Cid Cauldwell - The Salford artist who blossomed late in life

PUBLISHED: 01:16 10 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:58 20 February 2013

Sydney Cauldwell

Sydney Cauldwell

Artist Cid Cauldwell is living proof of the old adage that you're never too old to learn, as Paul Mackenzie reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson

Retirement was once seen as a time for putting the feet up and relaxing. Exercise came in the form of a game of bowls or gentle potter around the garden as the pace of slowed down. That was never how Sydney Cauldwells retirement was going to pan out.

Since he hung up his wrench and stopped working as a plumber when he was 65, Sydney has been busier than ever. After learning to play the guitar and the keyboard, he mastered the art of making model boats and train, gained his pilots licence and, 12 years ago, he took up painting.

I dont want to waste any time, I dont know how much Ive got. And I dont want to go senile in front of the tv, said Cid, now 86, who averages a painting a week and who is now exhibiting some of his 600 paintings in a special show at Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

Its hardly surprising that it took so long for Cid to pick up the brushes after the treatment he received from a teacher. I was walloped many times when I was at school because I couldnt paint, he said. One teacher had me out at the front of the class and gave me six across the hands because my painting was rubbish. And he laughed his head off about it, too.

After school I didnt bother with it for donkeys years. Then I decided to have another try. I made a mess of things but then I went along to an art class. I started out rubbish but you just keep going and keep improving.

The classes Cid still attends at Ordsall Neighbourhhod Centre on a Monday afternoon are run by Start Over 50, part of the Start in Salford, a community arts and wellbeing charity. And with a little gentle encouragement from co-ordinator Danny Morrell, Cids work developed.

Danny said: Straight away when I saw Cids work I knew he had something special. The way he sketched with tones and the way he used light were very impressive. He was painting on hardboard from the back of his wardrobe and whatever else he could find but he really stood out.

Cid, though, is quick to point his short-comings. Im still hopeless at drawing and watercolour is too quick for me. With oils its easy to correct your mistakes and youve not lost anything but you have to be prepared to scrap ideas if theyre not working

Cid, who has always lived within a mile of his birthplace in Denmark Street, Salford, seeks inspiration for his works on travels around the country lanes and back roads of Lancashire. I go driving on the lanes around Lancashire, north of Preston on the roads off the A6, through the little villages. Everyone else just belts up the motorway, but theyre missing it all, he said. The scenery of Lancashire beats anywhere.

I paint from memory. If I went and took a picture it would show up the rubbish and the cars and the bits Id rather forget about. The paintings are composites, not exact pictures of what a place looks like, thats a photograph. Its nothing new, Turner did, Constable did it, theyve all done it.

What sets him apart from the Old Masters, though is that Cid paints in the spare bedroom of the flat at the sheltered accommodation where he lives alone. Its not much bigger than some peoples toilets but I cant afford more room. If it gets a bit smelly, I open the window. If the neighbours dont like the smell of turps, thats fine, I dont like the smell of their dogs, he adds, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously.

I can only use what I can afford at the time but you dont need anything expensive to paint my easel cost 4 and I use cheap canvases, and I re-use them too. I adapted the easel because it wasnt well balanced and Ive amended my palette too so its more comfortable for me.

I can have lots of fun painting and I am proud to have the paintings where people can see them and enjoy them but I dont want to sell them. I want to paint what I want, if you start selling them, people start commissioning you and then it becomes a job. Its the love of my life, painting.

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

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