Author: Graeme Shaw

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Friday, June 23rd, 2006 at 12:14 pm
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Painting With Light

When somebody mentions stained glass what do you immediately think of? A Church? A Cathedral? Or how about sculptures? Ask Richard Green from Blackness and he knows exactly what to think of. He is passionate about stained glass and has recently staged the first highly successful exhibition of his work in Linlithgow.
Richard Green was born in Edinburgh. While he was at school he worked for a local hardware shop helping to deliver paraffin to customers in the winter months. Every week he went to an elderly lady in London Street, who gave him rich tea biscuits wrapped in tissue. Later he discovered that she was the famous Scottish painter, Anne Redpath. “She talked to me about her paintings and this, all the more, determined me to become an artist.”
Richard went on to study drawing and painting at the Edinburgh College of Art and after graduating and completing teacher training, he spent his professional life of twenty-nine years as an art and design teacher in the Edinburgh Royal High School.
After leaving his teaching career he wanted to learn the art and craft of making and painting stained glass.
“Stained glass has always been a passion – It’s often called ‘painting with light’.”
This passion started in his student years where he annually visited great medieval churches throughout Spain, Italy and France; his passion grew from then on. It wasn’t until he had left teaching, that the opportunity came along to take up a place at the School of Continuous Learning at the Glasgow School of Art, where he enrolled for two daytime classes. In October this year he started his third year. Richard’s tutor at the Glasgow School of Art is Eilidh Keith, a woman whom he truly admires and now thinks of as a very good friend.
Richard at work In his home not only does he have a painting studio but also now a glass studio where he can continue his work when he is not in Glasgow. He says that he loves going to the classes; not just because he can continue studying something he loves but because he becomes a student again. “I go to places like the chip shop after classes,” he says.
Richard’s principal influences in the style of his current work come from his vast collection of books and postcards from the Middle Ages. His books are not just on stained glass; Egyptology, medieval art, gardening, or basically anything creative such as dance also features.
“For me, there’s no real being without art and artists,” he says. However, despite these early, traditional influences, Richard believes that he is now on the verge of subject matter a little bit more contemporary and his next project comes from ideas which show the many aspects of living and working in West Lothian.
He adores all Scottish painters, nineteenth century Scottish colourists and of course Anne Redpath, his first inspiration. Picasso however has been one of Green’s heros since he was a child. He used to spend his pocket money on postcards of Picasso’s work from his Blue and Pink periods. He made poster colour copies and gave them to his mother’s friends. He also deeply admires the work of the Russian artist Marc Chagall.
“Interestingly enough, all of his subject matter reflects his Jewishness, the importance of his upbringing in Russia and its folklore and his later years working and living in France.”
A lot of Richard’s own work has a religious theme to it. ‘Painting with light’ is a very appropriate way of describing stained glass work as a piece is created – after the arrangement of cut pieces – on the window, or ‘window easel’. He says that this is where things really start to come to life as each piece of glass has light pouring through it. “This never fails to thrill me because not only does the light bring the piece to life but as the light changes, the effect on the colours and surface textures also changes. And because I work on both sides of each piece, I think this creates further interest.”
Akhenaton Richard works from sketches he makes and after some enlargement he does a tracing (or a ‘cartoon’ to be precise) outlining the shape of each piece of glass. Later, after every piece has been cut, decorated and fired, it comes onto a flat, this is called ‘leading up’. After this, it is sealed using putty and a darkening agent and to highlight the individual pieces the lead holding each piece of glass in place is blackened. The glass used in Green’s work varies between hand made glass known as ‘antique’ and replica grass.
Richard’s art shows an extensive passion for working with glass. He is also very interested in incorporating style into the leading up of each piece which ends up as an integral part of the whole piece. Richard’s first exhibition at the Line Gallery in Linlithgow was a big success and his favourite piece, “Sundisc – the elements” has had very positive remarks. Since the exhibition Green has been receiving telephone calls from people requesting commissions of his work.
The lad who once delivered paraffin to Anne Redpath has found his genre – Redpath would be proud of him.

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