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Keith Proctor

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Newcastle born and bred fine artist, Keith Proctor might have been producing stunning paintings all of his life – impressive enough – however on learning that the Geordie has received no formal training as such gives him even more kudos in our book. The son of a commercial artist, a young Proctor would fastidiously watch his late father sketch, lost in the speed and clarity that his father applied to every piece of creative work he undertook. Keen to learn, he insisted that his father give him some pointers and tips on how he too could achieve similar results, and to explain what the secret to such sketching majesty was.

It turns out that the best piece of advice his father could ever impart was to ignore straight, unbroken lines, as if they didn’t exist in the first place if Proctor was ever going to follow in his gifted father’s footsteps. Of course, a young Proctor accepted this as gospel, and decrees that he still applies this mantra today, and every time he embarks on a new piece. Basically the crux of the matter was – according to Proctor’s father – that if you followed his advice then the sketched study would always be interesting, in the same vein that fluctuating the weight in which you placed on your pencil would bring drama to an otherwise predictable series of lines; were they to construct a solid object or free flowing shape.

Proctor’s experimented with his new technique at every turn, and tells us that his first paintings were of birds, which seemed an obvious port of call given that he had harboured a great interest in Natural History from a young age. Taking birds as a starting point to his fledgling art career, a then nine year old Proctor set about illustrating an entire book that he essentially copied from the published British Book of Birds; incidentally a title that had been illustrated by someone who eventually became his favourite artist (and remains so to this day); Raymond Harris Ching. After that, Proctor was hooked on art, and has never looked back. Recollections of his schooldays are many and excitedly retold, mostly spent day-dreaming, fly fishing and the endless pursuit of girls, which was pretty much par for the course for those born and schooled in the 1960s and early 70s.

It was when Proctor was sat on a riverbank, fly-fishing that he was most contented; with the pace and tranquillity allowing him the time to think and appreciate the quiet, still beauty of nature itself. This calm approach to a certain aspect of life encouraged Proctor to document his surroundings, with pencil and then paint. Rivers, birds (again), dogs and horses, eventually leading him to have the confidence to illustrate the people and urban landscape of Newcastle.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and the 1990s saw Proctor’s work feature in exhibitions at the Tryon Gallery in London, as well as across the other side of the Atlantic, at the Klausner Cooperage Gallery in America.

After taking time out, Proctor has staged a hugely successful return to the contemporary art fold in recent years, concentrating on creating his pieces back on a full-time basis again, after a self-imposed sabbatical away from the routine he had found himself almost prisoner to. Proctor’s brought a fresh, renewed approach and mind-set, which had a lot to do with the arrival of his own young son on his immediate family scene, Jack. Indeed, Jack finds himself at the fulcrum of many of Proctor’s most recent studies. Admitting to being something of a paint-o-holic, Proctor insists that even when he’s not sat in front of a canvas, he’s imagining being sat in front of a canvas. It’s this restless energy and seeming inability to switch off that means a preoccupation with his art, which whilst by no means a negative thing, could play havoc with life away from the studio. Explaining how he’s found new inspiration from the simplistic studies of the everyday, Proctor waxes lyrical about the way in which a person walks or stands providing the germ of an idea for a composition. But then it’s not long before he turns to the subject of Jack, and children per se, and how there’s beauty in their motion, a free spirit operating in a world without limits at that stage of life. It’s the essence of this which Proctor strives to capture.

A self-critical artist, Proctor knows that like many he’s got the potential to overwork a piece and therefore employs a novel way of disciplining himself. When he’s thinks he’s finished his frenzied administering of (not) straight, broken lines, and applied the oils, again at breakneck speed; he stops himself. Hearing his father’s words, demanding that he now walks away from the study, ringing in his ears. Ultimately, Proctor’s ambition is the same today as it was when he started out sketching birds as a kid, to be recognized as someone who can paint well. And there’s a legion of contemporary art fans and collectors who can attest to that being the truth.