This months featured artist is Roy E Fleming NDD (National Diploma in Design), FCSD (Royal Chartered Designer) FRSA (Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts)
For this month’s featured artist, I want to introduce you to a wonderful man who I have known all my life and who has had a huge influence over the life choices I have made.
Roy reads my weekly blogs; he is signed up to receive my monthly newsletter and is very complimentary about all that I do.
I asked him if he would be my featured artist this month and he was rather hesitant as he told me “I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself as a full-time artist.” He went on to say that when he was an art student it was estimated that only seventeen painters earned enough to live off their art. How times have changed.
Roy comes from fairly humble beginnings, in fact his is a rags-to-riches story. His parents both worked in factories on London’s Tottenham Marshes. An only child, his parents were from large families, both being one of eight children and they had focused their social life on ballroom dancing. Children hadn’t really been part of the plan. When Roy was two, his father was sent to Egypt to fight in the war whilst he and his mother stayed in their Tottenham home.
Roy was the first person in his entire family to go to college, which caused upset with some wider family members thinking he was “getting above himself”. But his parents, his father in particular, encouraged him to walk his own path and ignore the resentment shown to him.
Roy studied at the Hornsey College of Art from 1958-62.
Prior to winning a scholarship to Hornsey College of Art he worked as an apprentice to a construction company and was asked to design several commercial bathroom schemes. During his student days he was asked to design several more.
He felt that earning a living as a painter was not really an option but switching to design was. However, after Hornsey he was offered a job running an Art department for Northampton Education Department and shortly afterwards, he was invited to take up a design post at the then Birmingham College of Art.
During all that time Roy continued to paint. He exhibited at the Coventry Art Gallery and sold some of his watercolours. Roy told me that “With the introduction of performance art and social comments being regarded as Art, even by the establishment, I lost interest in painting except for my own pleasure.”
Roy was never interested in making political statements or commenting on social events but simply interpreting the world and things he saw around him. What he did was to carve out a career for himself in the world of design. He was offered a job back at Hornsey College of Art, the first former student ever to be invited onto the staff, where he taught interior design. Rising up through the ranks he ultimately became the department head.
I can remember him telling me that although promotion felt good and validated his skills, the higher you go in education, the further away you get from the students and teaching. So, despite being encouraged to apply for more senior roles, Roy preferred to be with the students, many of whom he is still in contact with today.
Roy used his skills as a designer to write articles about design for newspapers and magazines, producing over 300 pieces. He also wrote two books on design and the community.
Reading his CV there is a long list of things he has achieved but this represents only the tip of the iceberg. He worked for the United Nations in Germany as the building supervisor and was awarded a gold medal by the Federation of Master Builders.
Over the years he has produced numerous designs for buildings and interiors, was an advisor to Philips Industries in both London and Eindhoven.
In addition, due to his knowledge of lighting and the psychology of how lighting can affect human behaviour, he has been an associate and advisor to the Centre for Criminology. This was particularly well used at the Broad Water Farm housing estate in North London, which was notorious for crime. Initially installing and later changing the colour of the lighting had a huge impact on crime. Coloured lighting is also used in other areas of society these days; if you check out your local supermarket you will see that the produce department uses green lighting to enhance the ‘fresh food’ experience. The right colour lights used in the right way can really change the feeling of an environment.
This kind of knowledge was then employed when he became an advisor to the Secretary of State for the Environment; a consultant to British Petroleum and British Telecom; and an advisor to the Criminal Justice Dept in Washington DC, USA.
Roy was also a consultant/advisor to the London Boroughs of Brent; Islington; Westminster; Waltham Forest; Kensington and Chelsea; and Hammersmith and Fulham, as well as the city of Bristol, Tunbridge Wells and Blackburn.
He was appointed policy advisor to the Wales Tourist Board, was a consultant to the Education Research Dept, Rome and the Design Council for five years.
As a result of his amazing work he was awarded the Churchill Fellowship in 1988, which was presented to him by the Queen.
Now in his 80s, he continues to be an advisor to the Bank of England (London Agency), serves as a board member for the London Chambers of Commerce, Property and Construction; he advised the Civic Trust on open spaces and parks, is a member of the Institute of Directors and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
Roy has been a huge supporter of, and visitor to, the many galleries and museums London has to offer and until recently has continued to make art for his own pleasure.
He is, finally, beginning to slow down a little, however, he has still been working as an advisor to students working towards obtaining their degrees.
I have only scratched the surface of Roy’s life here; there is so much more to tell. The artworks illustrating this blog are all by Roy and in my collection. I am very proud to call this wonderful man my father.