About this series


Alone and Together, Brunel’s People

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It could have been anywhere. When I first wandered into McDonald’s in Swindon I was just looking for somewhere people would gather and move not too quickly so that I could draw them.


Once inside, I did not want to move from the place for a very long time. It stirred up early and most deeply felt memories of being amongst strangers, of being caught up in other lives for a short time and then never seeing those particular people again: perhaps a common enough experience for most of us but in this arena of light and activity I found the ‘everyday’ to be imbued with a sense of mystery. Maybe because of these memories I was acutely aware of the diversity of peoples’ lives, associating briefly before passing on and away.


This diversity sometimes appeared unified and sometimes further fragmented by the quality of light. It was also unified by the unfailing coincidences of colour that began to suggest possibilities of composition. It seemed that I had been waiting all my life to discover this subject which stirred me so deeply.


Because of my portrait painting, drawing visits to McDonald’s in Swindon were very intermittent. This meant that I worked there over a number of years and got to know the staff and their changes. Friendly and supportive, they almost informally adopted me as resident artist and the project became very much about the Swindon community. I came to recognise regular customers and to observe the ebb and flow of social and visual patterns as different sorts of people come in throughout the day or on different days of the week. This changed over time.  Each painting has a different, often very simple theme, arising from these patterns.


The starting point for a theme was often no more than a glimpsed intuition from my snatched observations (often from memory) and then built up in the studio from numerous on site sketches and pastel studies into a considered composition. Some figures seem to want to talk to each other in the space of the painting, while others I want to use resist inclusion. “You mean” said one studio visitor, ”this scene never actually existed?” Well, not as such; and no more do any of the characters, often a combination of drawings of different people and different sketchbooks.


These are pictures of life in our time. Here is a local place in Swindon where people of every kind, age, race, or creed pass through and are seen together. There is certainly no political agenda in these paintings.


This site is an introduction to the the project, comprising oil paintings, large and small, working drawings, oil pastel studies and sketch book drawings.