GLYN - THE WHITE GALLERY
When I headed out to discover the nature of this week’s article, I spoke to and photographed a number of people (whose images and words will feature in later posts). However, it was on this walk that I - by chance - took a turn down an alleyway on the Barbican, and came across a kind-looking soul and his dog. I asked if I could photograph him, little did I know that this week’s article would become about Glyn and his dog Deacon.
However, before we dive right in, let me take you back… The year is 2017, and I have just finished the first year of my degree. I spend a hot and sunshine-y day walking through the streets of the Barbican, lost in the colours and beauty, fascinated by each and every new shop, cafe, and gallery. It was on this walk that I stumbled into The White Gallery, owned by Glyn (an artist), and his dog Deacon. Glyn’s paintings of the sea and woodland scenes captivated me, their depth and tones transporting you into the images. Who could have guessed that five years later, I would be back, and this time to photograph him!
"It was on this walk that I - by chance - took a turn down an alleyway on the Barbican, and came across a kind-looking soul and his dog."
When Glyn first opened the gallery, it was with two other artists. However, in June 2017, those artists decided to do other things, and so Glyn went fully solo in the gallery. “I thought, okay, big step… but it worked out, because I was able to completely revamp it and create the environment for myself.”
And create an environment he did. The gallery is sectioned off into two parts - the gallery area, where he displays the intricate and vibrant works of art, and his small ‘home away from home studio space’ where Glyn has his workstation. This is where he works on commissions in progress, his new work on the go, and - of course - where Deacon has his bed and food. The welcoming and homely feel to this place entices all kinds of characters in, but asking Glyn how he got to this point was not what I expected.
I asked Glyn when he first knew he wanted to go full time as an artist. “I wanted to since I was at school, but I wasn’t allowed to, because I wasn’t allowed to do art in school.” This absolutely dumbfounded me! Imagine not being allowed to take a subject you love in school. “I had to take the O-Level in my own time.” He tells me that the Grammar School only valued sciences and maths. Despite having dyslexia and not knowing until he was 25, Glyn achieved 11 O-Levels in a whole host of subjects, from all the sciences, maths and Latin.
“I thought, okay, big step… but it worked out, because I was able to completely revamp it and create the environment for myself.”
When Glyn got to choose his A-Levels, he was finally able to study art, however it had to be alongside Art History. Worse still, it came with this disparaging comment from his teacher - “You’re throwing your life away, boy!”
He then went on to Arts college for a year, though when he got into the second year, the course required them to work and think in a more abstract way than he was used to. Glyn, however, wanted to paint from the heart instead - he wanted to paint nature, in all its beauty.
Despite all his creative passions, Glyn never took the courses further, and ended up working in the aquatic trade, moving down to Plymouth in his early twenties to study Environmental Science at Plymouth University. While working on his degree he did a number of jobs, from being trained as a barman, through to working for a gentleman who built the sets for the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival, requiring Glyn to drive them in a 7.5 tonne truck - something he had never done before!!
One of his other jobs was working as a Press Liaison for the science convention at the university. “I was actually paid - I think it was a fiver - to clap at David Attenborough’s opening of the Babbage Building. So I was working with national and international press and radio stations… And liaising with them to interview people like Douglas Adams, David Attenborough and various other people.” This was amazing to Glyn, and understandably so, however he still found himself after university taking on various shortstop jobs.
Each of which, he tells me, teaches you a life lesson. But after a head and neck injury while working in the landscaping industry, Glyn trained up as a tutor, and so worked freelance teaching for mental health, rehabilitation facilities, hospices, adults with disabilities and at-risk families for 12 years. He taught them art, horticulture, and rockpooling, alongside skills from his landscaping talents. Effectively, he was teaching people what we would call mindfulness activities today.
"He wanted to paint nature, in all its beauty"
With all of these different experiences, it was around eight years ago that Glyn finally decided that this was it, he was going to go fully freelance in his artwork. “I’ve always painted and created in some way, but it was only in the last decade that it was like ‘Okay here we go.’” What a life he has led since then!
Even with the global pandemic, Glyn’s business has survived, and - in some ways - thrived. With lockdown, Glyn began to go out into his local village more, and tells me that he began to become part of the community. Those who might have not seen him previously (thanks to always going out at the crack of dawn to capture the best lighting, or to find a good wave to surf and not being back until nightfall) now saw him walking Deacon each day, striking up conversation, and learning about his work.
To tackle the mental toll that the pandemic caused, he started to post a photograph every day on his Facebook page, as something to make people happy. This has not stopped since, and he is dedicated to continuing, now adding a weekly post about his paintings! This has gained him attention from a wider audience, which in turn has gained him new clients and commissions.
Glyn and his work are truly inspiring. This is something to make everyone smile, how a lifelong dream can be achieved through belief, and grabbing life by the… Well, you know. He imparted such words of wisdom to me that I hope inspire all those artists, creators and freelancers to keep going - “It’s just weird how sometimes things and opportunities occur, you can either go for it, or play safe with bubble-wrap and get a 9-to-5 job.”
Happiness doesn’t need to be grand, bold and world-altering. It can be being able to hear the waves lapping on the shore just from looking at a painting, taking an hour out of your day to make something for yourself or others, or simply be talking to someone to learn their story.
It has been a privilege to talk to Glyn and hear his story, and even more so to be able to share it with you all.
I hope wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, you are having a very Happy Monday.