Making an art out of living well

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Artist Patrick Smith turned his home into a haven where he can work, rest and play. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Simon Hulme.

Breakfast with Patrick Smith is much more than tea and toast. It’s an audio-visual feast.

The "gallery" room with table and mirror by John Watts and paintings and sculpture by Patrick

The "gallery" room with table and mirror by John Watts and paintings and sculpture by Patrick

Patrick is an artist and his enormous new living kitchen is full of his paintings and prints. Between mouthfuls of wholemeal bread, he delivers a long and quite brilliant poem about modern life.

It’s in the style of punk poet John Cooper Clarke and he wrote it one sleepless night. “One of the benefits of being on steroids. They make me hyper,” he says.

The medication, along with his sense of humour and bright disposition, help him cope with the rare autoimmune disease pulmonary sarcoidosis. It struck 14 years ago and is one of the reasons why he and his wife, Nicky, moved from central York to their home in Sheriff Hutton.

The detached property now has a multi-functional space on the ground floor that can be used as a snug or as a bedroom with en-suite bathroom. They have also built a studio in the garden where Patrick can paint and make prints.

The bedroom in the new extension with vintage ladders and a painting by Patrick

The bedroom in the new extension with vintage ladders and a painting by Patrick

“I absolutely loved my job as a lecturer at York College but I finally had to accept that I could no longer do it,” says Patrick, who believes his illness, characterised by a persistent cough and chronic fatigue, was triggered by working in a cast iron foundry after leaving school.

His studio was the first project after he and Nicky did after buying their house in 2012 .

The shed, which has an electricity supply, is warmed by a wood-burning stove and is now home to paints, easels and a vast collection of art books. Not to be outdone, Nicky has a timber chalet for her gardening paraphernalia.

The “He and She” sheds were a sanctuary when builders started on the second phase of work, a side and rear extension.

The new living kitchen with Oscar on the left, prints by Victor Pasmore, left, and Patrick's paintings above

The new living kitchen with Oscar on the left, prints by Victor Pasmore, left, and Patrick's paintings above

“The house was a lovely family home, which is one of the reasons we bought it. We wanted to be somewhere more rural and this place had a great feel and a big garden.

“We just needed more space,” says Nicky, a nurse specialist and a keen writer and crafter.

The couple got planning permission to demolish the car port, build a side extension and render what was a redbrick building. This has given them a new bedroom suite upstairs.

“It’s a tranquil double-height space and one of the stand-out features are the vintage ladders that they persuaded the electrician to leave behind.

Table by Wilf Williams and figurative and abstract work by Patrick

Table by Wilf Williams and figurative and abstract work by Patrick

On the ground floor, there is the snug/en-suite bedroom that features some of their most precious possessions, including a pair of cabinets made by their friend John Watts and inset with torsos sculpted by Jonathan Newdick.

A four-metre rear extension was the biggest challenge as they had to dig out 60 skips full of earth and build retaining walls to create and area of level ground from the sloping site.

The work was expensive but worthwhile as it helped them turn the back of the house into a large open-plan space with living, dining and kitchen areas.

There are side tables by furniture maker Wilf Williams and beautiful handcrafted kitchen units by John Watts.

John also made the striking table and mirror in the front sitting room, which is now known as “the gallery.”

Patrick’s work is in every room but this space has the greatest concentration and shows his versatility and talent for everything from print-making and painting to etching and sculpture. He also makes his own frames.

Patrick's shed/studio in the garden

Patrick's shed/studio in the garden

“We love galleries and that’s the sort of atmosphere we wanted to create,” says Nicky.

There are paintings done in the studio and others he has done plein air in favourite locations, such as Cropton Forest and Robin Hood’s Bay.

“I love painting outside using brushes and my fingers. My work is influenced by landscape, abstract impressionism and Turner,” says Patrick, whose journey into art was not straightforward.

Although his school teachers urged him to go to art school, his parents insisted he get a “proper job” in the local factory.

Redundancy presented an opportunity to retrain and at the age of 29, he enrolled at art college. where he discovered his love of print making.

He progressed to taking a degree in Fine Art. After working as a technician and a moment of TV fame with etchings created with the help of live maggots, he became a lecturer until his health forced him to quit.

He has since devoted his time to his own art and is represented by Highgate Contemporary in London, According to McGee in York and the Dutch House in Crayke. With Nicky’s help, he teaches painting and drawing classes in nearby Wiggington.

“I love teaching and seeing people flourish. Art is therapeutic. I know that more than anyone. Art saved my life. It was the silver lining after the depression of losing my health and having to give up my job.”

He has an exhibition in London with Wilf Williams and John Watts in April and is preparing to open his home for the North Yorkshire Open Studios event in June. “We are really looking forward to it,” says Nicky.

“Paddy’s chronic illness made us want to grab life and try to enjoy it as much as we can. This house allows us to do that. We can be creative here and have our family and friends to stay. here and move forward.”

Patrick at work in the studio

Patrick at work in the studio