You’re probably familiar with the work of Michael Ashcroft. His atmospheric cityscapes of Manchester’s rain-soaked streets and, more recently, his paintings of iconic city centre pubs, are instantly recognisable.
He has received many awards including finalist in the International Artist Magazine competition and winner of the Harris Open Exhibition, but it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 28 that he started to take painting seriously.
His early paintings were abstract acrylics and pastels which concentrated on the separation between light and dark before moving onto oils incorporating his early inspirations and techniques into the landscape around him.
He splits his time between studio and outdoor painting. Using a palette knife and brush, he creates a loose painterly style which is a combination of an emotional and representational response to his surroundings. Larger paintings are worked on back at the studio using oil sketches and photographs for reference.
Man’s Head (Self Portrait I) by Lucian Freud
My first choice has to be Lucian Freud’s self portrait which is in the Whitworth Gallery. I used to visit this painting every time I was near the gallery, which was quite often with hospital visits. Every time you see this painting you find something new to look at. It has a wonderful painterly quality and you can see every brush stroke the artist made. I can always tell that I am looking at a good painting as it makes me want to go home and paint.
A Spate in the Highlands by Peter Graham
My second choice is A Spate in the Highlands by Peter Graham which is in the Manchester Art Gallery. This has everything I love about landscape painting – a stormy sky, a river, trees etc. It is a well executed painting and has wonderful balance. Your eye wanders around the painting with ease starting at the focal point with the dark trees against the light clouds. It has wonderful perspective and composition.
Statue of LS Lowry by Peter Hodgkinson
My third choice is Lowry’s statue, a sculpture of probably one of Manchester’s most famous artists. Not only do I love this sculpture, but it is housed in one of my favourite pubs – Sam’s Chophouse. I have spent many a hour in this pub having a pint and sketching. Peter [Hodgkinson] used Sefton Samuel’s original photographs for his reference and it is well worth a visit. Look out for Sefton’s photographs on the walls around the pub.
The Big Horn, Tib Street
My fourth choice is the Big Horn. It’s so unusual and iconic I couldn’t leave it out. Whenever I see it I know exactly where I am but alas I hear it might be on the move, which is a real shame. I have always associated it with Affleck’s Palace and it will be sad to see them split up. I have painted it two or three times so thankfully it has been preserved in paint and I will definitely go to its new location and paint it there.
Albert Square by Adolphe Valette
My fifth choice is Valette and his painting of Albert Square. It has inspired lots of artists in Manchester, of whom I am one. He really captured the essence of the city in his time and exactly what artists of today are doing. A skilful use of greys was used to create this series of works which are a must see at the Manchester Art Gallery.