After a life at sea, Nigel now wants to do nothing but art
Fresh out of college in Liverpool where he had trained as a radio officer, Nigel spent three years on the support ship for the expedition which was the first circumnavigation of the globe on land, sea and ice along the Greenwich Meridian via North and South poles.It was quite a big thing at the time and was quite exciting, reflects Nigel, who joined the expedition
Fresh out of college in Liverpool where he had trained as a radio officer, Nigel spent three years on the support ship for the expedition which was the first circumnavigation of the globe on land, sea and ice along the Greenwich Meridian via North and South poles.
“It was quite a big thing at the time and was quite exciting,” reflects Nigel, who joined the expedition in 1980, about nine months after it had started.
“We spent the next two and a half years following the sunshine so that the conditions would be right for the three people who were doing the land and ice crossing.”
“It was an amazing way of life and there was an great group of friends on the ship who did become like family,” he says.
Nigel had no previous nautical experience but quickly adapted to life on the ocean.
“I’d never been at sea before apart from going from Dublin to Holyhead on holidays and it was also my first time to really travel abroad,” he recalls.
The expedition took the crew from south to north pole, during which time they experienced a wide range of contrasting weather conditions and topography.
“At one stage we left New Zealand to go to Antarctica to pick up the team who were doing the crossing and there were huge waves for two weeks. The ship was rolling 45 left and right, you couldn’t sleep properly and your muscles ached from trying to stay upright.”
While the expedition had moments of excitement and danger, there were also long periods of boredom, when the support team on board the ship remained anchored in the middle of nowhere.
It was during these quiet times that Nigel began sketching, and the vast seas and ice-covered landscapes have left a legacy in that his paintings still convey a sense of space.
When the expedition finished, Nigel went on to work for a shipping company as a radio officer.
However, he realised that was not how he had planned his life and went to work with Irish Shipping, travelling around the Irish coast.
“It was great for me as it meant that whenever the ship pulled into Dublin I could visit my family in Dundalk.”
He later went to work in Germany and it was while living there that he began to explore his artistic talents.
“As a kid I’d always loved drawing cartoons but never really took it seriously,” he says.
He bought some water colour paints and when he had completed a number of paintings, sent photographs of them to his sister, the well known local artist Sandra Bell who was having an art exhibition during the Maytime Festival
“I didn’t want her to know they were mine as I wanted her honest opinion, so I told her they were by a friend. She said she loved the work and was totally surprised when I admitted they were mine.”
Nigel’s paintings were exhibited alongside Sandra’s work and sold very well.
Boosted by this, Nigel began working in oils and exhibited his work in a number of galleries in Germany and Paris.
He then moved to London where set up his own design company which proved very successful.
However, after a couple of years, he felt that he was missing something and decided to get back into painting.
He showed the first three paintings he had completed to the owner of a local gallery near where he lives in South London and was delighted when he offered him a one man show.
He has since exhibited his work at various galleries in London and at art fairs in England, Ireland and the United States.
“I am now at the point where I would love to do nothing but art. I feel so passionate about painting. More than anything else it makes life worth living.”