To be embarking on a new career path at the age of 80 is a little unconventional, but then there is nothing terribly conventional about Robin Gregson-Brown.
His life up to now has been full of adventure, romance, heartbreak and intrigue.
And just because he has reached his 80th year he doesn’t see it as a reason to take it easy and settle down with a good book.
Instead he has decided to turn to his first love – nature and more especially butterflies – and revive his vocation as an artist.
Robin is a charming gentleman with a cheeky twinkle in his eye and a raft of fascinating stories to tell. Most, as he says, are more suited to dinner parties, but he can’t resist relating a few tales from his past.
He arrived in Derbyshire as a trainee Jacquard designer working for British Celanese in the early 50s and then studied drawing, graphic and textile design at Derby College of Art which was in Green Lane.
On his 21st birthday he was told he had won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life. The college was fantastic and the broad intellectual and practical training I experienced was irreplaceable as were the friendships I made,” he said.
As a promising young graduate he was snapped up by ICI and was asked to head up a team designing a new product which eventually became Vymura wallpaper. After almost 20 years he decided to leave and work as a freelance design stylist travelling the world working for many companies in countries including Italy, USA and New Zealand.
Now that is all behind him and he and his wife Jennifer live in a converted cart house in the magnificent setting of the Staunton Harold Hall estate.
In the garden Robin has his own summerhouse studio where he can paint to his heart’s content and watch the wildlife in his garden.
“The natural world when I was at school was always high upon my list of priorities, more so than algebra or calculus, much to chagrin of my tutors,” said Robin who was given his first butterfly net when he was seven.
“However, in spite of their misgivings, I was always given encouragement to pursue my art through the study of natural forms whether organic or inorganic and I believe that this has stood me in good stead for most of my adult life.”
When Robin was a child, collecting butterflies wasn’t frowned upon, but it is obviously no longer considered acceptable, which is why he has decided to recreate such collections in his water colour paintings.
“After so many years and after leading what can only be described as a peripatetic life from an early age, I am so happy to revisit some of my past interests bringing about a renaissance in my art, which I hope will inspire, especially young people, to take more of an interest in nature’s beautiful creatures.”
He has worked on the project with the professional cooperation of the Natural History teams at The Derby Museum and The Univerisity of Manchester Museum.
“I feel privileged as an 80-year-young person that my eyes still open to new visual delights each day and it would be a sin not to record some of that in the best way I know how. I look forward each day especially to work in my studio.”
Robin’s paintings are being exhibited at Ingleby Gallery, near Melbourne until June 5.