While searching for my Waterton slides today, I came across a storage box of slides marked ‘Artwork’. The first two slides go right back to my final show at Batley School of Art. I’d left school after my O-levels, against the advice of my headmaster, because I was keen to study art full time.
My two years at Batley centred on graphic design but I also qualified as a member of the Institute of British Interior Designers and Decorators (hence the theatrical designs for a theme pub), plus there was A-level art, art history, textiles, photography and ceramics. How did they fit all that in? During one year I remember having two, probably three, days a week when we worked from 9.30 in the morning until 9 at night. As I lived a two mile walk and a twenty minute bus ride away, it was hardly worth going home really. I’d treat myself to a fishcake sandwich, eaten as I walked briskly past the textile mills of Batley, to catch the late bus from Shaw Cross.
It was a delight to be encouraged to extend my skills in several directions at once. To try to extend my skills, I should say because my efforts were dissipated by such a range of tempting subjects; I remember that my final report, written by Mr Clarke, who taught exhibition design, 3D design and printmaking, was something along the lines of ‘Richard’s work is all over the place but he should eventually be able to find a specialist niche for himself’. Mr Clarke put it more diplomatically than that, though!
Looking at these slides, I notice how much hand-lettering we were encouraged to do. Instant Letraset rub-on lettering was something of a luxury. You could set type by hand, which was a wonderful introduction to typography.
As soon as I’d completed my O-levels, I’d started painting scenery for the Horbury Pageant Players and took every chance to design a poster for their productions and for other groups. The Lilac Domino poster was screen-printed professionally (at the time when screen-printers would hand-cut waxy stencils, which were then ironed on to the screen) but I printed the Men in Shadow poster on the big offset litho press in the college print room, which had a huge rubber-covered roller which ran on a kind of cog railway.
It wasn’t an unqualified success because the Pageant Players found my hand-lettering so unreadable that they also got the local letter-press printer to run up the usual playbill style poster. But I remember my pride at seeing my poster on display in the window of the garage opposite the town hall in Horbury (with the readable version displayed in the window next to it!)
One of my favourite options was the Friday morning photography course, run by Fred Sergeant. I was fascinated by techniques such as solarisation, bas-relief, high contrast black and white and reticulation.
I’ve still got a folio that includes almost all the artwork from my 1969 show.