Meet the artist inspired by our beautiful coast

Artist Chris Heald
Artist Chris Heald

From London city life, tube travel, eyes fixed on emails on his  journey to and from work and lulled to sleep by the roar of jet engines to coastal walks, sitting at his easel, eyes on the horizon and kept awake at night by the quiet.

That’s how extreme the change in the life of artist Chris Heald has been in the past two years.

“I did not want to die without being able to say I was a painter, like Renoir and Monet,” he said.

IN PICTURES: How Chris paints our coast here

Chris, who was the visual merchandising manager for women’s clothes chain Monsoon, and his wife Emma, who also worked in the City, sold their home on the flight path to Heathrow in Richmond and bought a house in Thorngumbald, near Hedon, in East Yorkshire.

Emma,who has family in Burton Pidsea, near Hull, now teaches Yoga and Chris is a painter.

FIVE minutes with sea swim artist Lesley Warner here

“It was mighty scary at first. There was no nice pay day each month, we were in a new place and did not know many people. It was starting from scratch. I did not know where to paint or what to paint,” said Chris.

Then someone mentioned Flamborough, he went there, loved it and then Bempton was a short walk away.

“This is why I paint,” he said.

From Spurn Point to Bempton, Filey and beyond, his exhibition at Burton Constable Hall takes you on a tour of the East Yorkshire coast.

“The East Yorkshire coast has been such an inspiration for my work, the landscape is so varied, and gives me lots to contend with. Above all, I’m interested in colour, and how the light and atmosphere create and change those colours, and give a landscape its life.

“I don’t just paint the scene in front of me, I paint the effect that the weather, light and atmosphere has on that scene. The two most prominent places that feature in this show are Flamborough and Bempton. I love painting the sea, but also the landscape there has many different textures and surfaces.

“The cliffs show all the colours that are reflected from neighbouring elements, what a challenge for a painter.”

He did not study a style or attempt to copy anyone else. “It has just evolved and it will probably evolve a bt more,” he said.

Chris did a degree in art at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education and graduated in 1997. But it was not until 2010 that he started to paint more consistently.

Not that he lost sight of his passion or ambition. “When I worked in an office every single day I would take an art book to work. That was my way of taking a bit of the real me somewhere I did not feel like me. I never got chance to look at it, but it would just be there.”

His role in marketing has helped him approach galleries and other places that might show his work. Taking the direct approach has seen him appointed artist in residence for Spurn Point this year and secure a three-week residency at Burton Agnes, near Bridlington.

“I showed people at Spurn my work and they are setting me up with somewhere to stay. They will drive me to the the lighthouse at sunrise and sunset because I have in mind a series of paintings of the same view of it and the way it changes during the day,” he said.

“Everyone I’ve met has shown me such support, whether it’s been on a windswept coastal path, or a warm summer evening at Spurn Point.

“I’m always discovering great new places, Halsham Waterside (near Withernsea) is a favourite for a wonderful coffee and cake after a painting trip. I feel proud to be in this community and creating pictures that hopefully can be enjoyed.”

Christopher has exhibited in the UK and France, and has paintings in private collections in Europe, Canada and Hong Kong.

The East Yorkshire Coast, paintings by Christopher Heald, is on display at the Carriage House, Burton Constable Hall, from now until Sunday April 7.