LOOKING TO THE HEAVENS: Tim Baitson says he loves painting a good sky
LOOKING TO THE HEAVENS: Tim Baitson says he loves painting a good sky

Graphic designer Tim Baitson has a passion for painting in oil which frees him from the “quite strict and rigid” discipline of the day job. Based in Barnard Castle, he gives an insight into his art for this week’s Q&A.

Were you formally trained in oil painting?

I had no formal oil painting training, but we covered most disciplines and media whilst at art college. My dad used to paint in oils – it took him what seemed like an age to finish a painting. So I had this impression that oil painting was for old men, doing boring old paintings, but now I see I was wrong. Oil painting can be so easy. You make a mistake, just scrape it off and start again.

Practice is the key. I learn as I go, which is part of the fun. I always start a painting telling myself “this is just a practice, so it doesn’t matter if I make a mess of it” then half an hour later I think it could actually turn into a painting. It’s a great feeling when I produce something worth looking at.

My day job as a graphic designer and printer is quite strict and rigid, making sure conventions and print requirements are met, so it’s liberating not to have those constraints whilst painting.

Your work was part of the Working Artists display at The Witham and was well received. Have you taken part in any further exhibitions or is your work commissioned?

The Working Artists exhibition at The Witham was a great event for all exhibitors – a group of like minded local artists joining together to show their work. We should really do it again, but I struggle to find the extra time. I sold a couple of paintings from the exhibition and got some enquiries which gave me the boost to continue painting.

I do commission work which is good to do and I enjoy it, but it can be quite nerve wracking. It’s one thing to splash paint on a canvas for your own pleasure, but when someone is paying you it really changes the game for me.

The chosen subject matter can be a deal breaker too. If the customer wants a certain image/landscape etc it may not suit my style, so I compromise to suit the subject which can sometimes end up looking a bit static or overworked. I tend to send the customer update images, just to make sure I’m hitting the mark. I’ve hit the mark every time, so far.

What came first painting or graphic design?

I was only really interested in painting and drawing as a kid, so when the opportunity came to go to art college after school I was there in a flash.

This was in the days before computers were used for graphic work, so all the artwork was done by hand. We did a foundation year in all the main disciplines, fine art, photography, screen printing etc. I chose graphic art as my core subject.

I was still painting and drawing at home and making a bit of extra cash painting petrol tanks for motorcycles.

As a graphic designer how have you found this past year?

This has been a really tough year for so many families, individual people and businesses. We produce design and print for many of the local businesses so have seen how the coronavirus restrictions have affected them. When the first lockdown was announced a huge chunk of our work disappeared, even work in hand. People were really unsure of the future so just put everything on hold or cancelled orders.

I was shocked to see my overflowing order book evaporate in the space of a week. Our saving grace was the work we do for schools.

The mainstay of our business is the design and production of bespoke teaching and learning resources for schools. We work with schools in the area and around the country, so although retail and manufacturing businesses were cancelling orders the schools were asking for Covid-19 related and home learning items to help students to keep learning and manage the restrictions.

What is your favourite artistic style and why?

Because I’m self-employed, time is always an issue for me so I have to fit my painting time in when I can.

I mainly go for what I call “a painting in a day”.

I use two different Alla Prima methods. This way I can get the bones of a painting done in a day then go back to it to either lay some glazes and fine detail down or scrape it off and start again. It’s basically putting paint right on the canvas, no drawing or planning, just getting it on there and seeing what comes out the other end.

I do look at a wide variety of artists’ work for technique, tips and inspiration and we have lots of really talented artists in Teesdale. One of the benefits of living in Barnard Castle is we have The Bowes Museum on our doorstep. The art on display in the galleries is inspirational and being able to see the paintings up close gives me insight as to how they were painted and helps my understanding and learning.

What is your favourite work and why?

I don’t really have one. I used to keep every painting and drawing I did, as though they were the last painting/ drawing I would ever do. But as I’ve got older I’ve realised that every piece of work I do is just a stepping stone to a better piece. I am never happy with the end result, but I do love the journey. I think my favourite piece is the last painting I did, until I look at it properly then I see all that is wrong with it and want to do it again. There are some which I quite like, I know their faults but they generally pass muster, so I’ll keep them until I do something better to replace them.

Do you have a special place where you create your work?

Having a place to paint that is permanently set up is my key to painting productivity. If I can get painting as soon as the mood takes me I am on a roll. If I don’t have somewhere set up it becomes a massive hurdle and even getting my makeshift easel out is a stumbling block that can last for months.

I used to paint in the dining room, which was more of a work room/office/ dumping ground. But now I have my easel set up in our little conservatory where the light is perfect, It’s a great place for painting. I use odourless thinners so the whole house doesn’t stink but I can still smell the wet oil paint, it’s like a lure.

Apart from art, what are your other interests?

Fortunately I love my job, so that’s a bonus as it takes up most of my time. I’m a practical person so do a lot of DIY which I enjoy, but my other main passion is for motorcycles. I have had a motorbike or two since I was 16. I love the mechanics of them and getting out on the open road, which is another reason why the dale is such a great place, the roads are great for bikes. I have a project bike at the moment and have my eye on another. We like to go camping (or we did until the coronavirus restrictions closed campsites) so we are looking forward to spring when we can hopefully throw the tent in the car and drive off for a weekend.

After the lockdown ends I am thinking of offering a painting for beginners course – just a casual “painting in a day” session for people to enjoy and take a painting home at the end of the day.

Do you have a favourite piece of art from another artist?

Although I studied art, I never really had a favourite piece or artist. I think there is a big gap between appreciating art and being able to paint or draw. I like to see other people actually painting or drawing. But I do particularly like the skyscapes of Josephine Bowes. I enjoy painting a good sky and I think Josephine has done some crackers.

How are you keeping yourself busy while the country is under lockdown?

After the initial panic of the first lockdown and lots of DIY catch-up jobs, we have seen confidence picking up from our commercial customers. Our order book is full and the school work is a good steady flow. Things have definitely changed for us since the lockdown.

We had time to reflect on how we were doing business, as a result we have pushed our online sales of fine art prints which are ticking along nicely.