At 16 years old I became an apprentice industrial chemist at Bakelite Plastics where part of the training was to spend six months in different sections eg. Engineering, Inspection. This all added to my knowledge of people and work ethics. When my apprenticeship finished I ended up in a department where we worked a three shift system.
But during those years I continued to improve on my painting skills. I did a lot of copies of Constable paintings in oils for workmates, for a few pounds. I also sketched some of my workmates on nightshift during breaks. All of this increasing my technique and speed at painting.
Later it was decided to move our department down to Birmingham and I was offered a job there. I went down for a couple of weeks but decided to stay where I was and applied for another job. What I forgot to tell you is that while working in the inspection department as a colour matcher somebody found a book in a drawer that was designed to see if anyone was colour blind. Unfortunately I was found to be red and green colour blind so that I could not make out the numbers on those swirly diagrams.
Cue me and the rest of our crew looking for another job. A local factory was taking on new staff and we all applied. The who were interviewed before me came back and said they were testing everyone with this colour blindness book. Panicking I found our book and checked all the numbers on each page and confirmed with others what I was supposed to see there. Armed with this knowledge I went for the interview. As the lady asked what numbers I saw on each page I confidently rhymed them all off. I should have suspected there was something wrong when she tried turning the book sideways and upside down to see if she could see the numbers I was telling her. Now she may have thought that I was super intelligent and could see better than anyone else, or I was just barmy. No job for me.
I found out later there were two different sets of pages.
When I did get another job I decided to try selling more paintings in my spare time. This led me to silk screen printing where ink was squeezed on to paper through silk with a stencil blocking out the negative parts of a black and white drawing that I had done. I then hand coloured some of these prints and sold them to anyone who was interested. That was over 45 years ago and I still see those prints hanging on people’s walls.
The last of my doing a :proper job” came when I was made redundant again. I was on the dole for about six months then a similar chemist job came up at another factory. I applied but was beaten by someone else. So I decided I would paint for a living. I had been doing this for a couple of weeks when the firm I had applied to rang me and offered me the original job as it hadn’t worked out with the other person.
I discussed it with my wife as we had a young family but she said I should go for making a living as an artist. She went back to work (Somebody had to make some money) and I looked after the kids while painting during school hours. That was 1980 and I’ve never had a proper job, or worked nightshift, since then.