As told by John Maitland
They say the start in life colours your attitude to what’s around you both physically and emotionally. If that’s true my brother Jimmy and I never had a chance.
My first memories are actually of colour. When I was 18 months old my dad used to take me out on to the High Level bridge to see the lights reflected in the Tyne. Jimmy was only a few months old then.
Then we moved to Newcastle from Gateshead. Newcastle was the great industrial capital of the U.K. At its zenith massive industry lined Scotswood Road where we lived; heavy engineering, trains rumbling along behind the stone wall parallel to the road spitting out steam and fire. All this was quite a sight for children to behold as was looking at the night sky illuminated in the most wonderful colours.Ship building too was at its height, parts of the East of the city on the Tyne were building ships two streets long, so long that they had to be floated out to sea and joined up.
The place teamed with life. Our uncle Eddie, all 6’ 4” inches of him was the chap who kept the pubs quiet along the length of the Scotswood Road; any fights, uncle Eddie was called upon to quell the disturbance.
At the start and end of the day thousands of workers would be streaming to and from work, then, almost overnight it all disappeared, even the fighting Irish navvies on the corner by The Dodds Arms upped shovels and left.
Poverty was rife!
We moved from to Westgate Hill to a brand new flat and there were lockers where my dad proudly stored our toys. They didn’t last, they were burned out by vandals, then the Council shuttered them up. The lifts were closed because of this so if we kids wanted to experience the lifts we went across to the huge Queens Court Flats at the bottom of Stanhope Street.
Such joy….. up and down 50 times then across the road to the Leazes Park. Our playground at the flats was Elswick Cemetery, a beautiful Victorian cemetery. In the winter when it snowed it was truly a wonderland, in the summer it was anything our imagination wished, jungle, hiding place, and one summer it became the final resting place of Bluey our budgie. Dad , Jimmy and Stuart all gathered round for this solemn occasion.
So, that’s our beginning. We loved it, we had everything a child needed- wonderful parents, aunts and uncles and on our balcony, great neighbours. Dad always wanted a house out in the countryside but, when we got the chance to move to a brand new council house with its own garden, everything this incredibly hard working man desired and more than deserved was vetoed as none of us wanted to leave!
Developing our Passion
Both Jimmy and I would draw non-stop. At secondary school we graduated to painting. I would use paper provided by school as a support while Jimmy was hard at work ripping bits off the Lino in his room to paint on. Yes, old Lino and on top exquisite paintings, a mix of oil paint, house paint and our mothers make up!!!! His determination was epic. We would get the bus down to either Armstrong Bridge, a beautiful part of Jesmond, an outer city suburb or the Newcastle City Library square, both places to display and sell your art.
My paintings were dry. Jimmy, truly a bohemian artist that artists still aspire to be like, paint still wet, would be arguing with the bus driver that he wasn’t going to get paint on either the good bus or the passengers whilst the drivers trying to put him off the bus.
Brothers in Art
Here we went our separate ways in content, style and technique. Jimmy, with his love of the English landscape (in particular Newcastle, Cumbria and Northumberland) and its people developed a rare ability to capture the nostalgia and the beauty of these areas in his landscapes and portraiture. And of course there is his exemplary horse paintings, where he delights with the beauty, flesh and speed of these noble creatures.
And as for me… I became a contemporary figurative and expressive artist with a true admiration for my brother’s rare talent.