whole thing – hand made and painted (grey with scarlet backs) by me. I very much enjoy taking myself on a mental excursion into the pictures once they are done. Often one painting will give me an idea for the next one so I always have a notebook to hand for noting ideas as soon as they arrive to avoid forgetting. I try to follow one of my own rules which is: “HAVE FUN – or fail!” I think that life is too short to end up doing something that doesn’t amuse you if you can possibly help it. All my pictures since 2010 have a four digit serial number too.”
CHB: What appeals to you about your subject matter – horses and country life?
JAW: “Horses and hounds belting through a landscape or riders taking a tumble add interest, jollity and a sense of movement and vitality to what could otherwise be a rather empty scene. (I also like to summon up sounds in the pictures, often helped by the titles: “Afternoon Echoes”, “The Musical Chase”, “Cold and Quiet” etc) . I live in a former farmhouse on the edge of a village in North East Lincolnshire, by the Lincolnshire Wolds, a sparsely inhabited rural area of great natural beauty with gently rolling hills, old hedges, woods and wonderful cloudscapes.”
CHB: Can you remember what first decided you to try out such a different style? Do you paint ‘conventional’ scenes as well? Which do you prefer?
JAW: “About 1995 I realised that many really skilful painters of conventional pictures find it very hard to make any sort of a proper living, even if their work is superb, as the market for these paintings was, I thought, oversupplied. I decided to go curvispective, more naive in style and have a bit more fun. I did need my work to be sellable as I had a family to support, and the new style seemed to work and be much more jolly for me so I continued. I think they are recognisably by me now which always helps.
I still do some conventional pictures, partly to prove to myself that I can still just sit in front of something and paint it properly. I always had a sketch book and watercolours with me when I was in the Army (Cyprus/Northern Ireland/ W Germany/Berlin/Canada/Gulf War)and afterwards as a painter during the Bosnian conflict in 1994 and in Iraq 2004. I prefer conventional painting when doing particular things like a view or an item from life and the curvispective/naive style for all the rest.”
CHB: Do you have a favourite painting yourself?
JAW: “I have so far sold 969 paintings and given away to charities/friends more than 300 more since I left the Army and became a painter in mid 1991, so it’s a bit hard to pick just one but among my current favourites are The Grand National, Hampshire Summer Night and A British Outing.”
To find out more about Jonathan Armigel Wade and see more examples of his work, please visit The Osborne Studio Gallery website. Main image shows ‘Hampshire Summer Night’ by Jonthan Armigel Wade.