Sky's the limit for Lancashire painter Barry Hilton

PUBLISHED: 12:29 07 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:31 20 February 2013

Sky's the limit for Lancashire painter Barry Hilton

Sky's the limit for Lancashire painter Barry Hilton

A Lancashire painter who turned professional late in life is making a big impact with his vibrant landscapes. He talked to Roger Borrell

Barry Hilton allows himself a quiet chuckle at the thought of being nominated for an award. Its in the Best Newcomer category and, at 70 years of age, he might be considered a shade long in the tooth. After all, he has been painting since he was in short trousers.

However, rules are rules and the Lancastrian must go into the novice section of the Fine Art Trade Guild awards as its the first time he has
been nominated.

Not that Barry minds. The buying and selling of paintings and the awarding of prizes only serve as a distraction from his all-consuming passion. I just like to paint. Thats all I want to do, he says.

Barry (his full name is Barry Hilton Pannell but an agent persuaded him to shorten it) was a high-flier in the chemical industry with a stressful job that required him to spend much of his time jetting around Europe and north America.

But painting was always his first love and he reached the stage where he realised he would have to try his hand as a professional artist or risk spend the rest of his life regretting it. It was a leap into the unknown, he says. When I told my boss, he said Id never make a living.

Happily, Barrys striking works have been warmly received by the art-loving public and he is now working harder than ever. Its been a hard slog - Im not very good at promoting myself. I leave that to other people. I have always been commercial but Ive played it low key. Im not a self-publicist.

Barry lives near Chorley and has a studio in the garden of the home he shares with his wife, Jill. His early work is reminiscent of another Lancashire artist, Theodore Major, who specialised in dark, atmospheric street scenes and had no regard for material gain from his work.

Painting has its vogues and I know that what sold 30 years ago wouldnt sell today so Ive adapted and changed to the market, he says. Ive adapted my work quite unashamedly but I refuse to be stereotyped.

The colours of his oil and acrylic landscapes seem to pulsate on the canvas, with dark and light contrasting in the most vivid fashion. That started some years back. I spend a lot of time in the countryside and I can remember when rapeseed came in and I saw a field of incredible yellow flowers against a black, stormy sky. Ive never lost that image.

Its an image that haunts many of his paintings and they certainly sell. Buckingham Fine Art managing director Ray Loud said: His landscapes are in such great demand that in just a few months we have sold everything and have a waiting list.

Hepplestone Fine Art, at Heskin, near Chorley, have also supported Barry. Giles Hepplestone said they hoped to stage a solo exhibition of his work later this year. It is visually stirring in a way that provokes an emotional response, says Giles.

Barrys descriptions of himself is rather less flattering. Im extremely selfish, he says. Im in the studio, painting seven days a week. Im a compulsive painter and it comes first over everything else. Im very lucky to have a wife that understandsup to a point!

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