Tom Walker PS
Tom has been creating and experimenting with the medium of soft pastel for about 50 years, passing through periods with oils, acrylics and watercolours as well, but abandoning them in favour of pastel in the mid-1980s when he used it exclusively for a large-scale, 4 ½ year project and realised just how fast, flexible and forgiving it could be. Since then, he has applied it to every kind of work he has done, from precise observational studies to wild abstractions and all stations in between, and it has never failed me. It suits his restless, exploratory approach to picture making in which he determinedly attempts to hesitate and deviate but not to repeat himself. In this mode, he has taken journeys through the realms of Harlequin, fossilized bicycles, French organ music, submerged cathedrals, snooker, dance and, more recently, elephants in rooms, and still-life, a genre that fascinates and challenges him. The pictures in the latter category emerge not out of direct observation but are evocations of the familiar, comprising arrangements or encounters between objects we think we know, deprived of their fixed identities, at a tangent to their real selves. Their presences together in their various metamorphic settings are guided by certain underlying criteria, among them: the desire to surprise myself and, hopefully, others; the need to bring opposites together; the necessity of not doing the same as he did last time or the striving to move forward, technically, compositionally, imaginatively.
Scattered liberally throughout and in between the longer term cycles and series have been numerous one-off images triggered by whims, chance encounters, concerns, curiosity and often linked to landscape or interiors in some way or another. Tom is quite absorbed by the whole labyrinthine process of bringing visual elements, whatever they might be, together to form a whole.
But much, if not all, of what he does evolves through improvisation, both within the more thematically defined series of images and the single pieces. It is essential that space is always made for doubt, change and adaptation and this is why pastel is his preferred medium because it remains workable and re-workable forever. He teaches pastel groups in his home studio and helps them to realise that the medium of pastel, this magic, coloured dust, can release them from the inevitable frustration of too much planning and show them that creativity needs to flow.
Tom is, however, also a planner, practising the necessary counterpart of improvisation, since too much freedom can also be a bad thing. He loves designing, building, writing, sign writing and particularly calligraphy, which is the close relative of drawing. At college in the 70s He studied illustration and graphics, and is more than grateful to have spent time with artists who could turn their hands to any discipline or skill within their chosen field. Tom tries to follow those examples in his own work, and play, and to convey it to his students.
First exhibition of pastel works in 1967
Numerous exhibitions since then, to the present, of work in most 2D media, across many themes, styles and genres but mostly improvisational and imaginative.
1965 to 1975 lived, worked and exhibited in Asolo and Florence, Italy
1975 to 1979 BA Graphics/Illustration and ATC 1982, both at Brighton Polytechnic
1982 to 1993 Head of Art at Northease Manor School for dyslexic children, near Lewes.
1993 onwards - self-employed
Specialising in soft pastel work since 1986,
Member of the Pastel Society since 2012.
Some specific large-scale projects:
1986 to 1990 The Mystic Image - 51 pastel triptychs inspired by L'Orgue Mystique by French composer Charles Tournemire
(1870 to 1939) Exhibited in numerous churches and cathedrals in England, Europe and the USA Completed cycle filled half the crypt of St.Paul's in 1990.
2005 to 2009 Snooker in the Frame - a series of 147 pastel images cocking a snook at snooker. Frequently televised by the BBC. Exhibitions in 2009 in Sheffield and Salisbury, the latter opened by former World Champion Steve Davis OBE, who owns several.
2011 to 2014 Designed the Battle of Lewes Tapestry and worked alongside the embroidery team throughout. Completed Tapestry to be unveiled in May 2014 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle.
Currently working on series of illustrations for poet, John Agard, who was awarded the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 2012.
Teaching weekly and monthly pastel classes at home studio since 2003
Pastel Exhibitions and workshops at Foundry Gallery, Lewes in 2011, 2013 and to come in 2014 involving local schools, my, and my pupils' work and including concerts and a variety show.
Works in private collections throughout the UK and in many other countries.