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Tim Coburn


At school, I wasn’t bothered about art. I got curious in my thirties and I especially remember visiting the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay on a trip to Paris. I bought postcards in the museum shop and when I got home, with the help of ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards, I had a go at sketching those postcard images.

Artistically and psychologically, I was waking up. Since then, I visited galleries whenever I could and on our annual summer holidays that always started in London, I went with my daughters to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

It Started with 'Mr X'

The first painting I bought was the mysterious ‘Mr X’ by Mike Rollins, closely followed by another moving image of his entitled ‘The Brothers’. I found both of these at the Signature Gallery in Kendal where I enjoyed enlightening conversations about art with the gallery owner, Peter Blaskett.

Then there was a gap.

I met the artist, Derek Eland, as a fell-runner and we became friends as I supported his successful completion of the Bob Graham Round in 2001. As a contemporary lakeland artist, there is no one to match the consistent quality of his work.

I was delighted to come across Mike Wilson’s work. He’s a fell-runner, too, and the reality of the Lake District weather in his painting is testimony to his experience in it!

My daughter, Daisy, was always good at art. With an interest in manga and anime, she developed her own form of digital character illustration, full of style and emotionally sensitive expression.

More recently, my interest in figure-based art that began with Mike Rollins was reignited by Vittorio Iavazzo, a sculpture based in Naples, Italy. I find his work magical, full of passion and emotionally moving.


A close friend, fell-runner (Bob Graham Round completer), former paratrooper and lakeland artist, Derek gives the Lake District special treatment in a refreshing style that captures fond memories of this imperious mountain landscape. Characterful houses hunker down, safe havens offering a welcome warmth as old friends do. As much as his work might question our human intrusion into this beautiful place, his paintings nevertheless fill it with the human feelings of which dreams, moments and memories are made.

Daisy’s art is a delightful exhibition of brilliant technical skill, insightful self-discovery and a poignant human touch. Her sensitivity shines through each illustration with playfulness, innocence and vulnerability so that we truly know – and admire – the real artist within. This is a celebration of becoming with a heart on its sleeve to which my own heart responds with admiration, respect and pride.

From his studio in Naples, Vittorio’s sculpture – and the sketches and paintings that precede it – capture the hearts of admirers throughout Europe and the USA. In his work, physical power is on the edge of release; strange expressions are sincere, authentic and say something real; the feelings of hope, pain and passion are so vivid, I need time to relax, it moves me so much.

The two paintings by Mike were the first pictures I bought. There was something about the mysterious Mr X that struck me as real. That’s when I started to appreciate the skills of an artist – especially, those whose work evoked such feelings in me. The Brothers was inspired by a Vietnam war memorial sculpture (I’d love to know which one!) and perfectly captures the harsh reality of war with care and compassion. Thank you, Mike. 

Days out in the Lake District are more often wet and wild, than not. The weather’s rough. Mike’s paintings take the classic scenery of a romantic tradition and fill it with wind and rain. That’s more like it! As a fell-runner, he’s just stepped in from the downpour and faithfully reproduces it in his work. I love that realism. Authenticity can be romantic, whatever the weather.

Here’s a mixed bag of pictures each with its own personal significance. The windbreak on the beach at Mablethorpe (1968) was the scene of early childhood holidays. In 1995, I had a go at drawing. It was a serious attempt to find any artistic ability I might have. From that time, creative expression (mainly through poetry, as it happened) became the vehicle for my own personal growth. I am so grateful for that. I found The Journey by Ruth Nyakundi in Nairobi, Kenya. It shows a Masai family similar in composition to my own. And Light in the Sky is by Peter Blaskett, the artist and owner of Signature Gallery in Kendal, Cumbria. Over many years, I admired his abstract horizon pictures and asked if he would create one for me based on the distant colours of bright, fell-top days. Thank you, Peter. The tribute to pioneering alpinist, Gaston Rebuffat, by the Chamonix-based graffiti artist, Sonia Guiollot, includes a quotation of his that inspires me as much in mountaineering as it does in the further reaches of my life: ‘There’s magic in bravery.’

Art doesn’t make me who I am.

But it’s part of my story and my life is enriched by it.



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