An exhibition of up to 30 Manx scenes by Barry Westcott at the Erin Arts Centre illustrates the great skill of this realist artist.
‘I like doing all sorts,’ he said. ‘It’s the image that interests me, I like the lighting or the effect of the lighting, it could be a bike, a seascape, kids on the beach or a person.’
Such is the popularity of his work he struggles to keep up with demand, particularly for the seascapes which he is ‘desperately’ trying to do at present. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless in that it can be challenging to strike the balance between commercial and artistic interests. But his style of painting is realistic and he’s also realistic about earning a living as an artist.
‘Every artist, if they want to make money, has to paint something that will sell and do paintings that the general public will buy. It’s the reality of life,’ he said.
Barry is from Salford and studied art at UMIST in Manchester and the Harold Riley art school. ‘The only thing I was ever good at was art,’ he said. ‘I was a sales executive. It is not the easiest thing in the world to make a living out of art.’
He worked sporadically in the island and moved here 20 years ago because he ‘just loved the place’. He built up a good client base, but decided to move to Cyprus in 2009, where he lived until last year. ‘I went because it was warm, I like a bit of a change, but I decided it was all right but a bit too hot, 45 degrees in the summer is not a fun working environment.’
Now back he and his family live in Laxey and he’s building up his contact list again and supplements his income with a part time job working with young people in care for St Christopher’s.
The island inspires him, he said. ‘It is a beautiful place. It’s all parts of the UK in one place ... Luckily there’s not much of it like Blackpool! It could do with being 700 miles by 700 miles, you paint the same place quite a lot, it’s very hard to get different views and different lighting. I have never painted Laxey Wheel.’
For the professional artist whose time is money, painting on site is an indulgence he can’t afford. ‘When you are trying to paint anywhere there’s people, you spend a minute painting and 15 minutes talking. It’s very nice but you do not get a lot done. I take sketches and photos and go back to the studio. After half an hour [of being outside] you would get drenched anyway.’
‘I paint and I enjoy painting, if you can make a living out of something you enjoy doing, life is worth living.’
The exhibition runs until July 4 and the Erin Arts Centre in Port Erin is open during the working day and at the weekends and in the evening for performances.