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My Artistic Journey – and a Brief Gyselynck Art History

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

Consuming and producing visual art is one of the few endeavours that has been a constant for me since childhood. I’m told that I inherited an artistic gene from the Gyselynck side in Belgium that has carried down the generations.

Two such unexpected ancestors were Ferdinand and Edouard Gyselynck, printers & lithographers working in Ghent, Flanders, in the mid 19th Century. They created intricate trade cards (akin to today’s business cards) for furniture companies and antiques dealers. One piece that caught my attention is an incredibly detailed collection of 405 lithographic plates depicting exotic plants.

LEMAIRE, Charles (1800-1871). Le Jardin Fleuriste, journal général des progrès et des intérèts horticoles et botaniques. Ghent: F. & E. Gyselinck, 1851-1854.

Further credit for my interest in art can be given to my late uncle, Michael Gyselynck, who was an avid collector of the work of British artist John Piper (1903-1992). I have vague childhood memories of his home in the Thames Valley, which was filled with original Piper work. Furthermore, and just by chance, Piper created the stained glass windows in the beautiful chapel of Oundle School, Northamptonshire.

Stained Glass Windows in St Andrew's Chapel, Oundle. John Piper & Mark Angus. Credit: Minna Coke, Oundle Chronicle, 2016.

Oundle is where I spent seven happy years being encouraged by the tutors in its immense art department. Upon leaving school I intended to study History of Art at university, but changed course at the last moment to languages and politics, which eventually led to a year living in Russia and career in the City of London. A talent and fondness for drawing was never far below the surface, though and I regularly went to life drawing classes around London in the evenings, before taking a course at an atelier in Battersea. Had I known sooner that schools like this existed – those which offer a formal training in fine art, teaching a traditional approach to the craft of drawing and painting figuratively (that is, from life) – I would have probably gone into full-time art earlier.

An aspect about John Piper’s work that I particularly enjoy and respect is how he resisted being labelled as any one particular style of creator or artist. Like other famous polymaths I admire from art history, the extraordinary variety and range of his work and experimentation reveal an authenticity that I fear can be lost by following a formulaic oeuvre for an algorithm-pleasing home page.

“People think it dishonest to be chameleon-like in one’s artistic allegiances. On the other hand, I think it dishonest to be anything else. Not only must one change one’s spots or stripes or other outward markings according to the influences one truly experiences, within oneself, but surely one’s whole nature, aesthetic-sensually, as it were, should be susceptible to change.”John Piper

John Piper, "Two Suffolk Towers", 1973.

I’ve had remarks that my work has a huge range in both subject matter and style. (I’ve had similar comments about the ever-growing collection of art that hangs on the walls of my house!) My subject matter is definitely varied, and the skills I have picked up over the years from many different sources of instruction and inspiration I think help me keep my work fresh and exciting. On the other side of this coin however is the challenge of trusting my instinct and remaining creative even when suffering artistic block or comparative blues to other more established or commercially successful creators. I like to think, however, that my handwriting carries throughout all my work and is uniquely mine.

"Port Erin, Isle of Man", Acrylic on Canvas. c.2010.

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