ARTIST Martin Williamson has the best seat in the house when he’s looking for landscapes to paint.
The train driver, who has a passion for painting, works on some of the county’s most picturesque railway routes and takes a sketch pad with him so he can note down some of the wonders of Yorkshire’s countryside he has passed by whenever he gets a break from his cab.
And Mr Williamson reckons he is in the best possible position at the front of the train to get inspiration for his next work of art.
“Certainly, driving over Ribblehead Viaduct just as the sun is rising is an artist’s dream and begs to be painted – I’m in the best seat on the train to see it,” he said.
“I’m based in Skipton so I normally do the Leeds-Bradford-Ilkley commuter routes, but we also do a morning and an evening run to Ribblehead as well as the Morecambe and Lancaster services,” Mr Williamson said.
His artwork covers landscapes, ancient buildings and churches across the UK, and has featured local landmarks such as Ilkley Moor, Bolton Abbey, East Riddlesden Hall, at Keighley, Skipton Castle, Haworth and Gawthorpe Hall just over the border in Lancashire. He uses a variety of media such as inks, oil, pastels and acrylics in a bold, expressive style.
Mr Williamson, 48, of Silsden, near Keighley, has found a change of career has helped rekindle his passion for art.
He has worked in engineering and then after going back to college spent over a decade in the world of public relations, animation, graphics, and marketing before deciding to take up train driving.
Mr Williamson’s paintings of Yorkshire and further afield have since attracted a strong online interest, as well as sales across the UK, in the United States and in Europe.
He says: “I started out life as an engineer and after ten years realised I was in completely the wrong job.
“My wife and I decided to take a very big plunge and I went back to college. At that point I was married with a mortgage and we basically survived on baked beans and fresh air for about five years – it was tough.”
He graduated in 1991 with a degree in graphic design, animation and illustration, and began doing freelance work. He then moved into public relations and marketing.
“The train driving came about when a nasty virus forced me off work for a few months and I started to think again about my future direction. My wife brought home the Yorkshire Post one day which was running an advertisement for train drivers,” he said.
It was a career he had never thought of but it is a job that fits in well with his rekindled love of art as he works shifts and gets time off during the week to get out and about and paint.
“It also takes me across the county as well – the longest run I currently do is via Lancaster to Morecambe; I tend to carry a notebook or small sketchbook with me to make a note of ideas when I get a break away from the cab,” he said.
He has been painting for about two years, which started as a result of a trip to the Isle of Mull for his silver wedding anniversary.
Mr Williamson said: “Being surrounded by all that fantastic scenery and seeing local artists’ work displayed in the island’s galleries, I thought ‘I bet I could do that.’
“I had always drawn, but I had never really painted, and it really kicked off from there – people seemed to like what I do.
“I exhibited locally last year at an open exhibition in Keighley but most of my work is exhibited and sold through an online presence.
“I set up my own website and created a Facebook page about a year ago; hundreds of people from all around the globe have now joined my page.”
“I don’t actively sell them. For me the satisfaction is in the creation – if people like my work it is a bonus; but I’ve sold paintings to people in America and Europe and throughout the UK.
“It’s all rapid stuff – I like to do a painting in around 20 to 30 minutes, so I try not to get bogged down with detail at all, leaving the viewer’s imagination to fill the gaps for themselves.
“I’m delighted to be combining a new career with a revitalised skill – we are lucky to have such wonderful landscape and buildings in this county and I hope the good people of Yorkshire appreciate the passion – and the stimulus – behind my art.”
More information about Mr Williamson and his artwork can be found at www.cobbybrook.co.uk and www.facebook/cobbybrook