As a teacher and writer, I seek unpredictable approaches to my own and others’ work. I set my books and talks within the contexts of my experiences and interests. I left school at seventeen with few qualifications but a love of oil painting. Following a period of drift and a spell at art school, I studied at night to get to university aged twenty and came out with a first in English and History. After an MA from SUNY Brockport and a PhD from the University of Nottingham, I taught European Studies at Harlaxton College, Lincolnshire, and then American and European Literature at Bath Spa University, becoming Professor of American Literature in 2007 and MA Creative Writing Programme Leader 2016-19. Always galvanised by new locations, I currently divide my time between Wiltshire and Paris. These and other places are providing inspiration for the forthcoming painting exhibition and new manuscript. My writing, painting and photography relate to my interest in diverse places, cultures, people and wildlife. I’m drawn to reflect on our shared ability to concentrate in pursuit of a goal, whether that’s to create, build, perform, observe, or interact.
Rereading William Styron (2014) and American Lonesome: The Work of Bruce Springsteen (2018) feature my portraits of Styron and Springsteen on the respective covers. Styron became a friend while I was writing The Novels of William Styron (1995). I painted the portrait on learning of his final illness, knowing we’d never meet again. This led me to reflect on his work partly through the lens of our friendship. American Lonesome is a meditation on an earlier inspiration. Springsteen’s songs were among those that energised me in youth. They have accompanied me ever since. Another publication combining writing and painting is Joyce Carol Oates Ou Quelque Chose D’Approchant (2017). This is a memoir of getting to know the author while writing Dark Eyes on America (2005). JCO wrote of the portrait that she hoped she was indeed “something like this.” My current manuscript explores painting as that other, key element of my creative life. I see it as part of my preparations for the exhibition.
My verbal and visual expression invariably relates to travel. Living in Paris is having a similar effect as the heady mix of literature, music and painting had in youth. As with these other arts, photography is another way to make unfamiliar places familiar. Much of the time I’m out and about putting together the jigsaw of the city. Another example of the impact of travel on my art has been visits to Africa. In the Photography section, there’s a page devoted to photographs of the Crane Academy, a school in Kitale, Kenya. My wife, Nicki, and I took these photographs on a visit to support the Crane’s link with the Royal High School Bath. There are also a couple of paintings in the People Gallery, “Crane Academy Girls” and “Science Lesson, Kitale,” inspired by the visit. Like many of us, I can’t imagine being without a camera, if only on a phone, as an aid to observation and memory. My painting exhibition will reflect on that aspect of twenty-first century life even as I pay homage to artists I revere from earlier times.
Feel free to email me about my past or current work (email@example.com). You can also contact me through the Facebook page or Twitter. On both forms of media, as well as Instagram, I’ll be providing updates on the exhibition, including previews of new paintings.
You can watch here my 7 July 2020 talk, reading and Q&A on American Lonesome: The Work of Bruce Springsteen. This is part of the LSU Press Remote Author Series.
You can watch here a 3-minute clip of me talking about American Lonesome at the 2018 Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge.
You can listen here to my BSU Professorial lecture, Mortality and Memoir: Recalling What Matters.
In advance of my 2021 exhibition, you can view here the invitation leaflet for my 2011 exhibition, “Paintings 1995-2011.”