Tom Morgan Brings His Own Perspective to the Cumbrian Countryside
A Carlisle artist inspired by the northern art scene is putting his own stamp on it.
On first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that these paintings look familiar. No, they’re not by the great Percy Kelly of course, but they are the work of another talented Cumbrian artist.
Tom Morgan is used to being compared to Kelly, as flattering as it is. And although Tom modestly insists that he hasn’t got half the talent of the renowned west Cumbrian painter, Kelly has certainly been a huge influence on his work.
The moody tones and exaggerated perspectives of the Cumbrian countryside are strikingly reminiscent of Kelly’s distinctive style. Not unlike him, Tom prefers to capture the small, local hamlets and rather bleak landscapes of the region, as opposed to the traditional ‘chocolate box’ Lakeland scenes.
“When it comes to painting, its self-taught with a number of influences,” explained Tom. “The one that stands out obviously, is the Percy kelly look, those bold lines and the use of watercolour. But other northern artists, such as Norman Cornish and Sheila Fell have also been a big influence.”
He added: “I think any artist they would be lying if they said they weren’t heavily influenced by someone else. No one is 100 percent original, you are influenced by other artists.”
Having lived in Carlisle his whole life, the other great influence in Tom’s work is his home county. As a child, his Grandfather would drag him up the Lake District fells each weekend, getting soaked and more often than not, lost. “I hated it,” Tom admitted. “I’d be cold, wet and miserable, but it was character building I suppose. In later life you appreciate why he liked those barren landscapes, where you wouldn’t often see anyone else. I do a lot outdoors now, such as rock climbing and wild camping and I’ll sometimes take a sketchbook.”
Mostly though, he paints from photographs he has taken himself, in order to capture the mood of a place. He laughed: “I’d love to sit out with an easel but it’s not always practical with Cumbrian weather – they would all just be a wash out.”
It’s this realistic outlook on the often unforgiving Cumbrian environment that translates into Tom’s paintings. “I try to avoid really bright colours and use an earthy pallet,” he explained. “It’s not really a conscious thing, those are the colours that I’m drawn to and to be honest that’s what I see when I look at Cumbria.”
Drawing from a young age, Tom dreamed of studying architecture, but coming from humble origins, he couldn’t commit the funds or the time to the seven years of university required. Instead he took the next best route, studying engineering and design, during which his tutor would get him up to draw out components and draft images on the blackboard.
Tom said: “I think it does influence my work because I’ve always had an interest in perspective. I like features in my paintings, a lot will include a road or I’ll try and bring in houses or farms and dry stone walls, just to get those bolder lines.”
His paintings are often in mixed media, using anything from ink and charcoal to oil paints and watercolour, although not always conventionally. Tom describes his style as a bit slapdash, “I like to paint almost with my eyes shut.”
His attitude is equally laidback when it comes to exhibiting and selling his work. Having made a successful career for himself as a design engineer – he is now Operations Manager at First Engineering, where he started out as a draftsman 10 years ago – until now, painting is something he’s done purely for pleasure. “It wasn’t something I was looking to do professionally and I’m still not really,” he said. “I give a lot of my work away.”
However, when Ben Heslop, owner of the Edwin Talbot Gallery in Carlisle, spotted his work on Instagram he persuaded Tom to exhibit. There are now five of his original pieces available to purchase from the gallery.
Tom added: “I’m certainly not doing it for money, I don’t like putting that pressure on myself. I just prefer the idea of someone having it on their wall to be honest.”
There may be more similarities between him and Kelly than he realises.
Tom’s work is available at www.edwintalbot.co.uk