Keith Breeden RP
I work in a traditional manner, I guess, but I draw influences from artists of all periods. I have aims & manners of style that sometimes conflict: I want to paint in different ways. It is hard to see my work objectively & it is often difficult to see a way ahead. I want to establish my own language of marks & not copy others. I have a long way to go.
I am a perfectionist, with all the baggage that brings. It drives me on but also inhibits me. Having no training in painting has been a hindrance but at the same time, perhaps a release. Someone said I was lucky not to have received an art education, as it meant I had not been told what was right & wrong, what was good & bad, but could decide those things for myself. But it is difficult to maintain confidence when most of my judgements are self-reliant & I have no bedrock of received knowledge to support them. The fact that I continue to receive commissions must be a validation, but I find it hard to make the connection. Still, I don't believe you need an artschool education to understand or practice art. Good art speaks to everyone, educated or not: a work must speak for itself & if any artwork relies on an explanation outside of itself to be appreciated, then it is the lesser work for that.
Raised in Cheshire, I painted & drew all the time, enjoyed primary school education but lost the plot at grammar school, & then dropped out of art college shortly after. I worked as a gardener, gravedigger, forklift driver, warehouse & cellarman. I carried on drawing & painting: small illustrations, drawings of houses. By 1977 I was in London. It was an exciting time & Punk was opening doors for untrained enthusiasts in all the arts. An old schoolfriend, Malcolm Garett was working as a designer in the music industry & helped me onto the rails when he asked me to come & do some layout work for him: He taught me the basics of design for print & I worked with him at assorted iMaGes, producing artwork for record sleeves & posters. I was also lucky that another member of my old school art class, Peter Saville was at Dindisc Records & he asked me to do some work there. In 1984 I set up my own studio: DKB, & joined by Peter Curzon & Martin Jenkins, did work for ABC, Bryan Ferry, The Cult, FYC, Cang of Four, The Mission, Alison Moyet, Scritti Politti, and many others. In 1985 our sleeves placed first in both album & singles categories in the Music Week awards. I started to do paintings, illustrations, collages & sculptures to use on sleeves. Storm Thorgerson (RIP, God Bless you, you old b****r) asked me to work with him on several projects. I push myself very hard, but Storm pushed me harder. He encouraged me in making sculptures which we employed on sleeves for EBH, Pink Floyd, Thunder & others. For the first time, I considered the possibility that I might become an "artist" - painting & sculpting for a living.
The recession of the late 80's coincided with my increasing disinterest in working in the music business & living in London. In 1988 my girlfriend & I bought a cottage in Mid-Wales with a view to leaving. Our first daughter was born & in 1992 I closed the business & we moved to Wales. I spent 2 years (& all our savings) renovating the cottage, and then came to paint: It was more difficult than I had expected. I worked in an old caravan in the garden & for 6 months I tried to "be a painter", rejecting idea after idea as being too pretentious, dull or unoriginal. By late 1994 we had no money, I was without any real direction & the caravan, a dismal place, was leaking badly.
A friend kindly offered a room to use as a studio in a village nearby: With a decent space & light, things picked up. In an interview with the printmaker Terry Frost I read; "looking for something to inspire you to work is an escape from taking action. The decision to take action is the only way of seeing". This showed me a way forward - forget the thinking - work! I would paint the things around me, the things figurative painters had always painted; still lives, landscapes, & portraits.