Overcast skies and long stretches of shipping yards, British artist Darren Reid brings England to life in realistic paintings that many have likened to stepping into a photo. Born in the Midlands, an area in central England where most of his landscape inspiration comes from, Reid, 46, has no formal art training, having picked up a paintbrush for the first time just five years ago."My dog got ill and I was given the choice of either putting him to sleep or injecting him with insulin," Reid tells Creators. "I embarked on these insulin injections, which was every six hours for the rest of her life. I really just wanted a hobby."
Admiring the work of painters Holbein, Caravaggio, and Hopper—all major contributors to realism in their own rights—Reid picked up a brush to try to emulate the painstaking detail of painting the real world with both accuracy and hints of his own personal interpretation.
"The thing that has always struck me with realist paintings is that there is always something very immediate about them," he says. "You go to a gallery and you don't need any learning to appreciate one. There's an immediate response. I think, possibly, my subject matter is because I haven't had an [art] education, so a starting point for every painting I make is, 'would I hang it on my wall'?"While some have described his work as photorealism, Reid never reproduces a single photograph, something that's commonly done by using a technique of projections and airbrushing. Instead, Reid draws a scene by hand, working on panel or canvas, only using photographs to inform his work.
"The idea of the painting comes first," says Reid. "If I come across a scene, or if I have a specific idea in mind, I'll go to a place. If it's somewhere I don't know I'll stay there for a few days and photograph it at different times and get a feel for the place and what it means to me."Painting part-time, it can take Reid up to two weeks before he gets out his paintbrush, putting mood and narrative into his pieces through things like their color palettes and the endless amount of detail that would go unnoticed with a camera.
"I think painting and photography are just completely different mediums," explains Reid. "Photography you can do all sorts of things with the mood and light and some of that's captured in a fraction of a second. But painting, for me, is more considered because it's such a long process and I'll often move perspectives."In 2014, Reid was shortlisted for the John Ruskin Prize—a contemporary art award in the UK. Since then, the new artist has exploded onto the scene, touring with the V&A's 2014 Recording Britain exhibition and with his work now being shown at London's hyperrealist gallery Plus One. He's learning every day with no plans to stop.
"I learn something with every painting and take it on to the next one," Reid says. "The compositions are becoming more complex and I think I am getting more mood and narrative into the work. I paint what I know and the things that I love. That's the enjoyment."