I was born in New Lanark, Scotland, of a Scottish father and Irish mother (Bessie Collins from Leap, West Cork).
My first interest in art started at an early age. My uncle Andrew gave me a box of coloured crayons from Italy on his return from serving in WW2. I discovered colours, lines and shapes I could make myself.
In my bedroom in New Lanark the walls had been hand decorated with an ornamental frieze of wavy lines. The frieze had been poorly executed, it didn’t meet up properly at the starting and finishing point of the pattern. The join was messy. It made me uneasy.
My mother was a seamstress, working by hand, following in the footsteps of her mother, Mary Herlihy. As a child I used to watch her sewing, being fascinated by the minute detail and the virtually invisible lines of stitches.
Having been brought up by the River Clyde, with its heavily wooded surroundings, my first visit to the sea was an unforgettable experience for me. I stepped off the bus in Prestwick and my eyes were met by a seemingly magical and uninterrupted horizon line. I was mesmerised, ‘the line’ took hold in my mind.
On leaving school I ventured to London and joined the airline industry. My office was in the West End, in an area surrounded by art galleries, both national and commercial. I never let a day go by without a visit to one. I was lucky enough to attend a Paul Klee exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, and his “take a line for a walk” philosophy struck a note and inspired me. My adventures with and exploration of the ‘line’ began in earnest.
I found ‘lines’ in many parts of the world in the course of my job, particularly Ryoanji in Japan, Petra in Jordan and the Grand Canyon in USA. All had a significant influence on my work.