Carl Longmate – en plein air artist

Gallery opening.CMYKThere’s nothing unusual about a parent lovingly saving a child’s primary school paintings and returning them decades later with lots of giggles, oohing and aahing.

But it is probably a little out of the ordinary for a primary school teacher to be able to conjure up a childhood masterpiece and hand it back to a pupil from the 1960s.

So no wonder artist Carl Longmate (right) is still grinning from ear to ear to have been given a picture he painted aged nine years and six months at Greenfield CP School in Hyde.

“I still can’t believe it. My teacher from back then saw a feature about me in Cheshire Life and just turned up with this picture of a robin I had painted all that time ago.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing or painting but even though I started at a young age I have kept nothing from my childhood so this is really special.”

He holds up the painting, which is still in perfect condition and even includes a faded sticker with his name and age written in black marker pen, and remarks that it wasn’t half bad considering his tender years.

That fact can’t be disputed but his work has moved on in the past 46 years.

Today his oil paintings are being snapped up by collectors who can’t resist the colourful street scenes packed with his fascinating semi-cartoon characters.

Carl likes to work quickly and en plein air so more often than not you will find him in a doorway in a busy city or town centre capturing a snapshot of ordinary people going about their busy lives.

“I love working outside and I even have to have all the doors and windows open when I am home,” he says.

Carl, who was born in Manchester, went to art school and then settled down to a job as an artist in advertising followed by a move into selling corporate interiors as a consultant –  both extremely creative roles.

“Working in advertising is where I developed my speed. You couldn’t spend days on a project as sometimes you had to have half a dozen done by lunchtime.

“In my last job I also used my drawing skills to bring to life presentations. Even if I was just sitting and listening I would draw the other people in the meetings. I can’t even sit on a train without sketching the people around me.”

Throughout those years Carl was still painting for pleasure and hadn’t really given much thought to being a full time artist.

“It all came about by chance really. It was that summer when it didn’t stop raining. I became frustrated at not being able to get out to paint so I jumped on the train and headed to Manchester where I thought I would be able to shelter under the doorways.

“It was then that I suddenly realised there were so many great scenes all with their own stories. The body language of one family in particular caught my attention and I just wanted to paint them. That was the moment I started this style of work.”

To explain how he works so fast Carl says he breaks down his pictures into three Fs. Fixed elements such as buildings, which won’t change; flexible elements which are sort of fixed but may change such as advertising hoardings and finally fluid elements which are the people. He has built up a portfolio of about 20 different types of people in his head – hands in pockets, carrying a shopping bag, on their mobile, that type of thing.

He can start and finish a painting in a couple of hours but with bigger paintings he may return a few times or finish them off in his studio.

At the recent opening of Gallery 23 in Buxton he could be found out front working on a painting of the guests that he later donated for auction in aid of the Blythe House Hospice.

He was surrounded by onlookers gasping in awe at the speed with which his brush captured the atmosphere of the occasion.

“Basically whatever I see in my head transfers to my hand and that is it. The hyper real colour is an influence from the Scottish Colourist movement and I like to think my work reflects a positive and optimistic view of life,” said Carl. Although he then admitted that if he is having a bad day there’s a chance a little of his mood will find its way into his characters.

“I never set out with the intention of producing a picture which is pretty that will sell. I paint what I want to and I think that is the main reason people like them – there will always be something different about each one.”

Carl’s work can be seen at Gallery 23 in Buxton and Stalybridge and Jarva Gallery in Whaley Bridge. To find out more about him go to his facebook page LongmateArt. He has posted the painting of the robin on there as well.