Doug Binder

Painter and Curator at Dean Clough Galleries in Halifax, Doug Binder, studied at Bradford School
of Art in the late 50s and later returned to teach life drawing and painting to print makers.

Doug BinderDoug remembers being influenced by David Hockney from the age of eleven. Whilst at school on a games afternoon he came across Hockney sketching the building (Swain House School), he was so inspired by what he saw that at the first opportunity he took the trolley bus into Bradford to buy his first sketch book. He tried to replicate what he had witnessed but soon discovered that drawing buildings was not that easy!

At 16, Doug went to Bradford Art School in the late 1950’s. The concept of painting was one that Doug hadn’t come across before. He didn’t even know that “painting existed” he had only considered using art in a commercial manner. Enrolling on the Commercial Design Course at Bradford Art School, Doug soon discovered work by painting students (including David Hockney) and was excited by what he saw.

Doug asked to be transferred on to the painting course but his request was refused as the Principal felt that Doug wasn’t academic enough and didn’t want to upset the balance of course numbers. Doug was furious but determined not to be stopped from painting, he and four other students rented a premises on Thornton Road above a Burlers and Menders, and in their own time they experimented with the media of painting until they had a portfolio to apply for the RCA.

Despite his frustrations, Doug enjoyed doing the Commercial Design Course and fondly remembers the theory lectures on the work of Cézanne and Sickert, the latter to have a lasting influence on his painting style. At the RCA Doug was immersed in painting, but ironically in the summer having a need to earn money worked as a commercial artist once again. He had huge success working as a graphic artist and was heavily involved in the swinging sixties art scene.

“In those days you could just ring up Paul McCartney, you didn’t need to go through an agent to get an interview.” Renowned for pop-psychedelic décor he even painted Paul McCartney’s piano! However Doug didn’t really enjoy the “swinging sixties” and he found himself drawn back to his real love – painting in oils. He found part time teaching work at Norwich, Portsmouth, St Martins and at Bradford. He met Ernest Hall at Dean Clough and advised him to open an art gallery at the mill. Doug accepted the role of curator and has a studio at Dean Clough.

He works on 15 to 20 canvases at a time, constantly changing, reflecting and correcting. He is a tonal painter: the work of Sickert is still a huge influence, particularly the use of light and illumination. Doug is passionate about life drawing, concerned that some art schools have turned their back on the practice; he believes it to be fundamental to every art student’s training. He remembers being in a life drawing class when the legendary Jacob Kramer visited, who on seeing Doug’s drawing of the model remarked that he had got the colour wrong, but didn’t tell him how to get it right!

Doug Binder’s rich and sophisticated work has a solid following and is internationally collected. Doug’s book Full Circle: The Paintings of Doug Binder is due to be published this summer.

Photograph by Clare Lamkin