ONE of the advantages of retirement is having the freedom and time to discover new pathways in life. John Major said he was feeling like a fish out of water when he first retired from a busy professional life until he picked up a paintbrush about four years ago.
He found the drive and desire to paint after a visit to Auschwitz in Poland.
“What happened was I went on holiday to Poland to explore because I love Polish people and I wanted to go to Auschwitz because I couldn’t get my head around why humans would behave like that,” he said.
“It was a life changing experience for me – it moved me more than I have ever felt in my life. It affected me so much that when I came back from that trip the only relief I could get was to pick up a brush,” John told Have a Go News from his studio in City Beach.
With a lifelong interest in photography John took many shots in Poland particularly on his visit to Auschwitz which he used to mirror his first painting.
I saw the painting in his studio and it’s hard to believe that an amateur had painted the scene, it was clear that a deep-seated talent for art was emerging.
“Retirement had allowed the space in my head to develop this talent and that was the beginning of the art journey for me, it was as if I downloaded all this stuff and it came out through my brushes,” John said.
Over the last four years Major has produced many pieces including portraits of Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, John Lennon, his wife Lally and now has moved into three dimensional seaside artworks.
His creativity has travelled from the darkness of Auschwitz to the light of the seaside.
Hailing from Leeds in the north of England, John is an ardent Beatles fan and almost channels John Lennon when he speaks. His favourite artist is Laurence Lowry who, he says, was an insignificant kind of guy from Northern England but had this amazing ability to capture everyday life and people in quite a childlike way.
“I like Lowry’s innocence and I find his works very enjoyable and I feel I can understand what was in his head and its influenced my art style.”
John has developed his own style of painting called heli-art and it reflects his vision of looking at the bigger picture of life as from the view of a helicopter. The seaside three-dimensional pieces display the joy and happiness that a day at the seaside can bring people and feature our local beaches including Cottesloe and City Beach.
John says the beach is a great leveler; there’s no class distinction when you’re at the beach and his characters reflect that.
Every character in his seaside pieces has a story and he has a unique talent which brings each one to life.
I loved the three older ladies who appear in most of his pieces, they sit in the shallows and just love their day out.
Each piece can take him anywhere from a month to six weeks to create and walking through his studio and seeing them being created reflected to me John’s love for his work.
“I want to make people happy with my art – I’m 65 now and I achieved everything I want to achieve but I want something to remain as a legacy if I die tomorrow.
“With the artworks at least I’ve got stuff in people’s houses – every little bit has had my hand on it and I feel like I’m leaving a little bit of happiness behind,” he said.
Last year John worked as a volunteer at the Perth Royal Show in the art section and this year he is submitting one of his seaside pieces in the competition.
“I worked as a volunteer and it was brilliant – talking to people about artworks I got really excited sharing stories about each piece and I sold about six artist’s works.
“If I am lucky to be chosen for this year I will be very happy,” he said.
He says the thing he loves about retirement is that you do the things you want to do not because you have to but because you want to.
Delving into the world of art has provided a new pathway for John which is a journey for the beholders eyes and for him for his soul.
For physical activity he rides his bicycle, walks and enjoys riding his Harley Davidson motor bike in his spare time.
John says his philosophy in life is simple… “it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.” And that sums up this friendly and budding artist.
A collection of John Major’s work is currently on show at the Boulevard Centre in Floreat until the end of July. His seaside pieces are also on display at the Hamptons Restaurant in City Beach.