Quiet, contemplative, nostalgic with a wry humour and quintessentially British – that’s just the paintings. The same can be said of their creator Andrew Storrie.
There are telephone boxes and post boxes in his pictures, there are ceramic ones in his home and the real thing in his garden.
Taking his influence from the Yorkshire Wolds he creates a rural idyll – farmers, walkers, sheep, sheep dogs, phone boxes and mail boxes in many of his paintings. He lives with his wife Alison and son James, who works at the East Riding Theatre, Beverley, in the village of Boynton. It is in the middle of nowhere-countryside laced with narrow lanes and high grassy banks hiding field after field between Bridlington and Driffield.
His other main inspiration is Bradford City – he is a lifelong Bradford City fan and is a season ticket holder. Andrew, James and Andrew’s father go to the matches together. He has a series of paintings called City Gents –paintings which reflect the atmosphere of match days in and around the Valley Parade ground. They were devised in the City boardroom and proceeds from sales went to Bradford hospital burns unit.
His Bradford City paintings often feature phone boxes. Look carefully at his rural pictures and you will often see a walker wearing a scarf in the burgundy and orange City colours.
A scarf will poke out of a coat collar – just a flash – put in like the dry humour which peppers his conversation – interrupt and you’ll miss it. Like ...
“I took up painting after I got married to give me something to do on my honeymoon,” he said. Alison smiles indulgently. She has, like the fact he calls her ‘the management because she always makes the final decision’ heard it all before in the 35 years they have been together.
In fact, he took up painting because his mum Marion painted. Now 87 she still paints and his dad, Alex, does the framing. “She gave me a crash course in painting and got me through my O Level,” said Andrew.
Born in Middlesbrough, the family moved to Bradford when he was young and he was brought up in and around the city. He studied art at Bradford College and afterwards went to work for the General Post Office and later BT. He was with them for 20 years – but, although, you would be forgiven for thinking this is where his love of telephone memorabilia comes from you would be wrong.
“The irony is I showed no interest in them til I left. A further irony is I spent some of that time replacing the old phones and phone boxes I now collect with modern equipment.”
Some of the phones and accessories are on show in the house – there are a 100 more in the attic. “Andrew,” said Alison, “Likes stuff.” This includes World War Two memorabilia. Andrew, dressing in a vintage postman’s uniform, goes each year to Pickering Wartime Weekend.
Items have been bought from eBay and from car boot sales. The phone box in the garden, a 50th birthday present, is called Doreen.
Doreen and her ‘siblings’ appear in his paintings, not all of them, but many. “I am preserving an iconic piece of British life,” said Andrew. “They remind me of my childhood and are part of the community.”
The couple have lived in Boynton for 15 years. Everywhere you look in the house and garden there is something to see. The GPO memorabilia shares the garden with the couple’s French lop rabbits, Maigret, Clouseau and rescue rabbit Bilbo Baggins. That explains the tub of Shreddies on the coffee table near the patio doors in the sitting room which lead outside. The rabbits devour them.
Andrew combined work with painting until June last year. He gave up his latest job at the JobCentre in Bridlington to make a go of being a painting teacher in June last year. He has taught before at East Riding College and earned his teaching qualifications. This time he is working for himself.
“I wanted Andrew to give it a chance,” said Alison, who works part-time as an administrator at Bridlington Hospital. “You cannot go through life thinking ‘what if?’”
Being a full-time artist has opened up new opportunities. He has had a piece of work – The Final Whistle – a painting of a day at his beloved Bradford City – selected for the exhibition at the newly-re-opened Ferens in Hull. The exhibition is part of Hull City of Culture 2017.
“I was really chuffed,” said Andrew who is also a member of the British Watercolour Society.
He is a watercolour specialist – it is the hardest medium, he said, because you cannot paint over your mistakes. A painting, depending on the subject matter, takes a week and he works on three or four together. He uses four colours maximum for his winter scenes and five for other seasons.
“I sketch and take photographs but work mostly from ideas that come into my head,” said Andrew who has a studio in the upstairs of the Boynton home. It is, too, stuffed with stuff – including a teddy bear called Panda, wearing a knitted jumper in City colours – he has had since he was five.
His dry humour is evident in the titles of his pictures. Soggy chips is a picture of two people sitting on a bench on Bridlington seafront in the rain eating fish and chips and Watching Ewe is a picture of a shepherd keeping an eye on his flock.
Andrew’s work can be seen at the Old Town Gallery in Bridlington until the end of January.
His classes are at: Flamborough Village Hall on Mondays from 9.30am, to 11am. Boynton Village Hall on Wednesdays from 1pm to 3pm.
Beverley Conservative Club on Thursdays from 1pm to 3pm.
Lund Village Hall on Fridays from 9am to 11am and from 11am to 1pm.