Nancy Willis

September 22, 2017 by richard

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Nancy Willis is a London based artist whose work includes painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media, and moving image.

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Nancy has exhibited in the Whitechapel Open, Diorama Art Gallery, London, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle and BBC Television Centre. She was Artist in Residence at Hammersmith Hospital and Byam Shaw School of Art. In 2003 she received the Arts Council Innovate Award. Her film ‘Elegy for the Elswick Envoy’, commissioned by Channel 4, won ‘Best Documentary’ at film festivals in the USA, Australia, and Africa.

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After a period of working with moving image, animation and digital works, Nancy has returned to a simple, traditional medium: “Recovering from a serious illness and a long period of hospitalisation, I wanted to reconnect with the world: to draw from life with pen and ink, to be out in the air and look at nature…” The results of this exploration can be seen in the Drawing Journal. Nancy Willis is a London based artist. Throughout her career she has sought to express her particular view of life and experience of disability. In her work, Nancy creates a place where complex emotions can be explored without feelings of shame. Disability arts has provided a supportive environment for her art to thrive, it is from this place that she explores the universal themes of love, loss and human vulnerability.

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“In my art I explore my personal experience of life and disability. In telling my own story I hope to touch on the joys and sorrows we all share.”

 

https://youtu.be/L4-PDYqGVXM  

 

 

 

Disability Arts Movement: Highlights

In 1988 Nancy organised the ‘Disabled Women Artists’ conference, held by the Women Artists’ Slide Library, London.

In 1992, Nancy was a speaker at the ‘Disabled People & Visual Arts’ conference for ‘Visual Arts & Galleries’

In 2003, Nancy contributed to the anthology,‘Shelf Life’an artist book published by the ‘Northern Disability Arts Forum’

 

Further Reading

‘Elegy for the Elswick Envoy’ (2007)

Nancy Willis’ award-winning Channel 4 documentary. Subtitles available. www.nancywillis.co.uk/moving-pictures

‘Transformation’ (2010)

Animated art by Nancy Willis, based on ‘The Explorer’ by Allan Sutherland, with music by Chris Morris

www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/nancy-willis-transformation

Drawing journal (ongoing) www.nancywillis.co.uk/new-work

 

 

 

 



Lisa Fittipaldi, 1948–

by richard

Lisa not only learned to paint after losing her sight, she wrote a book about it. Her inspiring use of color and her ability to tell which color she is using just by feeling the texture of the paint are just two remarkable facets of her story.Image Results for lisa fittipaldi biography

Born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1948, Lisa Fittipaldi attended the University of Michigan receiving a Bachelors of Art degree in education in 1970. She then attended nursing school at the University of South Carolina where she met her husband Al in 1972. They were married in New York in 1974. She worked at the Baltimore Burn Center as a trauma care burn specialist with a Masters degree from the University of Maryland in 1976. Fittipaldi again returned to school, receiving her Masters degree in accountancy from the University of Houston in 1982. She changed careers to move into the field of high finance by pursuing a career as a CPA and financial analyst that year.

Lisa Fittipaldi was a trauma-care nurse and a Certified Public Accountant before she lost her sight in 1993. Memories of having traveled the world with her husband Al, a career Naval Officer, has allowed her to depict daily life in astonishingly rich color and depth. Prior to her vision loss she had no art background. The challenge of a child’s watercolor set, thrown down like a gauntlet by her frustrated husband, opened the door to a new life in the field of art. A self-taught artist, Fittipaldi began selling her works in 1995, first at local shows, then at art fairs around the country and today on her website and throughout the world. She appears on dozens of local and national television programs, grants radio and print interviews, and gives speeches and demonstrations to audiences worldwide. Painting was one of several avenues that Fittipaldi explored as a way of finding her place in the world after becoming blind. She quickly understood that painting her storehouse of memories was both a source of nourishment and a way to keep her world alive in her mind. As she began to paint, she also realized that the principles of art gave her a system for comprehending and navigating the three-dimensional world she could no longer see. Whatever she learned in her painting studio, working on a two-dimensional canvas, could be applied to her understanding of the vast dark world she now lived in.

Since her entrance into the International world of art, she has sold over 500 paintings internationally, both in oil and watercolor. Since 1997, her complex scenes of diverse cultures and everyday life have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. A deep understanding of color theory supplanted her need to “feel” the consistency of the paint to know what color she was using. Colorful abstract paintings gave way to still life and landscape, and ultimately to complex figurative paintings of a teeming marketplace or a crowded jazz club.

Realizing a deficit in our educational system, she founded the Mind’s Eye Foundation in 1999 to provide specially equipped computers and software to vision and hearing impaired schoolchildren so they can remain mainstreamed in our schools. Among her other endeavors, she and her husband run a successful bed and breakfast in San Antonio, Texas.

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Alison Lapper, 1961–

by richard

Alison Lapper has phocomelia and was born without arms and with shortened legs. Since her childhood, she has lived in homes and has had little contact with her kinship. The mother saw her child for the last time at the age of four months; later Lapper saluted herself with her.

When she was fitted with arm prostheses , she did not feel it helpful, but as an attempt to make her appearance less disturbing; she refused and learned to live without artificial help. At the age of 19, Lapper left the home and moved to London, where she obtained the driving license. Lapper studied at the University of Brighton and earned a first class degree in Fine Arts in 1994 .

Lapper uses photography , computer graphics and painting in her works, which, as she puts it, ask questions about physical normality and beauty. She paints with her mouth. The sculpture Venus of Milo , which tells Lapper something about similarities between the idealized female image and Lapper’s body, gained a special influence . She has participated in various British art exhibitions, for example at the Royal Festival Hall . She is a member of the association of mouth and foot painters . In May 2003, Lapper was awarded the MBE for her work in art.

After the birth of her son Parys in 1999, who was born without physical problem, she elaborated an installation of photographs that she showed together with him.

Alison Lapper MBE is an artist, television presenter and speaker. See works at http://www.alilapper.com

Alison has a First Class Honors Degree in Fine Art and is a member of the Mouth and Foot Painting ArtistsClick here to find out more about her artwork.

 In 2016, after featuring as a subject in many documentaries throughout her life, Alison began a new career as a presenter for television. She co-presented No Body’s Perfect for BBC4 with the photographer Rankin, followed by her own take on William Blake for Sky Arts in 2017. Click here to find out more about Alison’s television career.

She is a well known public figure and regularly gives talks about her life. Born with no arms and shortened legs, Alison was institutionalised at six weeks old and spent her next 17 years at Chailey Heritage in Sussex. At the age of 19, she obtained a driving licence and her own flat, and began to live her daily life independently. Audiences at her talks range from the Royal College of Midwives to local voluntary groups. Please get in touch if you would like to arrange a talk with Alison.

Her autobiography My Life in My Hands (Simon & Schuster, 2006) has been translated into 9 languages, and can be purchased here.

In 2005, artist and friend, Marc Quinn, erected the statue Alison Lapper Pregnant in Trafalgar Square. He wanted the statue on the Fourth Plinth to celebrate “someone who has conquered their own circumstances, rather than someone who has conquered the outside world”. 

In 2012, an inflatable replica of the statue was a centrepiece in the London 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony.

See below for a short video from ITV News, where Alison discusses the statue and people’s perception of it.

Alison has a First Class Honors Degree in Fine Art and is a member of the Mouth and Foot Painting ArtistsClick here to find out more about her artwork.

In 2016, after featuring as a subject in many documentaries throughout her life, Alison began a new career as a presenter for television. She co-presented No Body’s Perfect for BBC4 with the photographer Rankin, followed by her own take on William Blake for Sky Arts in 2017. Click here  to find out more about Alison’s television career.

She is a well known public figure and regularly gives talks about her life. Born with no arms and shortened legs, Alison was institutionalised at six weeks old and spent her next 17 years at Chailey Heritage in Sussex. At the age of 19, she obtained a driving licence and her own flat, and began to live her daily life independently. Audiences at her talks range from the Royal College of Midwives to local voluntary groups. Please get in touch if you would like to arrange a talk with Alison.

Her autobiography My Life in My Hands (Simon & Schuster, 2006) has been translated into 9 languages, and can be purchased here.

In 2005, artist and friend, Marc Quinn, erected the statue Alison Lapper Pregnant in Trafalgar Square. He wanted the statue on the Fourth Plinth to celebrate “someone who has conquered their own circumstances, rather than someone who has conquered the outside world”.

In 2012, an inflatable replica of the statue was a centrepiece in the London 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony.

See below for a short video from ITV News, where Alison discusses the statue and people’s perception of it.  https://youtu.be/1iz2TLBLWhA

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Profitability

 Opening Ceremony Paralympics 35 foot version, London, 2012



Peter Longstaff, 1961–

by richard

Peter is a foot painter. He creates all of his artwork using just his feet, having no arms. Peter’s disability stemmed from the drug thalidomide, which was prescribed for morning sickness until it was discovered that it caused deformities fetuses. After living most of his life without arms, Peter considers his right foot to be like the right hand of most people, using it dexterously to open doors and perform many other everyday tasks.

Peter Longstaff was born without arms as a result of his mother being prescribed the drug Thalidomide during pregnancy, but Peter has never considered himself as being disabled. This is due to the refusal of his family to single him out as being different and led to the unusual choice of farming as a career. Inspired by his uncle, a pig farmer in Norfolk, Peter successfully ran his own pig farm for twenty years. Wearing boots inhibited the necessity of using his feet to drive the tractor and carry out other tasks on the farm so Peter spent every winter with his bare feet freezing cold and muddy, but he loved the outdoor life and his business flourished. However, at the end of the 1990’s cheap imports of foreign bacon led to the near collapse of the British pig industry and with Peter’s business no longer viable he was forced to sell up.The transition from a full time, seven day a week commitment to being redundant was difficult, especially since Peter had a young family to support, but he decided to revisit a childhood hobby and enrolled in an art and photography course. Advised by a Thalidomide friend, Peter contacted Tom Yendell who encouraged him to submit his work for assessment by the MFPA, leading to the award of a scholarship in 2002. Since then Peter has applied the same discipline and hard work that he devoted to farming to his new career as an artist. Peter’s goal is to be accepted by society as a professional painter, the philosophy of MFPA founder Erich Stegmann. Peter has a son, Milo, and lives in Norfolk.

Peter’s paintings – click on an image to enlarge

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Joseph Cartin, 1953–

by richard

JOSEPH CARTIN

Cartin is from Brooklyn and actively lives with bipolar disorder. He has been active in the Mental Health Consumer Movement since 1990 and considers himself a “psychiatric survivor”. He has won numerous art competitions and does corporate design work in addition to his art. As well as his personal art he is and architectural designer and lives by his commercial work.



Maria Iliou

by richard

MARIA ILIOU

Disability: Autistic

MariaIliou

Maria Iliou is a Greek artist with autism spectrum condition. She is a life long resident of Long Island, New York, and is deeply involved as an advocate for the rights of people with autism. Her subject matter varies from the abstract to scenes of nature and family life. Maria has also organized her own autism group, Athena Autistic Artist. She is an artist with talent on many levels. She also writes poetry and is soon to have a book of her poems published.

Maria has also won many awards for her painting and poetry. These awards range from the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital Art Show to the Gallery on the Hill, Brookhaven, New York. She was also selected as the artist for the greeting cards of the Autism Society of America in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Her paintings are also on display at numerous Libraries and at Banks through out Long Island, New York.

ARTISTS MEDIA:
Maria paints in a variety of mediums; Oils, acrylics, watercolors and mixed media.

I am a Greek Autistic artist. My greatest sense of self, of connecting with the world around me, comes from participating in the “Arts” – drawings, paintings, poetry, dance, acting, yoga, photography, and editing. I’m an artist with talent on many hidden, unique levels. I write poetry, and make hand-made macrame plant hangers, macrame hanging tables and floral arts; flower arrangements, and corsages.

I’m the Director Manager, Founder of the autism group, ATHENA AUTISTIC ARTIST. This group is made up of autistic people who become friends and family. We enjoyed social activities such as traveling together, trips, Christmas holiday and birthday parties, homemade foods with performances arts of poetry, acting, plays, going out to eat, miniature golf, and movies at home.

I’m Director Manager, Founder and have organized…designed, created my own home college: ATHENA AUTISTIC ARTIST COLLEGE. This college is designed for my daughter to give her college experiences and teach and work with her through performing arts as Athena is gifted artist. I’m the autism ambassador for Long Island, New York City.

Our future plans are to give others the same experiences as Athena and will be designed to their needs and abilities.

Tranquilities within her paintings of Expressions

Are unique varieties of emotions that

Spiritually touches Maria’s heart of soul

Extraordinarily Gifted feelings of accomplishment

Two expressive avenues are though her drawings and paintings

These illustrate a heart rendering appreciation of

Remembrances visualized and presented in the Art gallery

My paintings were selected as the artist for the greeting cards for the Autism Society of America in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Maria Iliou painting of her daughter Athena

ATHENA

From the depth of history, the name
Athena echoes with meaning…
Wisdom of arts
Fountain of knowledge
Pure innocence and beauty
In my life, the gifted daughter
Athena resonates with life
Able to translate inner beauty
Onto canvas, a capable
Abstract artist
Pictures transfer images
Seen only in her mind
Transformed from brilliant
Smile, or heartbreakingly
Teary eyes
A gift in my life, another
Perspective, different yet
Powerful, touching the deepest parts
Of my heart and soul
Empathic, my entire body feels
Her emotions, penetrating inner layers
As the core of my being
Echoes with meaning
Constantly in my thoughts, simplistic
Yet sensitive conversations arise
From the connection that binds
MARIA ILIOU
© 2010 MARIA ILIOU

Maria Iliou "Autumn"



Stephen Wiltshire, 1974–

by richard

STEPHEN WILTSHIRE

Disability: Autistic Wiltshire was born in 1974 in London to West Indian parents. He is an autistic savant and world famous architectural artist. He learned to speak at the age of nine, and at the age of ten began drawing detailed sketches of London landmarks. While he has created many prodigious works of art, his most recent was a eighteen foot wide panoramic landscape of the skyline of New York City, after only viewing it once during a twenty minute helicopter ride.

 Stephen Wiltshire MBE - Biography
Stephen Wiltshire is an artist who draws and paints detailed cityscapes. He has a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having only observed them briefly. He was awarded an MBE for services to the art world in 2006. He studied Fine Art at City & Guilds Art College. His work is popular all over the world, and is held in a number of important collections.Stephen was born in London, United Kingdom to West Indian parents on 24th April, 1974. As a child he was mute, and did not relate to other people. Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic. He had no language and lived entirely in his own world.

At the age of five, Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London, where it was noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. It soon became apparent he communicated with the world through the language of drawing; first animals, then London buses, and finally buildings. These drawings show a masterful perspective, a whimsical line, and reveal a natural innate artistry.

The instructors at Queensmill School encouraged him to speak by temporarily taking away his art supplies so that he would be forced to ask for them. Stephen responded by making sounds and eventually uttered his first word – “paper.” He learned to speak fully at the age of nine. His early illustrations depicted animals and cars; he is still extremely interested in american cars and is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them. When he was about seven, Stephen became fascinated with sketching landmark London buildings.

Stephen Wiltshire - child artist
One of Stephen’s teachers took a particular interest in him, who later accompanied his young student on drawing excursions and entered his work in children’s art competitions, many of which garnered Stephen awards. The local press became increasingly suspicious as to how a young child could produce such masterful drawings.

The media interest soon turned nationwide and the 7 year old Stephen Wiltshire made his first steps to launch his lifelong career. The same year he sold his first work and by the time he turned 8, he received his first commission from the British Prime Minister to create a drawing of Salisbury Cathedral.

In February 1987 Stephen appeared in The Foolish Wise Ones. (The show also featured savants with musical and mathematical talents.) During his segment Hugh Casson, a former president of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, referred to him as “possibly the best child artist in Britain.”

Casson introduced Stephen to Margaret Hewson, a literary agent who helped Stephen field incoming book deals and soon became a trusted mentor. She helped Stephen publish his first book, Drawings (1987), a volume of his early sketches that featured a preface by Casson. Hewson, known for her careful stewardship of her clients’ financial interests, made sure a trust was established in Stephen’s name so that his fees and royalties were used wisely.

Hewson arranged Stephen’s first trip abroad, to New York City, where he sketched such legendary skyscrapers as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as part of a feature being prepared by the London-based International Television News. While in New York Stephen met Oliver Sacks.

Sacks was fascinated by the young artist, and the two struck up a long friendship; Sacks would ultimately write extensively about Stephen. The resulting illustrations from his visit – along with sketches of sites in the London Docklands, Paris, and Edinburgh – formed the basis for his second book, Cities (1989), which also included some drawings of purely imaginary metropolises.



Artists First (artist group, Bristol)

by richard

Artists First is a group of 16 disabled visual artists with learning difficulties based in Bristol. http://www.artistsfirst.org.uk
We have been working together since 1988. We are used to running our own studios and have organised and been part of many exhibitions, residencies and open studio events.

Artists First includes artists who met while attending Social Services’ Day Centres and artists who have lived in long stay residential hospitals. We believe that as a group we can support each other and that we can do powerful work together, things that we could not do alone.

Since 2005 we have been based in a studio in Southmead, near where most of us live. We are making new work for exhibitions so people can see who we are and what we do.

We’ve recently begun working on one of our biggest projects yet as part of our 25th anniversary year.

To watch a short film introducing Artists First, go to www.redweather.co.uk/artistsfirst

“My art has always been important to me and being seen as an artist first, not just as someone with learning difficulties, or the names they used to call us. Kathy and me talked about it in 1988 and we said, ‘let’s be called Artists First because that’s how we want to be seen.’ Art is important because it shows people what we can do; it changes people’s attitudes. I have been in lots of exhibitions and sold my work. I shall always work at my art because it makes me feel so strong.”

Carol Chilcott, Founding Member

“My work is not bad and it is important to me. I would do nothing if I didn’t do my art; making art is my life.”

Joan Clews has been a member of Artists First for over 18 years.Joan Clews

“I love art. I paint everywhere and I love painting holidays. My dad was an artist; he and I used to paint together. His name was Mike, Michael, and now he has gone, I keep the art going for both of us.”

Sarah McGreevy has been a member of Artists First for 20 years.Sarah McGreevy

“Art is important to me because it is in my heart. We used to go to St. Ives for painting weekends and I love making paintings about St. Ives. I like doing my art anywhere, though, as long as we are together.”

Kathy Stewart has been a member of Artists First for 20 years and creates her work using inks, pastels and different types of paint.Kathy Stewart

“It is of great enjoyment doing my art and of great interest as well because it makes me feel so good. All the different materials you can use: acrylics, inks, watercolours, oils, pastels. It excites you because of all that comes out of it. I get power out of it – and I feel I could do it forever and ever. I get a great excitement out of it. When I was 5 years old, I dreamt of being an artist but I was limited at school.”

Brenda Cook is 72 and lives in an older people’s home. She has been a member of Artists First for 12 years.Brenda Cook

“I think it is great, art. I like doing it at home, anywhere. I do things as I see them – some ideas come out of my head and some ideas come from stories. Male Face is like seeing your self differently in a mirror, it is like a reflection, almost like magic mirrors at a fair. They can change the size of your face. You are gazing into more of your self – that’s what I am doing in Male Face. Art makes you see things differently and that includes yourself.”

Nicholas SelwayNicholas Selway

Carol Chilcott

“Why are the canaries singing? They are in a cage and they are still singing. They make the people very happy. They are not like my sister’s parrot. They sing. It is a picture about making people happy through a song. It is about the songs we can all sing.”

Lizzy Lane talking about her painting ‘My Singing Canaries’.Lizzy Lane

“It is important for my work to get out there and be seen by lots of people. The paintings that are in this exhibition, I did them to dedicate the life I had with my partner, Roy, who recently died. I needed to do them because I wanted to show everyone that we were together in life. The pictures are from my head and I want to put my memories and feelings into paint.”

Jacky LongJacky Long

“My ambition is to get my work all around the world so I can share it with others – people can buy it if they want to. It makes me feel great that someone has my work on their wall. I am doing a lot of portraits and still life works at the moment.”

Peter Sutton has created over 400 pieces of art and would like to exhibit them all.Peter Sutton

“I like coming to do my art and I’ve done it for a long time. I like working with schools, sharing my art with young people. I like working with other disabled artists like James Lake and Eddy Hardy. Art makes me feel great – great fun doing it but it is hard work.”

Stephen Canby has been a member of Artists First for 15 years.Stephen CanbyBrenda Carr

“Our work is about beauty, being different and it’s about celebration too.”

Artists First

Tom HodsonTina Kelly
Kevin HoganBrian Davis

Liz and Molly – Brenda Cook     Still Life – Kathy Stewart

Roy and Me in Sun Hats – Jacky LongFace (Self-Portrait) – Joan Clews

Reflections – Nicholas Selway                   Living Room – Sarah McGreevy

St. Ives – Kathy Stewart                                        Mother and Baby – Joan Clews

Portrait of Joan as an Artist – Peter Sutton                                   Figures – Carol Chilcott

Firebird (From Triptych) – Jackie Long                          Firebird (From Triptych) – Joan Clews

Firebird (From Triptych) – Nicholas Selway                    Firebird (From Triptych) – Tina kelly

Woman – Joan Clews                                                  Male Face – Nicholas Selway

Figures – Carol Chilcott                                                    Secret Garden – Joan Clews

Portrait of Penny – Peter Sutton                                        A Place To Be – Tina Kelly

Lighthouse – Kevin Hogan                                             Mask – Nicholas Selway

Woman Wrapped – Joan Clews                                   Sloop Inn – Carol Chilcott

Thought – Peter Sutton                                               Having a Laugh – Steve Canby

My Singing Canaries – Lizzy Lane                            Portrait of Two – Joan Clews

Untitled – Claude Rimmer                                          Tribal Face – Nicholas Selway

Moon Through the Trees – Jacky Long                           Harbour – Kevin Hogan

Green Man – Nicholas Selway                                       Sundial – Sarah McGreevy

Houses with People’s Faces – Sarah McGreevy                     The Road In – Claude Rimmer

Self Portrait – Steve Canby                                         Self Portrait – Peter Sutton

Firebird (From Triptych) – Peter Sutton                           Untitled – Tina Kelly

Firebird (From Triptych) – Sarah McGreevy                       Jane’s Garden – Brenda Cook

In My Head – Steve Canby                                    Garden in the House – Kathy Stewart

Roy and Me – Jacky Long                                                               Firebird (From Triptych) – Liz Lane

Jester – Sarah McGreevy                                                 House On Its Own, Outside – Kevin Hogan



Keith Salmon, 1959–

by richard

KEITH SALMON

Disability: Visually Impaired

Keith is a blind fine artist and avid mountain climber. He has climbed over a hundred Munros (a type of Scottish mountain), one of which can be seen in the first painting below. In 2009 he won the Jolomo award for Scottish landscape painting.

Keith Salmon was born in Essex and moved to Wales in the late 1960s. He studied for his BA in art at what is now Shrewsbury College of Arts & Technology and Falmouth School of Art between 1979 and 1983. He originally trained and worked as a sculptor, constructing pieces from steel, wood and cement fondu. On completion of his studies he moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north east of England where he set up his first studio.

In 1989, Salmon moved back to Wales and set up a new studio. Around this time his sight deteriorated very quickly and within a few years he had to stop exhibiting work. He then decided to make the most of the time he still had sight and put his efforts into drawing and painting, finding new methods using just the very limited sight he now had left.

In 1998, he moved to Irvine, Ayrshire, in Scotland and, though registered blind, had enough confidence in the new paintings and drawings he created to once again start exhibiting them.

During this time his work has developed in two different styles: organised scribbles that form his drawings, and the bolder, broad marks in oil or acrylic paintings. Most of his works are based on his experiences while out walking in the Scottish Highlands. Over the last few years he has combined the scribbled pastel line with the painted acrylic marks, stating that he is “trying to capture a little of how I experience these wonderful wild places”.

At present Salmon keeps a studio space at Courtyard Studios in Irvine and is regularly exhibiting his work again.

artist with easelPap of Glen Co 2011



Lord Byron, 1788 – 1824

September 20, 2017 by richard

Lord Byron

by Ellen Castelow

‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’. That is how Lady Caroline Lamb described her lover George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron and one of the greatest Romantic poets in English literature.

As famous for his scandalous private life as for his work, Byron was born on 22nd January 1788 in London and inherited the title Baron Byron from his great uncle at the age of 10.

He endured a chaotic childhood in Aberdeen, brought up by his schizophrenic mother and an abusive nurse. These experiences, plus the fact that he was born with a club foot, may have had something to do with his constant need to be loved, expressed through his many affairs with both men and women.

Lord Byron

He was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. It was at Harrow that he experienced his first love affairs with both sexes. In 1803 at the age of 15 he fell madly in love with his cousin, Mary Chaworth, who did not return his feelings. This unrequited passion was the basis for his works ‘Hills of Annesley’ and ‘The Adieu’.

Whilst at Trinity he experimented with love, discovered politics and fell into debt (his mother said he had a “reckless disregard for money”). When he turned 21 he took up his seat in the House of Lords; however the restless Byron left England the following year for a two-year European tour with his great friend, John Cam Hobhouse. He visited Greece for the first time and fell in love with both the country and the people. Byron arrived back in England in 1811 just as his mother died. Whilst on tour he had begun work on the poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, a partly autobiographical account of a young man’s travels abroad. The first part of the work was published to great acclaim. Byron became famous overnight and was much sought after in Regency London society. His celebrity was such his future wife Annabella Milbanke called it ‘Byromania’.

In 1812, Byron embarked on a affair with the passionate, eccentric – and married – Lady Caroline Lamb. The scandal shocked the British public. He also had affairs with Lady Oxford, Lady Frances Webster and also, very probably, with his married half-sister, Augusta Leigh.

In 1814 Augusta gave birth to a daughter. The child took her father’s surname of Leigh but gossip was rife that the baby girl’s father was in fact Byron. Perhaps in an attempt to recover his reputation, the following year Byron married Annabella Milbanke, with whom he had a daughter Augusta Ada. Because of Byron’s many affairs, the rumours of his bisexuality (homosexuality was illegal at this time) and the scandal surrounding his relationship with Augusta, the couple separated shortly after the birth of their child.

Lady Byron
Annabella, Lady Byron

In April 1816 Byron fled England, leaving behind a failed marriage, notorious affairs and mounting debts. He spent that summer at Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary and Mary’s half sister Claire Clairmont, with whom Byron had had an affair whilst in London. Claire was an attractive, lively and voluptuous brunette and the couple rekindled their affair in Italy. In 1817 she returned to London and gave birth to their their daughter, Allegra.

Byron travelled on to Italy. In Venice he had more affairs, with Marianna Segati, his landlord’s wife and Margarita Cogni, wife of a Venetian baker.

The sale of Newstead Abbey for £94,500 in the autumn of 1818 cleared Byron’s debts and left him with a generous income.

By now, Byron’s life of debauchery had aged him well beyond his years. However in 1819, he began an affair with the Countess Teresa Guiccioli, only 19 years old and married to a man nearly three times her age. The two became inseparable; Byron moved in with her in 1820.

Teresa Guiccioli
Teresa Guiccioli

It was during this period in Italy that Byron wrote some of his most famous works, including ‘Beppo’, ‘The Prophecy of Dante’ and the satiric poem ‘Don Juan’, which he never finished.

By now Byron’s daughter Augusta had arrived in Italy, sent by her mother Annabella to be with her father. Byron sent her away to be educated at a convent near Ravenna, where she died in April 1822. Later that same year Byron also lost his friend Shelley who died when his boat, the Don Juan, went down at sea.

His earlier travels had left Byron with a great passion for Greece. He supported the Greek war for independence from the Turks and in 1823 left Genoa to travel to Cephalonia to become involved. He spent £4000 refitting the Greek fleet and in December 1823 sailed to Messolonghi, where he took command of a Greek unit of fighters.

His health began to deteriorate and in February 1824, he fell ill. He never recovered and he died at Missolonghi on April 19th.

Death of Lord Byron

His death was mourned throughout Greece where he was revered as a national hero. His body was brought back to England to be buried in Westminster Abbey but this was refused on account of his “questionable morality”. He is buried at his ancestral home Newstead Abbey, in Nottinghamshire.