A Boy in A Bubble – Interview with Trevor Waugh by Pat Harvey SGFA

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Cornish Light by Trevor Waugh

Trevor Waugh is an internationally known artist and musician who has kindly agreed to select the prizes for DRAW 13, the 92nd Annual Exhibition of the Society of Graphic Fine Art, 30th September – 12th October 2013. The optional theme is Music, and the venue is the Menier Gallery in London.


“Drawing is everything. If you can’t draw it, you can’t paint it”.

With these words Trevor Waugh underlined his reason for accepting the Society’s invitation. A compulsive “scribbler through life – from the TV, on the train”, Trevor honed this passion for four years (1970-74) at the Slade School of Fine Art, where an illustrious clutch of tutors – Patrick Caulfield, Euan Uglow, Philip Sutton, David Hockney and Bernard Cohen — were headed by none other than Sir William Coldstream, leader of the famous Euston Road Group: famous for the little red crosses which peppered his punctiliously-plotted canvases. Spotting the young Waugh’s talent, this doyen of English academic figure painting gave him a rare audience in his studio, and invited him to exhibit alongside him in his first year, saying, “You’ve got a painter’s heart”.

Drawing, according to the Slade at the time, is not just about line. It can encapsulate shape, tone, and colour.

The college’s instruction obliged students to move systematically through these stages, as in Renaissance times. So strict was this regime that students laboured at tonal black-and-white work for 18 months, often with the stern admonition, “Don’t bother with colour in the first year, Sonny”.

Students who have done a foundation course, having been left on their own for fear that the tutor might “interfere with them”, often plead with Trevor, “Can you teach me to draw properly? You know, proportions, the human figure. . .”

But reality must dawn after even the most glamorous art education, and, confronted with the need to make a living, Trevor turned to illustration.

Trevor obtained a distinction for his Post-Graduate Certificate under Ernest Jones at Croydon College of Art, and went on to become a successful freelance illustrator in London for nine years.

Long Shadows, Mousehole by Trevor Waugh

Long Shadows, Mousehole by Trevor Waugh

Trevor’s clients included publishers such as Penguin Books, Heinemann, Cassell & Co., Collins and the BBC. He recalls always having wanted to work for Penguin and how, having finally secured an introduction through a friend, he was “very nervous” on entering the building, which was “quite posh”. “How much do you cost?” was the blunt enquiry. “We can offer you £60 per drawing – £75 at the most”.

Stunned at this undreamed-of fee, Trevor shook hands over the desk and skipped a step on his way out. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” he muses. “Editors help you when they move on,” he says, and cites the example of a friend leaving the BBC who got him a job drawing maps for their weather department!

In 1988, wishing to raise his family in the country, Trevor moved to his current home in the Cotswolds and re-started his fine art career. Miraculously, it took off.

“Get yourself a patron,” is his advice to artists wishing to make their way. “They usually find you, and a relationship begins. ”

This happened to Trevor when, he jokes, “I was hijacked, in the nicest possible way, by a prince: Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr, then Chairman of Dubai Cultural Council, whose palace is full of paintings.” Trevor’s long and fruitful association with the Emirates led to his becoming a founder-member of the New Orientalists, a group of mainly UK contemporary artists devoted to the Middle East, much like their 19th century forebears such as John Frederick Lewis (1804-1876). “Travelling and painting are an international language. You don’t have to speak Arabic to have fun painting with Arabs!” he laughs. In the light of the current humanitarian crisis in the region, does he think art has anything to offer? “Mohammed is very proud of his culture; I’m very proud of mine. Travellers in art have a common language. It is a healing force.”

An accomplished composer and musician, Trevor writes and records the music tracks for his painting videos at his studio in Cheltenham. “The two art forms run parallel in my life,” he says. “I was asked to choose between them at school and couldn’t.”

Trevor played in bands while at art school and says, “The principles of music and painting are identical – they both have shape, tone and colour. They are very much connected for me.”

DRAW 13 invitation

DRAW 13 invitation

It is clear that Trevor is exceptionally well qualified to select the prizes for DRAW 13, an exhibition with the optional theme of Music.

Pressed for his philosophy as an artist, Trevor claims, “I think about it a lot. But I don’t take too much advice and don’t look at the market too much: I paint what’s going on for me inside. Basically, I’m a boy in a bubble.”

Trevor’s top-selling book ‘Winning With Watercolour’ can be checked out on his website, as can his many other books and videos. His internationally renowned book, ‘The Emirates Through the Eyes of an Artist’ was published in Dubai. You can see his painting videos on YouTube, Channel Slade 1952. For more about Trevor please visit his web site  www.trevorwaugh.com

Interview by Pat Harvey FRSA SGFA

DRAW 13 – The 92nd Annual Open Exhibition of the Society of Graphic Fine Art  30th September – 12th October 2013 at the Menier Gallery, 51 Southwark Street, London  SE1 1RU. For directions to the Menier Gallery please click here . And for more about DRAW 13 and the Society please visit our web site at www.sgfa.org.uk


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About Cynthia Barlow Marrs SGFA

Artist: I draw. Land planner: I was. Urban Sketcher: I am. SocietyofGraphicFineArt - The Drawing Society: I belong.
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