Local artist Peter Knight is a man who knows about the great outdoors! His distinctive geometric hard-edged style of painting, where shape and colour are paramount, captures some of the most well known parts of the islands coastline.
Tell us about where and when getting creative all started for you? I was always drawing as a young kid. As my childhood was during The Cold war period, so my subjects were planes and warships. I was always happy in a sea environment and I think I must have subconsciously stored countless images and in particular the shapes of boats. The art teacher at Hautlieu, Derek Crowe, helped me develop my creativity in a wider capacity and during my A-level course I knew that creativity had to be part of my career
How would you describe your work and what you do? As a former art teacher I have always had to be proficient in a good range of media but I am most comfortable working in a geometric style where shape, pattern and colour predominate. Jersey’s varied coastline with its large range of tides provides an unlimited source of inspiration. I am always faithful to the main feature, but look for shape and pattern in the sea, sky and sand.
What does an average day look like for you? I am not one to concentrate on one activity a day. In the winter I might play golf in the morning, paint in the afternoon, print my work for galleries, walk the dog and then prepare a meal. I adore cooking! In the summer I might paint in the morning or print orders, take my boat out and fish in the afternoon, have a run on my KTM 400 motorbike and BBQ the fish in the evening!
What mediums do you use and which of them is your favourite? I use watercolour, gouache, oils and acrylic. Ninety percent of my painting is now in acrylic because they are quick drying and more versatile. I also work with paper sculpture and mixed media usually on school projects, and though I am now retired I often get called in by both primary and secondary schools.
As a landscape painter, do you spend a lot of time outdoors, if so do you have any survival tips? I am constantly out searching for new material. With our range of tides the space between the sea and shoreline is constantly changing, as is the light according to the weather. When I have found a promising composition I will do a quick sketch, take photographs and short notes. Unlike the impressionists, I rarely work on site. My composition is constructed at home with all my references around me.
What’s your favourite view in Jersey? My favourite view has to be the vista of St Ouens bay from the corner of La Pulente. However the view of Gorey Castle and the harbour from the beach opposite Fort Henry is a close second.
Although you are perhaps most well known for your geometric hard-edged style of painting do you ever experiment? To make any progress in art one must always be prepared to experiment. I like to work with texture/collage using pva, tissue paper and card, using a more organic approach in contrast to my more precise style of painting.
Do you have a favourite piece of work that you’ve kept, one that you loved so much you just couldn’t sell it? My paintings usually take a month to complete because I do not paint all day and prefer to take a step back to assess the work in progress. Taking so long to complete work often makes it difficult to part with and not all my work is immediately available for sale. I have a large painting of The White House which I will always keep.
Do you have any particular artists that have inspired you throughout your career? Many artists have inspired me but two in particular stand out. Turner was the first artist to break formal rules and experiment with technique and colour. I saw an exhibition of 500 of his small preparatory colour sketches, they were so contemporary and so stunning The other is Paul Klee for his use of colour. He was quoted as saying “colour takes a lifetime“ and he is right…you never stop learning about colour.
What was your pathway to getting to this point in your career? All my working life has been spent teaching young people to express themselves creatively. This I know was my strength and it was a rewarding process. However this left little time to develop my own work. And so three years before retirement I made a decision to leave teaching and concentrate on my own painting. I converted one room into a studio with extra windows and a separate room for computers, photography and printing. I print all my own work up to A3 size. Larger work and canvas prints I outsource. A friend helped me build a website which brings in orders locally and from the UK. I also supply three local galleries. It was a new life and my painting certainly progressed. Like most things, time and practice will improve. I also still have time to work with schools on varied projects.
If we could teleport you to any landscape in the world, where would it be? It would have to be the Tuscan landscape, particularly near Montalchino. And with Florence and Sienna nearby I would be in heaven!
If you had the keys to any museum, so you could come and go as you please, where would it be? The National Gallery in London..they would have to kick me out! So much to absorb and learn.
Do you have any great career advice for people with an interest in pursuing a career as a professional artist? Pursuing a career in art is risky in terms of making a living. There are so many talented people out there but I would always encourage students to go to a UK art college. They would have time to make decisions and if they eventually did not make it, the process would have developed their creativity and confidence.
We know you exhibited at the Harbour Gallery earlier on in the year, but what’s coming up in the future, anything we should be keeping an eye out for? I will always work on capturing the coastline but I am now at a stage where I want to change some subject matter. I have several ideas I have wanted to develop and my next painting will be an echo of the past when I developed the geometric style at art college. The title of this painting will be ‘Flying by the seat of your pants!’ WATCH THIS SPACE!!