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British Realist Alan Weston Is GGAF Invited International Artist

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The 2015 Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is taking place this weekend in Pensacola. Each year, the event features an Invited International Artist; and this year’s special guest is British realist Alan Weston.

Over the next couple of days, Weston will visit local elementary schools and he’s scheduled to speak at a public event at 5:30 pm this Tuesday evening at the Anna Lamar Switzer Center for Visual Arts at Pensacola State College.

Alan Weston grew up in the Midlands of England, around Darby and Nottingham. He says his interest in art dates back to his childhood love of trains that ran on the railway near his home. And he cites his fascination with a lavishly-illustrated history book of England that he received.

“I was just immediately struck; I couldn’t imagine that people were actually doing these wonderful drawings of scenes from in history, you know knights in armor and Roman soldiers,” Weston said. “I couldn’t believe they were actually getting paid for it. It seemed too good to be true.”

Weston says he drew copies of the weapons, shields, and horses depicted in the book, and one day thought he’d like to do that.

He started painting as a hobby and years later went on to the Falmouth School of Art in the U.K. He went on to a career as an illustrator. Over time, the style he developed could be described as ‘realism’ or ‘realist.”

“I paint things as I see them. I’ve never really understood abstract art,” said Weston, noting that his focus on detail was a bit of an obsession to get things exactly right. It’s that striving for perfection that leaves feeling that his paintings are never finished.

Weston uses a variety of paint media in his work, which mostly depicts wildlife and landscapes, he says, 

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Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
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WUWF Public Media
British artist Alan Weston visits WUWF studios.

depending on his mood. A lot of his subject matter can be found at his home in Cornwall, England, along the country’s picturesque southwest coast.

“Cornwall was a sort of mythical land that I wasn’t even sure it existed,” Weston said. “I heard people talk about Cornwall but didn’t know anybody who’d been there.”

Weston first visited Cornwall when his parents moved there. As an artist, he points to the quality of light and beautiful landscapes that first attracted the famous British watercolorist J.M.W. Turner.

Now it has the highest concentration of artists in England, outside of London.

For Weston, painting has become a form of therapy that was much needed after the death of his eldest daughter in a car accident some years back. In fact, he says that tragedy sent him packing to new lands such as Australia where he met his wife Natty and it sent his professional career as an illustrator in a new direction.

“I was doing very realistic work for encyclopedias; reference books that sort of thing. And, I found when I tried to get back into it,” said Weston. “People were using computers, when I was doing the old-fashioned brush and paint. I didn’t really want to get into computers, but I still needed like an outlet for my creative urges, so I started painting fine art.”

Over the years, Weston has been fascinated with a style known as ‘trompe l'oeil,’ which is a painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object.

For the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, Weston has chosen to bring a number of landscapes pieces, including a series of paintings based on ripples on the surface of the sea.

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  Ironically, the project started as a way to loosen up his realist style, but he soon zoomed in and identified intricate patterns. “They’re even more difficult and complex than the paintings before. Even though they don’t look like realistic paintings, they really are hyper-realistic paintings.

Alan Weston, from Cornwall England, this year’s Invited International Artist at the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival this weekend at historic Seville Square in downtown Pensacola.

In the lead up to the festival, he’s scheduled to speak with students at Pensacola area elementary schools; something he says he’s glad to do given that he has two young girls of his own.

On Tuesday evening, Weston will make a presentation at the Anna Switzer Lamar Center for Visual Arts on the campus of Pensacola State College. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.