When I was about nine years old I fell prey to a mysterious TB-type illness - I describe it as being 'mysterious' because I can't remember feeling the least bit ill despite my mother insisting that I was. The course of treatment prescribed for me involved sitting under a sunlamp, drinking extra milk, and not being allowed out into the schoolyard to play football. By way of compensation I was given art materials, and at playtime I sat inside, painting pictures of Mars. My teacher told me that I had a talent for it - and I believed him. I started borrowing books about art and artists from the public library.
By the time I was twelve I had my future all mapped out. I was going to go to Paris, grow a beard, and be a misunderstood artistic genius like Modigliani. I had gleaned from my reading that one sure way to become famous as an artist was to be slightly mad or be mysteriously dying of a TB type illness. I didn't fancy cutting my ear off and ironically by the age of 12 my mysterious TB type illness had mysteriously disappeared.
Nevertheless, undaunted I left the high school with half a dozen O-levels, and enrolled on a foundation course at the local art school.
Newcastle-u-Lyme School of Art & Design
was located in the Potteries so naturally all the students on the course were taught how to throw a pot, pull a handle, form a spout, and design a teapot that poured without the lid falling off. More importantly, at least for me, we were given a thorough grounding in ‘the basics’ - Life drawing, anatomy, plant drawing, colour theory, line, tone, pattern, and architectural design. But the subject of study which engage my mind most and which was to have a big influence on the way I later chose to illustrate my books was perspective.
The work on perspective that we did in class involved drawing cubes from different angles and heights, working out the vanishing points and varying the eye levels. Very technical and rather boring.
But every month we were tasked to produce a pictorial composition based upon a given word. We could interpret it any way we liked. Some students chose to produce abstract or decorative pictures. I decided to go for every day realism with the hint of a story.
I wanted the picture to be viewed as real which meant I needed to put into practice all that I had learned in class. I had to get the perspective right. I It was a bit of a struggle but eventually got the hang of it. And as I did I came to see how how powerful it was. The lines of perspective could lead the eye of the viewer around and into the picture, encouraging them to look where I wanted them to look. The eye level and vanishing point put the viewer in the picture. I could control their point of view
I can't remember what word inspired this picture.
But I think the word for this one was - 'Accident'
You can see in these Stanley Bagshaw pictures how I try to put into practice what I learnt back then
Above: The fence panel lines lead your eye to the vanishing point in It's hard not to look there first The viewer has to look up to Stan and Ted on top of the wall. Just as the judges do.
Above: Here's Stan seen from the point of view of Nellie. She's leaning over the wall looking down at him. The flagstones and the curve of the zig zag pattern on his jumper provide the clue to this.
Above: Now we are down at Stan's level looking up with him a big Sid
Above where does your eye want to go?
Above: the vanishing point is stan's face
One afternoon each week we were required to go out sketching. I really enjoyed this activity. The only downside was we had to stay within walking distance of the art school. This put a limit on what I could find to draw. But all that was soon to change. because I had a job working nights at the El Chico café, saved up the money I earned and bought myself a 150cc Vespa scooter.
A lot of the things I drew are no longer with us and thus, at least to me, are now of historical interest
2-stroke mix for Gladys
Hienkel bubble car
Bone and flint mill: Bucknall.
Stanley Mathews was born here
Slope mine: Kingsley moor
I've used some of these old sketches in my books
Sometime in the late 50's I was on a bus stuck in traffic outside the Odeon cinema in Hanley. Just to pass the time I made a quick sketch of it through the window.
Thirty years later - it appeared in "Stanley Bagshaw and The Mad magic Mix-up' as the Huddersgate Theatre Royal.
At the end of the first year I decided to spend the Summer in Paris. I set off hitch hiking with £50 in my pocket and my guitar slung over my shoulder. I was 18 years old and confident, but also naive and ill-prepared. I got on the wrong ferry and found myself wandering around Belgium not knowing where I was. When I eventually got to Paris I spent my time sketching the rooftops, and earned money by busking outside cafes and doing chalk drawings on the pavements. I lived from hand to mouth - and occasionally under a bridge. Life as an artist in Paris was not as romantic as my earlier reading had led me to believe.
I got home suffering from heat stroke and having lost 2 stone.