Andrew Macara reflects on life

Autumn leaves and snow,,Allestree,Derby.12x14"There is something of a boyish streak in painter Andrew Macara. He has a love of fun and a dry sense of humour, both of which are reflected in his work.

Whether his brushes and oils are depicting wintry slopes or a sun-kissed beach there are usually children at play and they always invoke a sense of joy.

He is one of Derbyshire’s most notable artists and his paintings are probably the most recognised in the county after Joseph Wright’s but he remains completely self-effacing. Modesty really should be his middle name.

“It is still a marvellous feeling when I sell a painting even though I have been doing so since the 1960s. It is terrific because someone has liked what I have done enough to buy it,” he said.

His popularity is down to the fact that his paintings have enjoyment at their heart; include plenty of colour and movement and above all else because of their apparent simplicity.

Of course they are anything but simple and it is his knack of placing people and objects in just the right place that creates the perfect picture.

He loves going to new places and travels anywhere where the sun is shining. He says he is particularly fond of the vibrant colours of the simple homes in the backstreets of India and those on pleasure beaches.

His studio in his Derby home is dominated by a huge, paint-spattered, Brangwyn easel. On it is the current work in progress.

Surrounding us there are stacks of sketchbooks filled with thousands of drawings, endless tubes of white and blue oil paints and many more paintings in various stages of completion.

There is no doubting he is a prolific painter and he jokes that he probably became a speedy painter in his early days when he also had a day job.

“Then I was short of time and so I had to paint quickly. I used to paint as much as some people doing it full time.”

More seriously, he explains that his inspiration comes from the sun and the subsequent shadows and reflections, so to capture the moment he has to be fast. And of course when he is out in the snow it is cold and if he is not to have frozen fingers he needs to be quick.

“When I am painting spontaneously I try to capture the essence of the scene and the planes of colour. If I had too much time it would become too complicated.”

Andrew has always lived in and around Derby and moved to Farley Road with his wife Ann to bring up his family in the 1970s. An important factor was that it had room for a studio. Although at that stage he was not a full time professional artist, painting was a huge part of his life.

As a child his artistic mother and her books had encouraged his interest in painting and he also gained inspiration from his art teachers at his schools in Allestree.

“I started copying from my mother’s books when I was about 14 and she bought me some oils. My first was a copy of a Leonardo drawing and I just kept practising.

“When I was about 16 I sold my first painting from the Broadway Hotel near Darley Park.

“It was just a copy but people seemed to love them. I was selling them for £6 to £15 – which was quite a lot in the 60s.”

Andrew continued painting while he worked at various jobs from selling fruit and vegetables to being part of the family caravan business and it was not until 1983 that he finally decided he was going to paint full time.

By then his paintings were selling well and he was gaining much critical acclaim but it is the response to one of his solo exhibitions in those early days which still causes his face to light up when he recalls the tale.

He had been successfully selling pictures in the Upstairs Gallery at the Royal Academy of the Arts for a few years when in 1985 they asked him if he would like to hold a one-man show.

“Of course I was delighted and very excited. An exhibition at the Royal Academy’s Upstairs Gallery was amazing. Ann and I arrived for the opening early and found a queue of people outside. We couldn’t believe it people had arrived hours before just to be sure of buying one of my paintings. Some had actually paid others to keep their place in the queue.”

Since then he has never looked back and, with the help of Ann who he describes as a valued critic and the person who takes care of all the administration side of his work, he has become an internationally renowned artist – albeit it one with his feet firmly on the ground in Derby.

He has passed the official retirement age but like all artists he insists he will never stop painting until he loses his inspiration.

Watch this video of Andrew at work and learn more about his methods.

Go to http//www.macara.com to find out where his work is currently being exhibited.