Award-winning artist inspired by railway posters
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
TEESDALE’S iconic scenery and buildings are being recreated in the classic railway travel art style of the 1930s and 1940s by a digital artist who recently moved to the area.
Among the celebrated scenes recreated using just a stylus and an iPad by artist Richard O’Neill are Barnard Castle’s Market Cross, The Bowes Museum and the castle itself.
Farther afield he has drawn High Force, Low Force, Raby Castle and Egglestone Abbey, which, along with being made into prints and posters, appear on all manner of merchandise from mugs and postcards to keyrings and cushions.
The artist admits not being impressed with school art classes during his childhood in Bradford but did enjoy drawing and painting privately at home.
After moving to Gilling West as a teenager he became inspired by the North Yorkshire countryside.
He said: “You are inspired by what you see.”
After marrying his wife Judith, Mr O’Neill moved to Northallerton, and despite his interest in art, went on to work in the diverse fields of catering, journalism and latterly IT.
It was after being made redundant in 2011 that he decided on becoming a commercial artist.
The father of 11-year-old twins India and Emily said: “I decided to make the big jump and do something radically different.I thought now is the time.”
Described by his wife as an “early adopter” of technology, Mr O’Neill was one of Apple’s first customers for its ‘new’ iPad and he began experimenting using it for his art.
He said: “I drew traditionally and painted traditionally but I didn’t have a studio so it seemed the obvious thing to do.
“It is easier now [that the technology has advanced] than it used to be.”
The advantages were immediately obvious to him.
Mr O’Neill said: “I don’t need to buy materials and I don’t need a big space.
“I always wanted to be good at watercolour but that takes a particular skill so I used to use acrylic because if I did anything wrong, I could paint over it again. It is the same with the iPad.”
Ideally, the artist would like to stand before his subject and draw it directly onto his iPad, but its screen is not bright enough in the sunshine, so he takes a photograph at the scene which he downloads to his computer at his home in Melsonby.
He then begins to hand draw the image on his iPad using an Apple pencil.
The artist uses the Sketchbook application for his digital paintings.
Mr O’Neill said: “I use flat colour, so I don’t use gradients or brushstrokes or any special effects.”
In a short time, the artist has built up a considerable portfolio which led to him being recognised as Digital Artist of the Year in the 2020 North England Prestige Awards.
He said: “I was very proud of that.
“Someone must have nominated me but I don’t know who.
“What I do is quite isolated in a way because you don’t get a lot of feedback, so it is nice to get recognition.”
In the near future Mr O’Neill hopes to redraw High Force and add Middleton-in-Teesdale to his portfolio.
He said: “Now I am living here I will be doing a lot more of the local area.”
Prints and merchandise featuring Mr O’ Neill’s art is on sale at the Teesdale Mercury shop, in Market Place, Barnard Castle.