Rather like Arkwright’s famous corner shop in the legendary BBC sitcom, ‘Open All Hours’, hugely versatile and productive agricultural machinery and countryside artist, Steven Binks provides pretty much anything you could ever need from the one source. Well, it would seem to be the case should you ever browse his Aladdin’s Cave of a personal/professional website like we did recently. What’s that? You’re after some beautifully crafted greetings cards with a subtle hint of tractor or a gaggle of Suffolk Morris Dancers staring back at you? Then you’d be in luck. Sorry? You want a porcelain plate with a detail-perfect painting of feeding sheep on its fine bone china surface area? Then today’s your lucky day. Or how about an eco-friendly scarecrow to keep those pesky crows at bay? Then roll up. Or how about a new sign designed and fitted should you happen to own/run a pub? Yes, you guessed it. Binks is your man. Indeed, everything from fine art prints, greetings cards and portraits (of local events, curiously) to porcelain plates and coffee mugs, scarecrows, weathervanes, pub signs and jigsaws are routinely served up in Binks’ unique design and production emporium.
Born in 1959 in the largely rural East Anglian county of Suffolk, Binks went on to study Graphic Design at Colchester Art School on leaving school, and since 1979 has regularly painted watercolours, many of which have been made into fine art prints and greetings cards amongst other items listed above of which he’s branched into over the years. Despite and regular and hugely popular forays into extra-curricular subject matter, Binks is perhaps best known, loved and judged on his amazing pictorials centering on traditional farming scenes. And more often than not, heavily featuring vintage tractors and other agricultural hardware per se. speaking of which, and when Binks isn’t preoccupied with his more creative endeavours/empire expanding, he can be found restoring his very own 1947 Fordson E27N; which he displays (both working the land and otherwise) at events local to him every year.
In terms of Binks’ striking illustrations which typify and to a certain degree characterise the style of art in which his enviable reputation has been built on, there appears to be a pleasingly recurrent theme of machinery chief amongst which. And when he’s not creating the precise graphic likeness of tractors, ploughs and combine harvesters at work, rest and play, then you can bet your mortgage that he’s instead manifesting an exact painted replica of steam locomotives, classic production cars, horses, churches, windmills, fire engines, buses, traction engines, farm animals, sports stars and/or reclining womenfolk/scenes of pub merriment. We kid you not. There is quite literally something for every taste and seemingly no subject matter that the supremely gifted Binks won’t turn his artistic hand to.
Harking back to his formative years though and attempting to discover what makes Binks tick, we don’t have to research too much to find an answer. As a lad Binks was completely transfixed by the wonderful windmill sequence in Marcel Varnel’s film, ‘Oh Mr Porter’, as Will Hay and the gang hung on for dear life, never quite losing their grip. And from that day forward Binks’ fascination with windmills was borne. Some would concur that it marked the beginning of what’s gone on to become a long and successful career in the art of nostalgia, which in turn has paved the way for paintings of rusty tractors and agricultural utopia that’s go on to grace many a gallery wall, greetings card and magazine covers. And not just here in the UK, but much farther afield too.
Returning to the topic of that windmill famously captured on celluloid though, and Binks didn’t have to travel far for a real life glimpse of the mill, standing as it once did at Terling in Essex. Located not a million miles from the Binks family home at Bulmer, it providing inspiration for the first in an ever-growing portfolio which spans some 30 years now. Incidentally, in 1970 Binks’ ‘Terling Mill’ composition found its way to walls of the prestigious Royal Academy in London, in respect of being adjudged one of the winners in the Sunday Mirror Children’s Art Exhibition of that year. Binks recalls the moment fondly, and readily admits that witnessing his work showcased at the Royal Academy was a monumental achievement for a youngster, yet humbly continues: “I’ve never achieved that in my adult life.”
Five years on from that artistic debut and Binks decided, whilst completing his secondary school education, that he wanted to pursue a career in carpentry. His parents had other ideas though, and instead actively encouraged their son to follow his alternative art dream, pointing him in the direction of the aforementioned Graphic Design course. On leaving Art College Binks started his fledgling creative career in packaging design, with a remit of designing artwork for the food industry. Unfortunately fulfilling creative briefs involving biscuit and crisp packet design didn’t exactly float Binks’ artistic boat, and he soon grew bored and decided to move on. Freelance work beckoned next, especially on the back of his successful moonlighting project where Binks painted pub signs.
Spurred on by winning a pub sign design competition held locally, Binks was offered the chance to paint the sign for real, and as a result this prompted his decision to turn his back on packaging design and opt to go self-employed. In this new capacity Binks ended up doing a lot of pub sign work and got a contract with Greene King as one of their artists. Throughout the 1980s Binks took on an increasing volume of freelance work for an advertising agency, as his creative output went from strength to strength during this period, before he began to concentrate his illustrative focus solely on his personal paintings and more considered subject matter; and that which we witness today. Although he has mastered and evolved his own specific and very much traditional style of pictorial presentation, Binks has always been influenced by the collective works of John Constable, Alfred Munnings and Terence Cuneo, and routinely works directly from photographs when not out in the field as such.