Richard Bostock Biography
'Art makes me happy and my intention is to bring happiness to all who see my paintings and drawings. I’ve drawn for as long as I can remember and art has always had a very special place in my life.'
At the age of 8, I was sent away to boarding school where the brutality of the teachers was eagerly modelled by the pupils. I was repeatedly beaten with a cane for insignificant infractions like not working hard enough. I was beaten up regularly by the other boys. I never reacted back, not because I was afraid but because I had been taught that Jesus would have turned the other cheek and rightly or wrongly, this was the model that I had chosen to follow.
I remember sitting down on the warm grass to draw my school one Summer’s afternoon. I was completely absorbed for 2 hours. My drawing wasn’t much good, but in my intense concentration, I had been taken away to a new and peaceful world and I had glimpsed how interesting and special it was.
Senior School had dispensed with the cane but was no less brutal and it was 3 years before anyone realised the extent of the bullying that many of us suffered. But by this time I was under the watchful guidance of an inspirational teacher called Robin Child (father of Lauren Child) whose department became my home from home. His exceptional knowledge, wisdom and insight into Cezanne and the world of the impressionists remains truly inspiring to this day. This was the only escape for my teenage self. I have never been as lonely as I was at that time and I was fortunate that I had a much needed outlet for self-expression in art. I painted these self-portraits in my final year when I was 18 and I think you can see the fragility, intensity and intimacy of these portraits.
CENTRAL ST MARTINS
I was warned that it would be unwise to attempt to make a living as a painter. I therefore applied to Central St Martin’s College of Art to study Product Design but whilst I was there I was never far from the fine art studio and often joined their classes.
I WAS A SOLDIER
Out of a sense of social duty, I applied to join the Army and was awarded a bursary to attend St Martin’s. Following in the footsteps of Rex Whistler, I joined the Welsh Guards after graduation. Most of my 3 year commission was spent on active service. Overall I lost 2 close friends which is still heartbreaking, but I was grateful to complete my 2 year tour of operations with all my young guardsmen alive. I remain in touch with many of them and it has brought me great pleasure to see their successful lives and beautiful families.
In 2009 after the tragic death of my dear friend and brother officer Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe MBE. The Welsh Guards commissioned me to create a series of artworks and a silver sculpture for the Regiment.
Welsh Guards Commission: In the bottom right of the painting is a rat’s nest in the bank. It is a metaphor for the war in Afghanistan and is also an image of a Welsh Guardsman’s bearskin.
MAKING TEDDY BEARS
Of all the extraordinary jobs I found myself doing during my 6 years in manufacturing, the most extraordinary was being sent for 6 months to work in an M&S teddy bear factory in Indonesia. I overcame the language barrier by gesticulating and drawing. So the sewing lines all had my drawings pinned up to show the workers how to improve the quality. The output of these drawings never stopped and at the end of a successful 6 months I was known to the factory workers as Mr Bean. It was certainly an unorthodox first exhibition of my drawings.
LEARNING FROM THE MASTERS
I started painting full time in 2001 by copying 20th Century paintings. I learned to look more closely at great paintings to gain a detailed insight into the techniques and thinking of great artists. But I rarely, if ever admitted to my customers that I had painted for them because I worried that they might not like it quite so much.
I remember delivering three 20th Century copies to Christie’s in St James’s and being ushered down to a dark room in the basement, I was joined not only by the Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, but also by the Chairman. My 3 paintings had been mounted on plinths, spotlit and covered in a deep mauve velvet fabric which was gently drawn away one by one by a porter. Then the Chairman turned to me and said, “So Richard, I gather that you painted all these yourself?” I didn’t know how he knew or what he was going to say next and I could have shrivelled up on the spot. His laughter told me that he was savouring the moment, before announcing that they liked the paintings. The Chairman chose one which adorned the wall of his office for several months afterwards.
It is a privilege to spend even a few minutes in the presence of a great work of art at a museum or gallery. I like to try to work out how the artist painted it. I like to study the composition and the harmony of shapes and colour.
I often make drawings and notes. This is how I have learned from the great masters and I carry these discoveries in my mind when I paint.
My passion for the arts and my knowledge of Art History helped me to make an impact on students during my teacher training which found me teaching children aged between 8 and 18 in two Comprehensive schools in Staffordshire. Despite the discomfort of revisiting my own educational past, becoming a qualified teacher has given me the opportunity to understand more clearly how meaningful art is to people all of all ages. I do worry that the decline of Art education in the state sector will mean that, in future, disaffected pupils may never discover this wonderous language of self expression and sanctity. But above all I remain particularly fascinated by peoples response to paintings. In some ways, privately, I also see this as a benchmark for the success or failure of my work.
I have woken from a lifelong sleep and have opened my eyes to the irony that sometimes the things that cost the least are actually the greatest treasures of more value than anything else in the world. A small act of kindness or a tree in full flower after a harsh winter. I am driven to capture the soul of the landscape, the air, the wind and weather in my work, I want others to see my heartfelt emotion filtering through the sunlight in my paintings for years to come because for the first time in many years, I am smiling again.