Profile: Dick Sneddon's passion to paint

Below is a longer version of the article which appears in Issue 186.

Dick Sneddon was born in 1941 in the Ayrshire town of Kilbirnie. At age 15 his teacher encouraged him to go to art college, but he didn't have the necessary qualifications in English and Maths so became an apprentice painter and decorator instead. Fairly soon he was working as a musician, playing pop, rock, jazz and blues, and touring as a drummer with soul band The Memphis Roadshow. A stint in top Scottish heavy metal band Bodkin followed.

Time and tide eventually caught up with him, and when he retired in 2001, he was faced with a stark choice: 'Become an alcoholic or make a contribution to culture'. He chose the latter.

He recalls the moment vividly. He was leaving B&Q on Warriston Rd when a discarded advertising board in a skip caught his eye. It was a luminous, DayGlo pink and he was drawn to it like a jackdaw to diamonds. 'I had to do something with it. I had to make use somehow of that colour.'

The result was his first excursion into painting. With very little prior artistic training, and no knowledge of the subject, it was hard going at first, but to his own surprise he found himself absolutely passionate about the creative process and the refining of his technique. 'It suited me to be ignorant about it. I wanted to be completely original. All this has come from inside me. It's not copied from anywhere. It's just sheer imagination.'

By 'All this' Sneddon means his Dunedin Street flat, in which canvases lie stacked on wardrobes, chairs, radiators and in corners. It's not chaotic, just the domestic expression of a creative compulsion. Sneddon's subjects are very varied, international, timeless, but his style is always engagingly colourful, energetic, rhythmic, and interested in people. His figures display all manner of emotions, or are sometimes mysteriously expressionless, but there is a sense of point to them, some social or political comment or inversion which the viewer is beguiled into deciphering and rethinking.

Sneddon works from a 10ft x 12ft studio at home (his kitchen), with each painting emerging in a controlled explosion lasting 4 to 6 weeks. He dismisses any talk of planning or structure in the process, but admits that much of his 'painting' involves 'a lot of sitting around staring at it and thinking'. A recent brush with cancer has added even more urgency to his endeavours, and a corresponding intensity of concentration. 'I don't know where the days go,' he laughs. 'Time's just flashing along.'

Not interested in business, unable to focus on it, Sneddon relies in particular on the drive and commercial acumen of his sister, Margaret. Acting as his secretary and agent, she has posted paintings on the internet, arranged for some of his work to be exhibited and sold at the Nottingham Workshop this year and at the Glasgow Art Fair in 2011. She is also travelling to Greenwich in Connecticut specifically to market his portfolio there. Sneddon is realistic about the difficulty of breaking into the Art world as an outsider, but optimistic. 'You've got to start somewhere, and with Margaret on my side they don't stand a chance.'

The two images featured here are details from Tiger Hunt and Four Pots. For more of Sneddon's work online, go to www.artdunedin.comAM