Charlie Shiels-A Private View is a ten-minute thumbnail DV portrait of the North West based painter Charlie Shiels as he travels down to London for his first one-man exhibition in the capital.

 

Charlie at work in his Stockport Studio in 2001

In 1947 Charlie Shiels was born to working class parents in Stockport, Cheshire.   Despite there being no history of art education in his family he nevertheless spent a happy childhood painting and drawing whenever he could.

Upon leaving school aged fifteen, Charlie began a five-year apprenticeship in the Photo-Repro area of the printing industry. Once apprenticed, he spent a further nine years in the print trade working for a variety of companies, corporate promotions quickly ensued. 

In his spare time he continued to paint, undertook life-drawing classes for five years and arranged several exhibitions with other North west artists.

In 1976, at the age of 29, his desire to become a full-time painter overcame the consideration of what had by now become a lucrative position in the print industry, and he enrolled as a mature fine art student at North Staffordshire Polytechnic.

After graduating he became a freelance artist working on private commissions and commercial illustrations for assorted publishers.   The rewards were erratic to say the least, as Charlie so dryly put it, "I was earning about the same hourly rate as a Bolivian tin miner."

                      Charlie Shiels Self Portrait and the Man Himself 2000

Academia offered some solace and in 1985 he was employed as a part-time lecturer in Art & Design at Stockport College of Further Education.   He was offered a full-time position three years later and in 1993 was promoted to Senior Lecturer, managing a large multi-design pre-degree course serving two hundred students. This is where I first met him and was introduced to his remarkable paintings.

However the ever-increasing bureaucracy of arts administration was leading Charlie further and further from his original calling to be an artist.   Consequently in 1996 he left his teaching post to become a full-time painter.

It wasn't a complete 'leap in the dark' however, as over the proceeding two decades his reputation and output of work had grown and he'd found an appreciative audience amongst a small group of collectors, aficionados and patrons. 

 

 

During this period he produced over sixty-detailed oil and pastel pictures and they formed the basis of his first one-man exhibition at the Space 8 Studio in Chelsea, in spring 1999.

His career had reached a pivotal stage.   Would his work 'break out' from the small but enthusiastic coterie of collectors to a larger metropolitan audience?

It was an opportunity not to be missed. At short notice, with myself as DV cameraman and Katy Carroll as boom operator, we set off to record Charlie's journey to his opening. 

Freelance picture editor Peter Hallworth cut the footage together, a commentary by Charlie was added and it produced a fascinating ten minutes showing Charlie's day at the exhibition.  

It stands on its own right or can be viewed as a sequence within a longer look at Charlie and his art.

Post Script

I kept in touch with Charlie after we made the film often calling into see him - and occasionally do some filming at his studio in Vernon Mill, Stockport. A huge space which was part studio, part gallery and green room. The kettle was always on the boil for a coffee, a roll-up and a friendly chat. He eventually gave up the studio and we lost contact in more recent years apart from the odd email.

I was shocked and saddened to hear from his agent & great friend Lawrence Cleary (pictured below) that Charlie had died in July 2012 after a short illness.