During our weekend of dashing around Newport for the Minghella Film Festival a couple of weekends ago, we happened to bump into Ryde artist, Nick Martin.
Visitors to the Michael West Gallery at Quay Arts will know that Nick’s exhibition, Blue Eyed Boys has been running since the beginning of the month.
The installation, as Nick refers to it, consists of large scale paintings of blue eyed bearded gay men, known as bears.
Nick told us that the project has taken five years to complete and was inspired out of a desire to show that it’s OK for gay men to be big and bearded rather than skinny, tanned and perfectly preened.
The realism in Nick’s work is incredible. The exhibition certainly is a celebration of the beauty of these big men.
The 4ftx4ft paintings hang majestically on the walls of the Michael West gallery, each portrait five times larger than actual size.
Nick told us that this is the first time he has attempted such large scale paintings since his early days at college.
The central theme of the paintings are the beards and the blue eyes. He used a huge array of blues in the paintings when tackling the eyes, over 30 different shades in fact and we have to say, we’re mightily impressed with the results.
As well as his fascination with blue eyes, Nick has an interesting viewpoint on beards.
Many people figure that men with beards are hiding something, but Nick disagrees with this. He believes that men with beards aren’t hiding, but in fact revealing more about themselves by not shaving away their facial hair every day.
For those who have seen Nick’s work, we’re sure you’ll agree that the detail in the paintings is extraordinary, so it’s not surprising to learn that each painting took Nick between about 2-3 months to complete.
Nick tells us in the interview that each hair is painted with just one stroke of the brush.
That’s hundreds of thousands of brush strokes for one head of hair! Not to mention the beards, necks and the odd hairy shoulder.
You can imagine that it would be very easy to go mad carrying out this work, but Nick stuck to 5-6 hours a day and then walked away from the exhausting work until the next day.
Holbine Holbein fans will notice the clear nod of respect to the Tudor painter shown in Nick’s work when they spot the name, birth place and occupation of those he has painted.
The exhibition runs until 4th April, so do try and pop along to the Michael West Gallery at Quay Arts to check it out before it finishes.
To listen to the podcast click on the play button below, you can pause and return to it later if you get distracted.
Coming up tomorrow we have a video version of the interview with stills of the exhibition.