A Brush With the Dales


A PASSION for the wonders of Yorkshire’s scenery, combined with a new career as a train driver, has set a former engineer on track as an acclaimed artist.

Silsden’s Martin Williamson, 48, re-kindled a passion for art after putting his life back on the rails when he swapped engineering for train driving.

Martin returned to university in the late 1980s after finding his engineering career in Crosshills was coming to a halt and then spent over a decade in the hectic world of public relations, animation, graphics, and marketing.

But it was after a second career change that he took up train driving across Yorkshire and beyond - and found the exhilaration unexpectedly re-ignited his passion for art.

Martin’s striking expressionist paintings of Yorkshire and further afield have since attracted a strong online interest, as well as sales across the UK, in the United States and in Europe.

And he reckons he is in the best possible position at the front of the train to get inspiration for his next work of art.

He says:

“I started out life as an engineer and after ten years realised I was in completely the wrong job. My wife and I decided to take a very big plunge and I went back to college. At that point I was married with a mortgage and we basically survived on baked beans and fresh air for about five years – it was tough.

“I graduated in 1991 with a degree in graphic design, animation and illustration, straight into the last recession. I was all set to join an animation house in Manchester, but a franchise was lost and things didn’t materialise as I thought they would. So I ended up freelancing for 18 months trying to find all sorts of bits and pieces to do to scrape a living.

“One such project was doing cartoon illustrations for the Dalesman, which I did for a number of years. In that period I also created a cartoon-illustrated calendar for two years for the local paper in Skipton – the Craven Herald.

“I then developed strong links with the media after moving into public relations for many years for a national charity and then later moved into marketing for Craven College in Skipton.

“The train driving came about when a nasty virus forced me off work for a few months and I started to think again about my future direction. My wife brought home the Yorkshire Post one day which was running an advertisement for train drivers.

“It was something I had never thought of; I have always had an interest in railways without actually standing on the platforms and collecting numbers.

“When I left school in the seventies, the railways were struggling and I never considered train-driving as a career option. But 30 years on it’s a thriving industry, I applied – along with about two thousand other hopefuls – for a place in the training school at York and the rest is history. That was seven years ago and that’s what I now do full time.

“The great thing about working shifts is I get quite a few days off in the week, and that’s where the painting fits in.

“It also takes me across the county as well – the longest run I currently do is via Lancaster to Morecambe; I tend to carry a notebook or small sketchbook with me to make a note of ideas when I get a break away from the cab.

“Certainly, driving over Ribblehead Viaduct just as the sun is rising is an artist’s dream and begs to be painted - I’m in the best seat on the train to see it.

“I’m based in Skipton so I normally do the Leeds-Bradford-Ilkley commuter routes, but we also do a morning and an evening run to Ribblehead as well as the Morecambe and Lancaster services.

“I've been painting now for about two years.  It all started as a result of going away with Barbara to the Isle of Mull for our silver wedding anniversary. Being surrounded by all that fantastic scenery and seeing local artist’s work displayed in the island’s galleries, I thought ‘I bet I could do that.’

“I had always drawn, but I had never really painted, and it really kicked off from there - people seemed to like what I do.

“I exhibited locally last year at an open exhibition in Keighley but most of my work is exhibited and sold through an online presence. I set up my own website and created a Facebook page about a year ago; hundreds of people from all around the globe have now joined my page.”

Martin’s artwork covers landscapes, ancient buildings and churches across the UK, and has featured local landmarks such as Ilkley Moor, Bolton Abbey, East Riddlesden Hall, Skipton Castle, Haworth and Gawthorpe Hall just over the border in Lancashire. He uses a variety of media such as inks, oil pastels and acrylics in a highly individual and bold Impressionist, expressive style.

“I don’t actively sell them, for me the satisfaction is in the creation – if people like my work it is a bonus; but I’ve sold paintings to people in America and Europe and throughout the UK.

“It’s all rapid stuff – I like to do a painting in around 20 to 30mins, so I try not to get bogged down with detail at all, leaving the viewer’s imagination to fill the gaps for themselves.

“I’m delighted to be combining a new career with a revitalised skill – we are lucky to have such wonderful landscape and buildings in this county - and I hope the good people of Yorkshire appreciate the passion - and the stimulus - behind my art.”

·         Martin’s striking site and works can be found at www.cobbybrook.co.uk and www.facebook/cobbybrook
 (c) David Hickes
Train driver Martin Williamson puts the finishing touches to his latest work of art infront of famous Ribblehead Viaduct.