Artist in the Spotlight: Richard Heley

13 March 2018

Artist Richard Heley talks to us about his life and work.

Please describe your artwork style
Surreal, linear, falling out of me like desires riding a tidal wave of  joyous colour. Philosophical dreaming.

What’s your background?
Born in Totternhoe, Bedfordshire where fathers family traces back hundreds of years in that village. Grew up in Australia where I went to teachers college and trained as specialist art and craft teacher but I didn’t want to teach so I dropped out and returned to UK to live in London squats in the 70’s, wrote poetry, songs, played in bands, began
painting “Live” as performance in clubs, festivals and clubs such as Tabernacle, Megatripolis, and Noel McKoy’s songwriters night at Subterranea. In 1980’s we put on salon gigs in my studio, telling stories, poetry, songwriters and I put up boards on the wall for the children to draw on, this led along a process which has produced more than 60 joyous murals working interactively with children in UK, Australia, USA, South Africa. I won the 1997 Farago UK poetry slam championship and toured the USA performing poetry and stories. I’ve kept notebooks of poetry, stories and drawings since 70’s, line drawing has been my joy, it permeates work on paper and paintings on canvas.

How long have you been an artist?
Forever. After years of put down in the English schools of 50’s and 60’s, I arrived in my new Australian school, handed in an essay and my English teacher gave it back saying “I enjoyed that.” One simple sentence changed my life. The value of approval! Similar encouragement while letting go from new found approval in the art room led me to realise at 16 that I was a painter. Some things in life you bump into like you’ve always known them, like you’ve been there and done that before. At 16 I knew I’d been an artist forever. I am here to decorate the garden.

Who or what are your biggest influences?
I am just influenced by being alive and fascinated by the nature of existence, which is transitory, impermanent, full of beautiful sorrow...well, that and weed.

How have you developed your career?
My career has just “lived,” from squats, to playing in rock bands, writing poetry, stories, songs. Always drawing, keeping notebooks, painting, without asking for anything except to become skilled.

Which current art world trends are you following?
I follow myself, down blind alleys, over the edge, around in circles, to the back of mind. My only trend is to get on with practicing creativity until it flows instantaneously.

Where do you create your work?
In my front room hanging over the edge of my imagination.

What do you feel is the role of the artist in society?
To decorate garden earth and in doing so expand as an evolutionary soul.

What techniques / mediums do you use?
Pencil, colour pencil, Oil Pastels, acrylic paint.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed? 
Not guilty Your Majesty, I have never executed a subject.

How do you feel when you are letting your emotions loose on the canvas?
I practice skills constantly and some times it flows without effort, those are peak moments and the artists meditation is how to reach those peak moments and the hold them for as long as possible. To do so you have to throw off all distraction, all wanting and clinging to lose yourself in the concentration of the moment now. When you are lost in
that concentration, there is no time, just a beauty that is heart of dog which everyone knows is god in the mirror. Wonderful place to be.

What project are you working on now?
I am just off to an Eco Village in South Africa to paint a mural with children. I’ve painted more than 60 murals working interactively with children in schools, galleries and festivals in UK, USA, Australia and SA. It’s a joy to combine the dreaming power and drawing charm of children with the design and paint skills of an artist and some truly beautiful artworks have evolved.

Any current or up-coming exhibitions?
I am available with a lifetime's lovely work, but I'm hopeless at selling myself although I am ripe to be marketed.

Where do you find your ideas for your work?
I am a dreamer, my whole life has been spent practicing letting poetry, stories, music, drawings and paintings fall out of me. The artists mantra is to let go.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why?
I am pleased with myself that I've enjoyed working over a lifetime and have a volume of joyous, skilled work.

How do you know when a work is finished?
When I can look over every square inch and have taken out of the artwork everything that disturbs me. Then I can let it go and it'll have a good time hanging on some nice warm wall with a loving owner or get really greedy and spend a lonely life locked in a bank vault.

You can view more of Richard's work here:

You can contact Richard here:

[email protected]

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