Nick John Rees – Artist Interview

This weeks Artist interview is with Marine Artist – Nick John Rees.

Art has always played an important part in Nick’s life. He has been particularly influenced by Turner and Monet whose powerful use of light has fascinated him & this can be seen in his more contemporary artwork.

Nick, who paints professionally, found a particularly strong influence in Sir Kyffin Williams whom he visited many times. Kyffin encouraged Nick to continue working in his style advising that if “you paint what you love it will be reflected in your work”.

“The sea is my inspiration, always the same, yet never the same”

He prefers to paint on the spot, capturing both light & atmosphere.

His paintings are held in both public and private collections throughout Europe, Australia, America and Asia.

‘Warm evening, worms head’

Firstly how is the lockdown affecting your work?

As I prefer to work in situ the lockdown is proving very frustrating but I’m right behind the national effort & its the right thing to do. That said its rather nice working in the studio for a change with hot coffee & biscuits nearby ! My companion along the coast is my whippet Dali (named after Salvador of course) who can be seen here in my van surveying Saundersfoot a few weeks ago – but he is missing the wide & open Pembrokeshire beaches


Where do you get most of your inspiration?

This comes in spades from driving around the gorgeous coast line of the  UK & Brittany in my van selecting beautiful spots to work on. Who can resist Pembrokeshire, The Lleyn & Anglesey, Gower, Cornwall, Devon …….. Please see google images of Gwin Segal & Tregastel in Brittany, these are all so inspiring – along the coast I find all manner of textures, rocks, weed, yachts, fishing boats & so much more that get the juices flowing

‘A calm Trearddur Bay’

·         Do you prefer to work outside/in your studio

I much prefer to work out of doors but time, weather, Painting Demonstrations, & Art Talks often keep me closer to home. There are pluses & minuses though, the outdoors give so much but the studio gives me the LOUD music I crave when I paint

·         Do you have a favourite painting that you have done? If so which one?

I love this painting that I did in January (during a 3 week painting trip to Pembrokeshire) of Nolton Haven. It’s a subject I’ve painted many times before but the unusual angle (excluding the right hand headland) came about when my daughter who was visiting said wow dad look at the amazing differences in the size & texture of the rocks her on the right relative to the headland on the left … job done

Nolton Haven

·         Where/ or what  is your favourite place/subject  to paint?

I have many but 2 very special places are Porth Cwyfan on Anglesey, & Gwin Segal on the north coast of Brittany.

Porth Cwyfan is special because Sir Kyffin took me there one day after a pub lunch together. It’s a beautiful place & with the subject being a remote Church I find it spiritually moving too.

‘Porth Cwyfan’

As for Gwin Segal, (below) its spectacular. Here I am making recording some detail. I was taken there by a French (Breton) Artist friend called Patrick Badault whose work is very similar to mine. Please Google both, the place & the Artist ……. amazing !!

Nick in Brittany

·         How do you find titles for your paintings, does the idea come before or after?

When I’m immersed in creating the piece the title always jumps out at me, its often quite a special moment for me. Sometimes they can be quite poetic & at other times they just describe what I see

·         Who’s your favourite artist/artists?

If you dont mind I’ll have to spilt this ….. my favourite contemporary artist is Sir Kyffin Williams with whom I was friendly before he passed away. He encouraged me to leave my former job & paint professionally for which I’ll always be grateful. Over another pub lunch at his local he guided me to paint what I love, he said if you paint what you love it’ll come out in your work. My passion has always been the sea hence I’m a Marine Artist

From the past however my favourite Artist is Monet. If you look at my paintings you’ll see that light is the most important feature & thats the reason why. As a student my teacher once compared my work to that of Monet ….. she said compared to Monet Nick your work is bloody useless… Ha Ha Ha

I even have the number plate on my van MO11NET :-0

‘The rocks at Porth Cwyfan’

·         Which is the favourite piece of art by another Artist that you own?

I have never afforded one of Kyffins oils but often when sitting in his kitchen he would produce watercolours & offer them to me whilst he was raising money for one charity or another. I have 5 which i bought for only a couple of hundred pounds each, although that was some years ago

·         Do you listen to music while you paint? If so what kind of music?

I love listening to music whilst painting & very loudly too ! (It drives my wife mad as she too often works from home) When Painting really thickly I often have The Blues from Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson & co blasting out. However I also use classical music when getting down to detail, it calms me down. The music I most consistently play though is from the folk singer Martyn Joseph, an extraordinary singer who I’m proud to say I’ve become friendly with, indeed he’s often invited me as his guest when we’re both working in different parts of the country. The last time was in January when he performed at Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan ….. an awesome evening. Please check him out on YouTube or on Spotify & Tidal …. he must have released over 20 albums now & performs around the world.

·         What could you not do without in your studio?

Thats an easy question – My music system but that would be closely followed by Dali Whippet & a collection of paintings & drawings that the children of friends & clients have done for me. They tend to be their versions of paintings of mine that Mum & Dad have bought …. very rewarding & humbling

·      What does your studio space look like

This image of my studio was taken during filming for a Television programme. It was great fun to do but had to be squeezed in at 7am on the morning I was travelling to France for a 4 week painting trip ……. although the painting seen here sold at The Harbour Lights, sadly Hollywood didn’t come knocking afterwards,  hence I’m sticking to the day job  painting trip

Nick in his Studio

How do you feel your work has changed over the years?  Is there a particular time/place or movement you feel influenced you the most?

 Prior to painting professionally which was over 20 yrs ago my work changed little, however since then it has evolved greatly. In recent years I have been painting very very thickly – often up to 12ml thick & this is all done with pure paint ! It allows me to create rocks that feel as well as look like the real thing. Many of these have sold at The Harbour Lights

I am also increasingly employing multi canvasses of a single scene – a recent commission involved 8 canvasses, (each one was 5’tall & 18’’wide)

I am also conscious that since having surgery for Glaucoma my blues are much brighter & stronger, Monet in later life had the same surgery & he too started to use more vibrant blues, something referred to as his blue period, so I’m in good company

·         What other work have you done apart from being an Artist?

Being highly Dyslexic I didn’t excel In school & although I wanted to attend Art College my father was unwilling as I’d apparently wasted my time in school !! Don’t get me started on that one …..haha.

He encouraged me to work for a Bank & although I wasn’t unhappy in the role I DID know I wanted to paint professionally & so 20 yrs ago with Kyffins encouragement I followed his advice & life has been great ever since. People tell me it was a brave step but looking back it was probably crazy but I’m happy to say that I can now pay all my bills & I’m not in debt so I’m a very very lucky man

·         What is the best thing about being an artist for you?

Easy answer …… doing what everyone aspires to do & thats what I love to do every day – its very humbling. Each morning I wake up with my mind buzzing about what I want to do that day …. I am blessed & theres no doubt about that

·         Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

Yes …. although that’s probably because it was one of the few things I was any good at because of my Dyslexia. Nowadays I visit schools all over the country where I teach & give Painting Demonstrations & it is so refreshing talking to kids who have no embarrassment about having the condition such is the progress that’s been made in education.

·         What sort of painting are you working on at the moment?

Its another of my multi canvasses as you can see below – its now very near completion. The paint in the rocks is around 7ml thick & so sharp it scratches the back of your hand & as I’ve said before its a technique I’ve developed using only paint. It’s a very nice size, around 80 x 140 cm in all. You’ll see that I’ve also developed a ways of joining the canvasses so that it can be hung as one combined item or taken apart with each painting hung in any way people like – even around a corner in the room & spaced in any way preferred.

·         Can you show us some images from your sketchbook? Recent sketches and a finished piece maybe?

This is another easy question to answer ,NO !! I very rarely use a sketch book as I mostly paint out doors, I don’t even draw the detail onto the canvas first, I just mark out the horizon & go straight into it. It’s not a process that would suit every Artist but it works for me as I believe a painting should evolve & develop as you work on it – marking things out beforehand restricts this freedom.

·          What is your favourite medium to work in and why?

Acrylic works best for me. I work on up to 8 paintings at a time in the studio & the fact that acrylic dries fairly quickly allows me to move from one piece to another & back to the first all in the same day. I do like oils but as I paint so thickly it tends to take so long to dry. A recent painting took 6 weeks to dry fully (so thick were the rocks) before my framer could take it away

I also believe Acrylic to be the most tolerant medium in the home where the painting will live eventually. It is least affected by the ravages of  heat & sunlight

Thank you so much for reading my thoughts – I’ve really enjoyed putting them together during this down time we all have at  present  ……. if you’d like to ask me any further questions please email the gallery & I’m sure they’ll pass them .

If you’d like to see more paintings by Nick John Rees Click Here…