North Street just off Old Kings Head Court.

John Arthur (Oil Painter)

The ruling passions in John Arthur's life are
painting and travel. His family has lived in Dorking
for generations and when he left school at 15,
John followed the family tradition by training to be
a carpenter. However he soon left to go and work in London to earn some money to enable him to travel. When he finally set off from Dorking station, one of the staff was rather surprised when enquiring his destination to be told Central Africa!

The first six months in Africa were spent working on ranches in Zambia, including the same ones that David Shephard stays on when he visits Africa to paint. After that, John went to South Africa for ten months, working some of the time, in the gold mines. This was well paid and the money enabled him to continue his travels through east and Central Africa, finally picking up an Indian ship to Bombay.

His destination was Australia by the overland route through South East Asia and by the time he reached Bali, he was bursting to paint. He had dabbled with art in the past but nothing serious, now it seemed that everything he felt had to be expressed on canvas. Each day brought ever more beautiful countryside and in Bali he found the people acutely aware of the beauty in everyday things, and that they revere art almost as God. He could not wait to reach Australia and start painting.

When he arrived in Darwin, he spent six months in the construction industry acting as foreman on the building of an extension to Government House. Everything John does, he treats like his paintings, putting his best into it. But, he was unhappy working for other people and felt he was being stifled.

John brought a VW van and drove to Cairns in North Queens land where he lived in the van
and painted like mad, being totally inspired by the beauty of Australia. Now and then he did other things such as farm work and tuna fishing, but always went back to his painting. He found right from the beginning that his paintings sold and be worked all the way round Australia and across the middle in this way, finding inspiration all around him. For a time he lived with the Aborigines, and was fascinated not only by their art, but also their philosophy of life and
the Dream time.

John's idea had always been to go around the world, and after three years, he made the break and went to New Zealand. He found then how much he missed his friends his van and the half dingo stray dog he had adopted. He moved onto the Cook Island in the South Pacific and rented a little house, from which base he visited some of the very remote islands. He found them beautiful but like Gauguin before him, he found drained and he could not paint them.
The life on the Island made him angry. It was like stepping back 100 years and he did not like what he saw happening to the native culture as a result of the influence of the Europeans.
After 6 years away he felt it was time to come home.

This too brought problems. He returned to Dorking, moving into the house next door to the
one he had been born in. Although in many ways it was good to be back with his friends
and family, he found it very difficult to become established as an artist in this country.
After 12 years back home, he still finds it difficult, but knows that his Australian experience was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, not to be repeated. He has been back to visit since and knows
it is true, but still misses the life there.

John style of painting has been liked to Turner, especially as he particularly likes to paint skies and is fascinated by light. He found this strange as his style developed in Australia and when he returned to England he had never heard of Turner! He investigated and liked what he saw and now it would be true to say that Turner is one of his influences.

He has now spent 15 years painting in earnest and thinks that England will remain his base. The top floor of his house is now a studio and framing room, and he has just started selling through galleries, which is where he hopes his future market lies. In Australia he was selling only to Australians and there are only 15 million of them. From here he sells to the world. In 1983 Pictura Graphica accepted some of his seagull painting for cards and postcards and he
is at present producing more designs aimed at this market.

John divides his time between travelling and painting. If he does not travel he gets depressed and cannot paint. As soon as he has had a few days away, he finds he has been inspired and does his best work, so it looks as though the pattern is set, at least for the foreseeable future.

This article was written by Veronica Burningham for the Craftsman Magazine in 1988.

John still lives in Dorking. He now has a gallery with his business partner Sung-Hee exhibiting John's paintings, Sung-Hee's photography and jewellery. Also exhibiting paintings and sculptures by selective artists; holding spring, summer, autumn and private exhibitions.