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The Life and Work of John Dyer: A Celebration of Colour

  • 7 min read

Cornish artist John Dyer sitting on his Land Rover 110 Defender with a painting of Godrevy lighthouse in Cornwall.

Above: John Dyer sitting on his Land Rover with a painting of Godrevy lighthouse in Cornwall

John Dyer is a painter whose work celebrates the natural world in all its glory. His paintings of Cornwall are particularly loved for their fun, colourful and uplifting vibrancy. From the rugged coast to the colourful vegetation and gorgeous beaches, John's paintings reflect his love of nature and his passion for capturing its beauty on canvas. In this blog post, we'll take a look at John's life and work, as well as some of his most stunning paintings of France, Italy, Australia and beyond.

 

Above: Signed Limited Edition Print by Cornish Artist John Dyer. 'Musical Mousehole'

Early Influences

Son of self-taught artist Ted Dyer, John was introduced to the art world at a very early age. Originally from Somerset, Ted moved to Holywell Bay in North Cornwall with his family when John was 4 years old, in 1972. Known as 'Dyer' professionally, John's father uses oil paint on canvas, in a very traditional post-impressionistic style. His paintings of the ever-changing Cornish landscape and special cornish light, are well sought after and are part of many private collections.

Above: 'Along the Coast Path, St Anthony Head', 14x14 inches oil on canvas. Painting by Cornish Artist Ted Dyer

When John was very young his mother, Vivien Dyer also painted, doing experimental works in mixed media. Both parents were a huge influence to him and his work.

School and fine art College

At a young age, John had already decided that he wanted to go down the art route. He spent many hours, while at secondary school, in the art block working on his latest inventive and usually ambitious projects. He wasn't afraid of experimenting and pushing the boundaries with his very original artworks.

After secondary school, John moved on to do his Foundation Course at the then-named Falmouth School of Art - later to become Falmouth college of art and eventually Falmouth University. The painting and sculpture side of the course was very fine art based and John moved towards his interest in photography and design which lead to opting for a Graphic Design and photography degree course at Middlesex Polytechnic in London, now a University, whose history was from the iconic experimental and progressive Hornsey College of Art who's alumni feature artists Anish Kapoor, Ken Howard, Roger Law, Daphne McClure and typographer Neville Brody.

 Artist John Dyer at his Foundation show

Above: John Dyer at his Art Foundation Show at Falmouth School of Art

Cornish art and painting were always a passion however and John often found himself travelling back home to Cornwall to revitalise his creative spirit. The coast would always have a massive pull and after finishing his degree and spending two years living in Camden and working in London, John was drawn back to his beloved southwest Cornwall.

Influence of other Cornish artists

John's family had moved to the south coast by this point and so it was Falmouth that became his home and has remained so for the last 30 years.

Above: Limited Edition Print by Cornish Artist John Dyer. 'Sailing Beneath the Comet. Hale Bopp Comet, Falmouth'

Historically Cornwall has been a hub in the British art world since before the First World War, as it still is today, and it wasn't hard for John to find himself immersed in a world of Cornish artists and art history. Visiting St Ives regularly and seeing original artworks by local artists soon fired John's passion for painting.

 

Above: John Dyer Painting. Walking to St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives has been the centre of Cornish art for many years. After world war two many artists, including Ben Nicholson and his wife Barbara Hepworth settled in Cornwall, with many of their contemporaries following, resulting in the St Ives Society of Artists and The St Ives School of art being founded. Considering St Ives is such a small town, its artist colony became a worldwide inspiration. These St Ives artists' work was exhibited and sold internationally and put Cornish art well and truly on the map.

John Dyer in his Cornish studio in Falmouth

Above: John Dyer in his Falmouth studio with one of his early oil paintings.

Both Ben Nicholson and the naïve art of fisherman and local artist Alfred Wallis are the root of John's painting. Combine that with the colours of Henri Matisse and expressionist Raoul Dufy and the narrative of local contemporary artist at the time, Fred Yates, and there you have John Dyer's work.

Setting out as a painter

His initial work was mainly oil painting, but as he gradually became what he loosely describes as an 'en plein air' artist, painting out and about in the Cornish landscape, it became obvious that the use of acrylic paint would be much more practical. His bright coloured landscapes of Cornwall, littered with human and animal figures, in his own unique style, soon became popular amongst both local and visiting buyers alike.

John painting en plein air, St Anthony in Meneage 

Above: John with his painting, St Anthony on Meneage

"Developing one's own style of painting is an intensely personal process. Living and working in the West country I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible landscape and many influential fellow artists with an eclectic range of styles."

John Dyer

Becoming a professional artist

When John first moved back to Cornwall he started teaching at the Art School in Falmouth, all the while painting in his spare time.

John's naïve painting style has a unique artistic vision in an amalgamation of Post-impressionist and expressionist landscape painting. His work is exhibited widely and collected internationally. He exhibits regularly with the John Dyer Gallery, and at The Eden Project with his environmental collections where he is the official artist in residence.

Above: 'Mediterranean Colour, Eden Project'. 24x24 inches acrylic on canvas, £1,895

In Cornwall artists are lucky enough to have a huge array of beautiful Cornish landscapes to paint. St Ives and St Michael's Mount are among John's favourites, but he is also drawn to lesser-known spots around the coast such as Cadgwith Cove and Coverack on the Lizard and Cape Cornwall and Zennor in the far south west of the county.

Above: Cornish Art Limited Edition Print by John Dyer. 'Moonlit Skinny Dippers, Cadgwith'

The most colourful artist Cornwall will ever see

Amongst the many Cornish artists around, very few use the extensive colour palette John uses. His palette is thick with an array of colours and all of his paintings exude fun and joy.

John Dyer's artist palette

Above: John Dyer's artist palette

When he was a student in 1989 he was awarded a travel bursary to visit the Amazon rainforest. At the time his passion was photography, and he created an amazing body of work which he exhibited in both London and Cornwall. However, as soon as he became immersed in the jungle he realised that what he really wanted to do was paint it!

Photograph of the Amazon Rainforest take by John Dyer

Above: Photograph of the Amazon Rainforest taken by John Dyer

This dream actually became reality when in 2015 John became involved in a project at The Eden Project alongside a native Amazon Indian, Nixiwaka Yawanawa. After painting alongside 'Nixi' in the 'rainforest' biome at Eden, the two artists formed a bond and hatched a project for John to travel to Nixi's home village in Mutum situated 7 hours up the Rio Grégorio deep in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil in 2019.

"The trip to Mutum and the Yawanawá tribe in the Amazon rainforest was the experience of a lifetime. It was incredible to find myself painting all those colours, shapes and spiritual creatures of the rainforest while actually being immersed in the environment! I had to keep reminding myself that this was really happening and that I was really there!"

John Dyer

 

Above: John Dyer Painting. The Sky Snake Ashuinka and Ground Snake Runua, Amazon Rainforest £1,895.00

Painting abroad

Over the years John has travelled widely and has been very actively involved in a big project 'Last Chance to Paint' which he founded to not only inspire artists of the next generation but to make a positive impact on the climate crisis through educating young people.

His projects include painting the world's biggest staple foods in collaboration with the Eden Project, the United Nations and global NGOs including Rice in The Philippines, Bananas in Costa Rica, and Potatoes in Peru.

Above: John Dyer Painting 'Paddy Paddling, the Philippines'. 24x24 inches acrylic on canvas

Above: John Dyer Painting. 'Rainforest Banana Bonanza, Costa Rica'

Above: Limited Edition Print, Peru Art by John Dyer. 'Freeze-Dried Festival Potatoes, Isla Taquile, Peru'

His latest 'Last Chance to Paint' project has involved trips to both the Amazon Rain Forest and Borneo where he has painted the local tribes and surrounding fauna and flora. One project involved a trip deep into the forest in Borneo to study orangutans to educate his young viewers about the dangers that wildlife is facing due to the damage to the rainforest by human beings. There are plans to travel to Africa to study the wildlife and tribal people in Kenya; a project John is working on alongside the charity Born Free.

Above: Limited Edition Jungle Print by Environmental Artist John Dyer. 'Twilight Orangutans, Borneo'

Other trips John has made and painted for pleasure and artist residencies include France, Italy and an extraordinary wildlife residency with Banrock Station in Australia. All these environments have been ideally suited to John's bright and optimistic style of artwork.

Conclusion

John Dyer is an artist who celebrates life through his artwork. His paintings reflect his fun-loving personality and his love of colour. He is also a man with a deep concern for the environment and the planet we live on, using his art to raise awareness of the issues we face. John's work is enjoyed by people all over the world. His paintings and prints can be purchased from The John Dyer Gallery.

Cornish Artist Book about John Dyer. ‘Painting the Colours of the World’. Foreword by Alan Titchmarsh.

If you have enjoyed this introduction to the life and work of artist John Dyer you will love the major 350 page coffee table art book 'John Dyer - Painting the Colours of the World' with 320 paintings by John Dyer. Written by Kate Dinn with a foreword by Alan Titchmarsh MBE. 

View and buy John Dyer art books online.