Born in Corbridge, Northumberland in 1958, Tim Bulmer spent much of his childhood and adolescence living away at different boarding schools; which resulted in a lot of rugby, as those things always tend to do whether you want it to or not. Places where once art was generally frowned upon. Firstly Bramcote in Scarborough, followed by a further five years at the famous Sedbergh School situated in the old West Riding. You see. Rugby and more rugby. The latter establishment known for breeding rugger stars, and academically referred to as a tough, disciplinarian educational environ. Still, the young Bulmer escaped the clutches of the posh education system and beat a hasty retreat to the less salubrious Teeside School of Art, before migrating south by south-east once his further education was completed and landed at art college in Wimbledon. Or Wimbledon Art School as it was more commonly billed as, where he chose to study for a BA (Hons) in Theatre Design of all things.
Art college was a welcome breath of fresh – non-rugby – air, after having spent most of his formative years at the bottom of a loose ruck, and Bulmer was determined never to find himself back there as he single-mindedly concentrated on a career in the arts. Art. Performing arts. Art, in one way, shape or form. Or another. Bulmer’s wish was granted (or at least, he started on the right path to creative righteousness) on leaving art college, whereby he gained meaningful employment in the theatre, shifting set scenery about and routinely being blanked by some of the leading lights of the British stage. Bulmer followed this vocational spell up with a stint in the City, delivering office mail, despatching computer parts and – in his own words, not ours – ‘being quite possibly the ugliest receptionist in the City of London’.
Bulmer secured his first proper job as a picture framer-stroke-gallery sales assistant in Guildford in Surrey. Although prior to this he had filled his spare time/gained a fair bit of knowledge back stage in the theatre as we alluded to above, which as a by-product offered Bulmer ample opportunity to exercise his two main interests in life; painting and the observation of human behaviour. Or as it’s called these days, people watching. Despite being acknowledged as something of a nifty framer, Bulmer’s sales pitch needed work; that was until he was encouraged to flog his own work. Sketches were Bulmer’s artistic bag. Humourous cartoon etchings chiefly, which he was very adept at. The sort of comedic, watercoloured sketches you’d habitually note on certain light-hearted greetings cards in the 1980s and 90s.
The proprietors of the gallery were more than happy to accommodate Bulmer’s artistic moonlighting endeavours and willingly allowed the budding artist to display his work in an out of the way spot, next to the fire hydrant. Having said that, once Bulmer’s work began shifting in numbers, he was moved more centre stage (to coin a theatre-ism for old time’s sake). In the time it takes to say, ‘bloody hell, he’s pretty darn good at this artistic lark, innit’ Bulmer started painting on a full-time basis, and at the same time made the decision to return to higher education so as to learn the noble art of printmaking. In addition to this, Bulmer soon mastered etching to his creative arsenal for good measure. Bulmer’s work was soon picked up by respected UK art publishing house, DeMontford Fine Art, who snapped the promising artist up pronto and who went on to promote his watercolours and etchings to a brand new – and expansive – audience across the country and further a field.
With 14 years of arty stuff under his belt, Bulmer called it a day and relocated back north to Pickering, having arrived at the conclusion that he wanted to try something a little different. Diversification being key and all that malarkey. So Bulmer then set about originating and designing wine labels for the Fitou brand, alongside of promotional prints for Taylor’s Port. Around this period Bulmer enjoyed a perpetual stream of both personal and commercial commissions, including the fulfilling of illustrative briefs for a string of restaurants, hotels and gastro pubs, whilst also finding the time to lend his graphical substance to books derivative of authors such as Roger Steare and Ray Mears. The work continued to roll in for Bulmer, as he set about designing the new town map for Pickering, commercial pictorial projects for Boston Spa, DeliciousYorkshire and Welcome to Yorkshire amongst others.
Bulmer’s default graphical setting is cemented very much in the traditional mould of your typical cartoonist/illustrator and his hugely popular style holds broad appeal amongst his legions of fans and art critics alike. His work has been displayed nationally and internationally for several years and Bulmer’s been officially named as the Harrods Picture Gallery’s most popular artist during this time. Elsewhere and in 2001 Bulmer won The Fine Art Trade Guild Print ‘Artist of the Year’ award whilst also scooping the same awarding body’s’, ‘Best Selling Original Print Artist’ award, and in 2003 he had his first book, 'The Road To Racque and Rouen' published by De Montfort. His success has seen him inundated with commissions for a number of corporations, running to top flight restaurants (including Gary Rhodes’ ‘Greenhouse’) and bars, card collections and of course individual collectors. Indeed, Bulmer has also compiled an impressive list of celebrity clients, but is not at liberty to divulge the names or whereabouts for national security reasons. When asked to describe his particular artistic style, Bulmer says that it’s essentially nothing more than; “a wry observation of life and an unwillingness to take anything seriously”. Deadpan delivery or not, this explanation criminally belies that imagination and artistry that characterises each of his images. Bulmer adds; "I am fascinated by the incredible diversity of life… and am constantly inspired by the fact that it always seems a whisker away from farce”.
More recently Bulmer has branched into the origination, design and manufacture of sculptures based on many of the successfully sketched characters and situations which he’s created and envisaged on canvas over the years.