Meet the artist: Phil Greenwood in his own words
Phil Greenwood talks us through where his artistic aspiration began and how he creates his works…
Firstly, I don’t consider myself to be an artist, more a sort of craftsperson. I like working with my hands, making almost anything. I wanted to be an architect but was terrible at maths, also my spelling leaves a lot to be desired (Welsh was my first language) so in my early years I thought I would like to go into the Metropolitan police, my only qualification being that I was very tall for those days.
I was brought up by two aunts, my mother having died when I was a baby - one lived in London and the other in Wales. I went to school in Wales and my best subject was art. Like most teenagers, I was troublesome and a “what to do with him” situation developed. It was decided to send me to my aunt in London and I was enrolled in Harrow Art School, with a view to becoming a teacher (we export teachers and rain from Wales!). In my early teens I had befriended an elderly artist in Wales and used to visit his studio. He would give me paper and paint and let me work on his studio floor - he talked a lot, giving me all sorts of advice.
I did not want to be a teacher, consequently did very little work in my first two years at Harrow and was about to leave. Then, however, I returned to Wales for the summer break and, inspired by my artist friend and the fact that my aunt cleared the whole of her living room so that I could work, I produced over a hundred drawings and paintings, (all Welsh landscapes) to take back for the new term.
I was introduced to printmaking and had discovered an artist called George Chapman. He produced black and white etchings of Welsh industrial areas which inspired me, and I produced my first 20 black and white etchings based on the local slate towns. I was encouraged to enter the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition with one of them, it was accepted and hung, I was 19 years old, the prints sold, and this encouraged me to exhibit in other places.
I finished at Harrow and went to Hornsey College for a year, then I went around Europe playing a guitar in the streets in most of the big cities for two years. I returned to London and got a job as a delivery boy for a year before finding a teaching post. I only taught for three years, ending up as a lecturer at a teachers’ training college. By this time, I had a studio in Hampstead and started to experiment making etchings in colour.
I want people to like my images for what they are - somewhere that reminds them of something personal to them, which is why I very seldom give them a specific place name. If I have to say who had influence on me it would be my lecturers - Ken Howard, Peter Green, the late Charles Bartlett, Bill Ward and Christopher Sanders. And the ‘greats’ - Gustav Klimt and Emil Nolde.
I work on plates in the summer (acid can only be used outside and doesn’t work in the cold) and prepare ideas in the winter, usually just “doodles”. I tend to have ideas of an image I want to do which can stay in my head for years until I can find an actual place that brings such an idea to reality. When the plates are made - it usually takes two to make a colour etching and can take up to two months - I then work with my printer, Martin Saull, to produce the edition. In 55 years I have worked with many printers and Martin is possibly the best I have ever worked with.