Freshly built and filled with art and natural light, Andrew Dalton’s home studio is a covetable space. So it’s no surprise that the rest of his family is mounting a takeover bid.
“They want to turn it into a kitchen diner and I can see why but I’m clinging on for now,” he says.
The studio is a garage conversion and a recent addition to the end terrace house in Thirsk that Andrew and his wife, Sue, bought 14 years ago. The workspace was created when Andrew decided to devote more time to his printmaking.
A graduate of Central St Martins in London, he was an assistant curator at Tate St Ives before moving to Yorkshire, where he worked with Ryedale Folk Museum. He is now a freelance arts specialist helping to organise and curate exhibitions and events, while spending part of the working week in his studio.
“After graduating Sue and I went to look after an avocado farm in Spain and we also did our own art out there, which was hugely enjoyable. But when we came back to England and I got the job at Tate St Ives, there wasn’t much time for my own work. I didn’t show at all during that period but I don’t see that as time wasted. I was busy soaking up all those influences and ideas at the Tate and I also got to meet some of my heroes – mid-20th century British artists Terry Frost and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, which was amazing.”
Most of the modernist artists who gathered in St Ives in the 1950s, including Barns-Graham, Frost, Patrick Heron, Alan Davie and Peter Lanyon, worked in colour but Andrew prefers to use black and white.
His love of this simple palette comes from artist Norman Ackroyd, his tutor at Central St Martins. “He taught us etching and showed us that monochrome can be as dramatic and effective as colour,” says Andrew.
The walls of his studio act as a gallery for his prints, which are semi-abstract and largely inspired by landscape and animals. His work is also on display at the Great North Art Show, which runs from today until September 24 at Ripon Cathedral.
While he and Sue have wonderful memories of their 10 years in St Ives, they have no regrets about moving to Yorkshire. Cashing in their cottage in Cornwall allowed them to buy a large family home in Thirsk, which is within easy reach of Andrew’s home town of Middlesbrough.
“What really attracted us to this property was the big walled garden. I knew if the house was half as nice that we’d buy it,” he says.
Over the years, the couple, who have two sons, Tom, 19, and Ben, 17, have updated and redecorated the Victorian house. Many of the carpets have been removed and the floorboards stripped. Most of the walls are painted in neutral colours that create an effective backdrop for art. There is one glaring exception. The snug has bright red walls, which, to the Daltons’ surprise, has enhanced one of their favourite paintings by John Creighton.
“It shows that strong colour can work really well with vibrant artwork. It doesn’t sound right but it is – in the same way that using big pieces of art in a small room works really well.”
The large open-plan sitting/dining room is a milky coffee colour and acts as a gallery for pieces the couple have collected over the years. There’s a print by Patrick Heron – a leaving gift from colleagues at Tate St Ives, a sculpture by Anne Thalheim and a piece of Gillies Jones glass. Andrew’s interpretations of Middlesbrough’s industrial landscape make a dramatic statement in the dining area, while a beautiful sycamore bowl by Philip Greenwood of Greenwood Crafts, Hutton-le-Hole, is centre stage on the table.
Furniture and accessories are a mix of old and new. The sofas in the sitting area are from Barker & Stonehouse. “They weren’t cheap but they have lasted and worn really well so they were a good buy,” says Andrew.
There are also some bargains from Furniture Traders in Thirsk, which buys end-of-line factory stock from high street retailers, as well as a few reminders of Andrew and Sue’s past.
A stool covered in the same fabric as seating on the Tube brings memories of their student days in London, while the dining room lamp is from a pottery in St Ives.
The kitchen houses Sue’s collection of crockery. Much of it is vintage but there are new pots and plates by Mark Hearld and Rachel Wilson. They aren’t just for show. Most of them get used and sometimes broken, so there is always a reason to buy more.
Upstairs, what was a box bedroom and a tiny bathroom have been combined into one large bathroom that pays homage to the Cornish coast with a seaside theme and prints by Trevor Price and Ben Nicholson.
Outside, the garden has lived up to expectations. It has been a great playground for Tom and Ben and the summerhouse is a getaway for Sue.
They raise an annual toast to it with scrumpy. All the gardens on the row were part of an old orchard and boast apple trees, so the Daltons and their neighbours clubbed together and invested in a cider press.
“We love the garden and we love living here,” says Andrew. “ I can see us staying long term, though whether I get to keep the studio here is another matter.”
To see more of Andrew’s work visit www.andrew-dalton.com
* Andrew Dalton is one of the artists exhibiting at the Great North Art Show which runs from today until September 24 at Ripon Cathedral.
This exciting and diverse show features over 350 artworks by some of the finest Northern contemporary artists. The exhibition showcases prints, paintings, photography, wall ceramics and sculpture. All the work is for sale and entry is free.
Opening times are 10am- 4.30pm daily.