A CHILDHOOD love of steam engines has inspired artist Steven Fox’s railway art. His mixed-media work includes portraits of volunteers who work to keep the heritage railway lines open and intricate portrayals of steam engines and trains.
“Railways were part of my childhood,” explains Steven, from Esh Winning, near Durham City. “My dad was also interested in steam engines and he took me to Newcastle station to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Newcastle to Hexham line with the engine The Evening Star in March 1985.
“I was 14. I’m inspired by the work of Guild of Railway artist and wildlife painters David Shepherd and Terence Cunue. One of my favourite artists has always been John Constable for his landscapes and trees.”
From today, Steven, who studied arboriculture at Houghall College in Durham, will be displaying his original Heritage Railway art titled Hot Coals & Ash for the first time in his hometown.
The exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, will be in the Durham Room at Durham County Hall and opened by the chairman of Durham County Council Dennis Morgan.
Among the special guests at the preview evening will be Richie McCardle, from Consett, who is an engine driver on both the Weardale Railway and the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. He is one of the subjects in Steven’s work.
The 41-year-old lives close to Ragpath Wood, in Durham, a Woodland Trust site of ancient woods left over from the last ice age mixed with relics of the mining industry. He is inspired by its natural history landscape – the walkway there follows the old branch line from Waterhouses to Durham City Railway Station. This was a major transport link for the mining communities living and working in Deerness Valley and an oil painting of this walkway is shown in the exhibition.
Displaying his work in the city where he grew up means a lot to Steven and he is hoping art lovers will come along to see the display and celebrate the North East’s rich railway heritage.
He says: “I would like to promote people’s awareness of heritage railways and how valuable they are for providing jobs and supporting local industry and tourism. There are people who devote a lot of their spare time to volunteer and keep the heritage railways alive.”
Steven’s favourite painting in the exhibition is that of The Repton.
“The shot was taken with the engine The Repton just outside of the engine sheds at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It was getting towards the end of the day and in that moment I got a great shot – it was the dark contrast of the engine and the figure of Clive Goult, the motive power department manager, who was standing surveying the engine against the sky.”
Meet the Artist Days will be held this Friday, 10am-3pm; Saturday, 10am-1pm; and Tuesday, September 20 and Thursday, September 22, both 10am-3pm, so people can meet Steven and buy prints.
Steven is hoping to join the Guild of Railway Artists after showing his portfolio to the president of the organisation, Roy Wilson.
He has been supported in his artwork by the North York Moors Railway, the National Railway Museum in York & Shildon, Tanfield Railway, the G5 Project and the Keighley & Worth Railway, who have allowed him access to the sites for research.
Hot Coals & Ash runs from tomorrow to Friday, September 23 at Durham Room, Durham County Hall, with daily viewing (except Sundays) from 9am to 7pm (1pm Saturdays).