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Surrey Artist - Alan Brain

PUBLISHED: 14:48 23 May 2007 | UPDATED: 14:33 20 February 2013

Many of Peter's paintings are inspired by his time as a BA pilot

Many of Peter's paintings are inspired by his time as a BA pilot

As career changes go, jacking in your job as a BA pilot to become a struggling artist must be one of the more extreme. But it certainly paid off for Alan Brain, who just a few years later, is now a highly respected painter

As career changes go, jacking in your job as a BA pilot to become a struggling artist must be one of the more extreme. But it certainly paid off for Alan Brain, who just a few years later, is now a highly respected painter

by Tinx Newton

How many painters can claim to have enjoyed the same perspective on the world as artist Alan Brain? A former pilot for British Airways, he feels fortunate that he experienced such incredible views from the cockpit, and those images are still with him.

"I still draw inspiration from my flying days," says the 62-year-old. "I can still remember that amazing sense of quiet and calm as I gazed out of the plane. I have always loved space, and thousands of feet up, that is what I could feel; a real sense of space."

Pilots licence

Prior to his creative lifestyle, Alan was a general manager for British Airways where he gained a flying license and became passionate about all things aviation, including teaching others to fly. But in 1994, he developed a heart murmur and had to give up his job with BA. At first, he was unsure what to do for a living, but having already developed an interest in painting through adult education classes, he decided to pursue a creative path.

"I really didn't know if I had a talent for painting or not, but I am a determined type and if I am interested in something I give it my all," says Alan, who works from the studio at his home in Chobham. "Watercolour is a notoriously difficult medium, but I was determined to crack it. Through experimentation, I developed an unusual approach to painting, and my style is quite different to the traditional school of watercolours.

"I discovered that my best paintings reflected my own feelings; technique and method became subordinate to my intent to really express myself. Colour became a fascination - how one colour can enhance another, the richness of pure colour. Now colour is central to my painting."

His passion for bold hues is clear to see. Vivid red skies, intensely yellow hills and inky blue seas all come together in vibrant pictures that reflect his love of travel. His latest artistic inspiration comes from New Mexico where he frequently travels to meet up with a group of like-minded painters who inspire each other's creativity. In these foreign climes, Alan either paints on the spot or takes photos that he uses solely to remind him of the shape of a composition.

"I don't want to just recreate the scene as a photographic image," he continues. "To me, the important thing is to convey the feeling and atmosphere of the time and place."

Art comes from personal experience

Not surprisingly, Alan often calls on personal experience, and through doing so manages to capture the vast and mysterious elements of the skies. Such harmony with nature cannot be taught; it comes from deep within and is an intrinsic part of the spiritual side of this artist.
Now sharing his knowledge with others as an art tutor himself, it is this that he tries to convey to his students. Rather than just teach them technical skills, he helps them release their passion and desire to paint.

"People so often have a block about painting," Alan explains. "They say they don't know how to start or their partner doesn't like their work or they don't have enough room to paint in their homes. All these things can be overcome - it is simply a matter of letting go and realising why you want to be creative. In art, you can take risks - that is part of the beauty of it all. I could never take risks as a pilot but now, in my art, I can be as bold as I want to be."

Alan also enjoys the interaction with other people, and feels that networking brings many benefits. "Painting can be a lonely business, and teaching brings me into contact with others," he says. "I admit I enjoy solitude, but I hate loneliness - there is a difference. I really enjoy one-to-one teaching and email has opened up a world of contacts - I now have an interesting collection of friends who work from home and we all 'gee' each other along by email."

  • For more information about Alan Brain's artwork, visit his website at

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