A talk by Kevin Tole – painter

The Signpost 7 exhibition at the Cube Gallery in Portland Square, Plymouth University, has a variety of artists exhibiting and every Tuesday afternoon, one or two of them talk through their submissions.

This afternoon, Kevin Tole spoke about his time on offshore oil rigs and the images he took which then inspired his paintings.  Kevin is a self-taught painter who did two years of HND studio ceramics at some point in his career.  He started painting after he had been made redundant and said that he was comfortably off enough to not to have to sell his paintings.  He also said that if he were to advise people who wanted to become artists, he would tell them to get a ob and virtually get into it as he had done.  This did not sit well with the other artists in the audience who do make there living out of their paintings.

The photos that Kevin showed us were fabulous – much better, in my opinion than his paintings – except one which had super haptic qualities.  He took as his subject the deck of the oil rig with its lines, corrosion, water reflections and equipment.  He stressed the need to look around you and see the exciting in the mundane.

Three of his digital images which I liked because of their composition, colours and textures were:








Kevin dismissed these images in preference for his paintings:






Kevin spoke about the point at which your painting talks to you as a point at which he is pleased with the work.  I asked him if there was something he was trying to say through his paintings & he said that that was a difficult question.  I suppose I am not a painter so I don’t really know enough about the medium.


The next artist to present her work was professional portraitist Jo Beer from Cornwall.  She has twice been featured on Sky Art’s Portrait Artist of the Year (2013 & 2016) TV series.

Her portraits were unusual but she said she is hesitant to do commissions because people want to be seen in certain clothes, in certain poses.  She takes photos of the sitter and then develops her portraits from those.

I did not feel that I was altogether pulled in by the portraits on display but the others there really liked them. Jo works in oils rather than acrylics because she prefers the smooth finish that oils give.


I am glad I went because Kevin’s photos spoke to me of seeing the extraordinary in what are some people’s ordinary surroundings.  He also spoke about a friend of his taking photos of manhole covers and exhibiting them on a massive scale.  I too have taken dozens of images of manhole covers & the only thing I have done with one of them is to print it on a T shirt & I was very pleased with the result.


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