The Story of how I fell in love with Keys, and why it has influenced my Art

My fascination with keys began as a child of about 5 years old, when my family and I lived in an old Victorian house. I was bought a pair of school shoes which came with a toy key, the brand was Clarks Magic Steps, and was marketed with an advert that had a little girl wearing the shoes and being transformed into a magical world. You can find the original advert on YouTube. The key absolutely fascinated me and I fell in love with it. It turned a lock inside the shoe which revealed magical picture on the sole. I felt like this key was so magical, and I have memories of playing with it and carrying it around with me.

Around that time within a couple of years or so, I visited the Moyses Hall Museum in my home town of Bury St Edmunds. In there I saw glass cabinets filled with old rusty keys large and small, most of which were probably excavated from the ruins of the famous Abbey. These keys captured my imagination, and left me wondering what these keys might unlock, were they rooms? Or were they chests containing treasures or secrets? Ever since then keys have been an intriguing symbol of mystery to me, which could unlock exciting possibilities, both in the physical sense and the metaphorical.

Over the years I have produced drawings and doodles of keys and locks, only a few of my older examples have survived to now.

Just before the lockdown of 2020, I felt the urge to draw some keys again. The lockdown then set in and I realised as I sat sketching out the keys that it was rather profound that I should be drawing keys in a LOCK-down, and the challenging situation that was now upon us all inspired me to think about the effect that having a forced change in lifestyle and having to stop and/or slow down might have, and how it might then get people thinking about their lives, now that they had more time to do things at home having been furloughed. I observed that people were now filling their time doing things that they had thought they never had time for before, like trying new hobbies and exploring their surroundings and nature that was on their doorstep during their allowed daily walks, and the effect it had when people could enjoy a more relaxed pace of life, despite having to stay home, now that they had no daily grind and pressure to go out to work temporarily. I thought it interesting that a scenario such as this would cause people to think now about how different life could be now that they had time to stop and think, and that some had perhaps been enlightened by this whole experience and now wanted to create new habits and change their lives for the better. Out of a negative situation could come a positive change of direction that could lead to a more contented and happy life. I came up with a series of 21 Key drawings, all named after a possible experience, realisation, feeling, thought, event or situation that may have come about that may not have done had it not been for the lock down. I intended for this series of drawings to mark or serve as a reminder that something positive can come from a negative situation, a set of metaphorical keys to unlock mindsets and open them up to a new and more positive way of thinking and feeling.

Please see my series of drawings entitled ‘Keys to life (from the mind of an Artist in lockdown)

I also like to draw keys for the love of it too. My drawings of randomly placed keys (known as a flatlay) are my own representation of a frame of keys that hung on a wall of the pub in the village I grew up in and love so much, the Plough Inn Rede, a 16th Century Inn. I absolutely loved this frame of random keys and would often look at it, wondering what these keys once opened. I loved the pub too and spent many happy times in there with the other locals. These drawings are representative of a lot of particularly fond memories, feelings and nostalgia, now attached to my fascination of keys and all things old.

The Story of the man who kept a Skull by his bed, and why it has influenced my Art

When I was little, my Dad often used to tell me about a man he did some work for, an Antique Dealer called Mr Cox who lived in our town. When working in Mr Cox’s house, my Dad noticed he kept a skull by his bed, apparently the skull of a French revolutionary, from a box of antiques he had acquired from France. When my Dad saw this Skull by his bed, a little wierded out by it he asked Mr Cox ‘why do you keep that old thing by your bed?’ Mr Cox explained that he kept it there to remind himself of what he was each morning when he woke, a mere mortal, a human being, and to keep him humble and grounded when so many held him in high regard and put him on a pedestal. He didn’t want to end up becoming big headed and rude, or think he was superior to others.

That story (which is true) blew my little mind. It has since inspired much of my work. As I kept this in the back of my mind and thought about it subconsciously growing up, it made total sense to me, and it is a value that I share. It is a message I wish to share in my Skull pieces, along with the reminder that we are all human, with no idea how much time we have on earth, so it is important to choose to live the life we want to live, and to love the life we have, as life really is short and not to be taken for granted as it could be over at any time. All we ever have is now, so we should make the most of it and try to be happy.

Skulls are a subject I come back to again and again, because they fascinate me. Like most of my work it is inspired by true stories and experiences I have had, that stem right back to my childhood. I have such fond and nostalgic memories of being little and living in my own little magical bubble in an old Victorian semi. It had creaky floorboards, original fireplaces and even the original gas lamps. To me, skulls do not just represent death and mortality, but they also hold mystery as to who a person may have been and what their story was, something that you can allow your imagination to ponder. But skulls also remind us that although we are all different, we are all very much the same (a wonderful contradiction!). We are made the same and therefore all equal.