A View of the Landscape

Art of the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Spring 2007

Brian Collings

Canal artist Brian Collins looks at the curious tradition of painting castles on, and in, narrowboats

I have had a lifelong interest in boat decoration, and have tried to help to preserve – and provide an understanding of – the art form within its social context. Much has been published on the subject, but I have always taken the practical rather than academic approach. I first became aware of the art form from fine examples which emanated from boat docks at Leighton Buzzard and Braunston, and it was here that I learnt to paint by observing the professionals. Among my own early efforts were a plaque for the Boat Inn at Stoke Bruerne and an enamel jug for Jack James, ex-boatman and at that time lock-keeper. It was his initiative which led to the establishment in 1963 of the Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne. In 1989, with much soul-searching, I responded to public interest by arranging what proved to be the first of many weekend painting courses at the Museum. Whilst it fell within the remit of a museum, I had to ask myself just who was I to say what was ‘right’…

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