Biography

Simon West was born in London in 1949. He read law at university and practised as a solicitor until his retirement in 2011. Throughout his legal career he compiled a portfolio of portrait and life drawing studies in pencil and charcoal. Essentially self-taught he attended workshops at the Royal West of England Academy of Art in Bristol and at the Angel Academy in Florence where he studied under Martinho Correia and Inga Loyeva. He has also worked under Rachel Clark in London and Nicholas Beer at his Sarum Studio in Salisbury.

He now lives in Bath where he paints figurative oil-on-canvas portraits and contemporary still lives. He has shown his work in Bristol and Bath and at the Bath Society of Artists’ Exhibition.

Statement

I have always wanted to be an artist.

I painted my first portrait, that of Eliza Zadi, in Florence in 2011. This picture is based on the sight-size method of painting which involves placing the canvas next to the sitter allowing the artist to see the canvas and his model in the same light, at the same distance and at the same angle of vision. I found this way of painting both logical and natural opening up the possibility of making expressive and strong pictures.

Everything tends to pivot about the face in portraiture. It is the place towards which the eye naturally navigates in order to understand the full nature of what it is to be human..

I am passionate about art history from the early Renaissance through to the 20th century but I admire in particular the work of Rembrandt, Hals, Velazquez and Sargent. It is perhaps no coincidence that their output bears a strong bias towards portraiture.

I believe that the study of past masters is important to my development, and when copying their work, I always strive to capture some of their spirit, their brushwork, intensity of characterisation and economy of means.

When painting still lifes I look at ordinary and often mundane everyday objects and use them as a way of contrasting pure, often complementary colours, as experiments in composition and harmonising colours and to develop my technique in managing light.

DESIGN & BUILD : sandfire