Preston artist Norman Long shuns the limelight (with audio)

PUBLISHED: 20:08 31 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:38 20 February 2013

A pavement café in Preston. ‘You’d be amazed how many people come up to you when you’re standing at an easel, holding a palette and a paint brush and say “What are you doing?” But I enjoy this style of work.’

A pavement café in Preston. ‘You’d be amazed how many people come up to you when you’re standing at an easel, holding a palette and a paint brush and say “What are you doing?” But I enjoy this style of work.’

In an age when everyone seems to crave fame Preston-based artist Norman Long offers a refreshing alternative, as Paul Mackenzie reports

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Art is big business and some painters are now regarded as A-list celebrities alongside film stars and leading musicians. But Norman Long would gladly forego the superstar lifestyle as long as he could continue painting.

Fame may be inevitable if his reputation continues to grow but he said: Everyone wants to hear that youre the next big thing but thats just preposterous.

I know my position in the art world. I may be a competent painter and sometimes I might get beyond the technique and express something, but there are far greater artists than
me out there.

If I could spend less time on the business side and more time painting I would be a better painter but Id probably starve.'

I dont want to be huge but for anyone to think youre good and to give you work to do, you have to be famous. I dont particularly want to be famous but I need people to know I exist in order to get work.

Hes managed to get work regularly since graduating from university in Newcastle a decade ago. Commissions have come in from all over England and - thanks to a one-year stint studying and working as a teaching assistant in a Philadelphia art school - America too.

And in spite of his growing reputation he is determined to resist joining the art worlds elite in London. I have a love hate relationship with London, he said. Its the only huge art scene in England and everything in the art world gravitates towards London but I like it up here, it seems more real.

Norman grew up, and still lives, in Lostock Hall and despite having no other artists in the family - they all have proper jobs like engineering and my dad worked at Leyland Motors - he was accepting commissions even as a schoolboy.

After university he spent a year as artist in residence at King Edward and Queen Marys School near St Annes before moving in to his Preston studio and then onto the US.

I reached a stage where I didnt feel challenged and that was one of the reasons why I went to teach at an art school in America, the other reason was that my girlfriend lives there. It is difficult being so far apart but hopefully well sort something out before too long.

I spent a year with her in Philadelphia and it worked out fantastically well. As soon as I arrived I felt I had such a lot to learn. Towards the end of my stay there I couldnt afford to pay the rent and the man I was living with asked me to do paintings of four cafes. I enjoyed the process of creating those paintings and when I came back to Preston I would sit outside a caf and watch people and do drawings.

People expect pictures of local scenes to be of a recognisable building or landmark but Im not interested in the least in that. It could be Monte Carlo or your backyard as far as I am concerned; my work is about colour and light and a connection with the subject.

The 33-year-old is at his happiest painting portraits and he added: I like people and I like working with people. At the same time it is nice to have an outlet for doing paintings that I want to do and I do occasionally treat myself to a couple of hours outside doing a study.

I particularly love painting real people. I always spend too much time on a painting, though. I get engrossed in it. I feel I need to in order to build a relationship with the subject.

Its a matter of being able to invest the time in doing the work to my silly perfectionist standards. I would like to reach the stage where I am happy with anyone - from the worlds leading art critic to the bloke next door - seeing my work. I dont want to produce exclusive work. I would like everyone, regardless of their knowledge of art or their background to be able to get something from my paintings.

Norman teaches part-time at Runshaw College and will this month begin classes in Penwortham. Contact him on 07979 596062 or visit for more information.

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