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Simon Bull

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With colours so sharp and real that you could almost reach into the canvas and touch the rainbow (a Skittles reference there for you, free of charge), predominant subject matter in Bull’s artistic scope over the years has been that of floral illustrations. Although the inspiring and much-celebrated contemporary fine artist has also shown a graphic proficiency for capturing other gorgeous items form the natural, living world around us; such as birds, animals and fruit. And Mohammed Ali. And the Statue of Liberty. And Mickey and Minnie Mouse. And bizarrely the impressively eclectic list goes on. Yet it’s Bull’s flowers which have really thrust the hugely popular artist into the compositional spotlight, and in particular his larger than life visual interpretation of these naturally-occurring, vibrantly coloured and mood-enhancing subjects we witness all around us. Well, most of us, at some point in our lives.
Bull was aged just 6-years when his artistic attributes were first spotted by his friends and family, as he scooped first prize in the local cinema’s Saturday Matinee Colouring Competition in 1964. His flair continued to be observed and spoken about by his nearest and dearest as Bull followed up his initial successes with more art prizes during his childhood and into his teenage years. Bull also walked off with a National Art Students painting prize whilst at college. Returning to his schooldays though and Bull was packed off – along with his elder brother for company - to boarding school aged 7, which was situated in the North of England. Bull recounts the next four years as providing some of the best experiences of his formative years, as well as some of the most challenging for any youngster.

The regimented boarding school routine was countered by some much need family holidays in South America, where they all stayed in a large white colonial style house, complete with imposing brick pillars and polished wooden floors like something lifted straight from the pages of Tom Sawyer. Describing an idyllic, almost fictitious environ, Bull recalls a colony of fruit bats lived in the loft and humming birds which routinely fed from flowering trees in the garden which was also home to the family’s parrots and a menagerie of different pets including a kinkajou and coatimundi. Undoubtedly it was this dream-like setting, far from his educational surrounds which first inspired Bull to make a play for the paints and brushes, as the nearby fringes of the rainforest offered the budding artist a dazzling array of sights and sounds on which to construct junior masterpieces. This wilderness of exuberant colouration and mystery was quite simply enchanting, as much to a young, fertile and easily absorbed mind as that of a more world-weary one, if not more so we would hazard a guess.
During his younger life Bull’s family uprooted on a few occasions courtesy of his parent’s careers, hence why he attended boarding school back in England, and their next relocation as such was in Hong Kong. It was here that Bull was first exposed to the art of the Orient, and the well-documented and intricate beauty of Chinese brushwork in particular. Blown away by the sheer energy of the compositional quality combined with the perceived economy of line work, Bull digested much of this new art he saw with a passion; and it’s safe to say that its influence has had a continued bearing on his own work over a passage of time. Indeed, so enamoured and inspired by the art he witnessed, Bull held his first solo exhibition of his own work here at the age of just 18-years; and which served as the Launchpad for his own professional career as a fine artist.
But before any of that happened Bull returned to his boarding school to finish his secondary education, this time in South London. Of course, being located more centrally afforded Bull the opportunity of becoming familiar with some of London’s great art galleries and moreover, the collections which these prestigious establishments brought him within arm’s reach of, as well as enabled him to benefit from the wide range of exhibitions as they arrived in the UK’s capital city. During this period Bull became aware of many artists and movements and drew a broader understanding and appreciation of the art world and all that it had to offer; and as these many influences came together and started shaping an inner vision of the world, Bull’s hunger for creation of not merely an image, but an experience for the viewer, burgeoned and gained momentum.
Bull married his childhood sweetheart whilst still at art school (where he specialised in the art of print making), which he attended once he’d completed his mandatory secondary education at his South London boarding school, and despite often struggling to make ends meet in the beginning, Bull always managed to discover a buyer, somewhere, who would step in with a much-needed commission at the eleventh hour to stave off genuine economic hardship. As the late 1970s turned into the early 1980s, Bull’s printmaking skillset started to pay dividends for his immediate family, as he began shifting a volume of work and moreover, catching the attention of some real movers and shakers in contemporary art circles. He sold his first three editions to Pallas Gallery in London and then entered a relationship with London Contemporary Art, who went on to sell out many of his meticulous, multi-plate etching editions from the outset of this collaboration.
Throughout this chapter Bull travelled extensively, to the East and through the foothills of the Himalayas, as well as impromptu tours of the Mediterranean. A little closer to home and Bull would also spend a number of weeks painting the mountains of the English Lake District where he and his wife, Joanna later made their family home for many years.
A ground-shift was starting to take place in Bull’s painting conscience though, and turning to his spiritual side which he had for as long as he cared to remember, the artist describes how he felt like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis; and the rich and vivacious style for which he has since become world-famous began to find its pictorial voice as a result. It was not until his major one-man show at Harrods in London where 76 of his paintings were exhibited together that the effect of this new work came home to him and his future audience, art critics and collectors alike suddenly sat up and began to take notice of the new kid on the fine art block. Speaking candidly about this time Bull says; “I remember walking around the show listening to what people were saying,” adding; “I began for the first time to understand what my paintings had become. The people were telling me. People were being transported. The colours and imagery were becoming a means of conveying the viewer into another world. The miracle was happening. People were being hit right in their emotional centre”.
In 2000 Bull bagged the title of ‘Top Selling Original Artist’ for that specific year as recognized by the respected Fine Art Trade Guild, whilst also being short-listed twice for the Best Selling Published Artist award too. Bull’s ‘The Journey Never Ends” has also been awarded the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers print of the year in the United States in acknowledgement of ‘the graphic print whose artwork was the most outstanding in artistic quality and public appeal during 2003’. Now residing in Carmel, California where Bull moved with his family in 2003, he concludes with a simple mantra. That being – and as said in the artist’s own words; “If I can touch a life… if through my painting I can show something previously unseen, if I can reveal something old in a new way, if I can enrich a soul on its journey into the eternal then my painting – my living – has not been in vain.”