Avril Paton: Artist – Pat’s Guide to Local Characters in Glasgow’s West End
When I went to meet Avril Paton in her flat in Dowanhill the building was very familiar to me as I had seen it often in the artist’s impression of “Windows in the West”. I was fascinated by the fact that Avril had managed to capture the charm and interest of the West End in some of her most successful paintings. Writing recently in the Herald, Jack Webster provided an interesting comment on this work: he was delighted to recognise some of the notable characters in the painting, including Bernard MacLaverty, the writer and the journalist Roddy Forsyth, both of whom live in the snowy topped tenement – the subject of the painting. In his article he points to the “exquisite skills” of the artist but he wanted to find out if the characters in the painting were aware that they were being painted? Avril informed him that “she invited them over to see what was happening” – so her neighbours were not surpised or shocked at their immortalisation. Avril is very easy to chat to and most hospitable – I had some lovely Assam tea and Jim enjoyed a fine malt whisky when we called to see her recently. We spent an enjoyable evening with the artist and and learned a lot about her background and her work: Windows in the West Originally from the Isle of Arran on the West Coast of Scotland she grew up with a family of artists and both her father and grandfather nurtured her natural talent and passed their skills on to Avril from an early age. As a young girl her talent earned her a place at Glasgow’s renowned Art School in Garnethill, however, immature and headstrong; clashes occurred and she did not complete her studies. Avril still regrets the briefness of her ‘official studies’, however, when she approached the Art School at a later date with a view to returning, she was told by John Cunningham: “carry on with what you are doing – you have more to offer us than we you”. Her latest work, is in fact a detailed watercolour of this remarkable building designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh. This work hangs proudly in the Charles Rennie Macintosh Exhibition at ‘The Lighthouse’, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture, Design and the City. The Gallery has attracted 280,000 visitors since it opened in 1999 (70% more than expected). It is a lovely gallery and the Macintosh Exhibition is outstanding with Avril Paton’s painting of the Art School making a very relevant and worthy contribution it captures both the wonderful architecture and the vibrant modern day atmosphere in the area of the City around the Art School. Earlier works have also been purchased by the City’s Galleries and her painting of the “Barras” hangs in the People’s Palace at Glasgow Green. Her work is painstaking in detail with precise architectural drawing, however, her colours and characters draw you in and her work is incredibly interesting and imaginative. Much of her work is on a very large scale, intricate in detail – complex and emphatic and her fascination with her adopted city and its people is clearly illustrated. Although her style is unique and she is well known for her water colours of Glasgow City Scenes, Avril cannot be pigeonholed and her work is surprisingly varied. Some of the Arran paintings are very personal, romantic and mysterious – one of my favourites is ‘Gavin’s House’, painted in oil showing a little white cottage against a wonderful sky and another lovely painting is ‘Cobbles’ – a peaceful seascape with fantastic use of colour. A mature and successful artist Avril’s paintings have been a gift to Glasgow – observing in her works what makes the it unique: she captures the buildings, the places and the people – and expresses in her paintings how lives are lived in the City. Prints of Avril Patons are no longer available to buy from this website but expect to be able to buy them from Avril’s own website in 2003.
Pat Byrne, September, 2002.
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