Lifeboatman is artist's subject for Salthouse 09

Chris HillAs a long-serving lifeboat coxswain and town council chairman, Allen Frary is already an instantly familiar figure in his hometown of Wells.Chris Hill

As a long-serving lifeboat coxswain and town council chairman, Allen Frary is already an instantly familiar figure in his hometown of Wells.

And now, after a lifetime on the ocean, the former merchant navy sailor and fisherman looks set to make waves in the art world as well.

Two life-sized charcoal drawings of Mr Frary and his second coxswain Nicky King go on show at an art exhibition in Salthouse next month.

But artist Malca Schotten said her work went beyond the bold black lines as she sought to reflect the maritime tales and charismatic wit which brought her seafaring subjects to life.

In keeping with the Salt of the Earth theme of the exhibition, Miss Schotten chose sitters who were a world away from the highbrow stereotypes of the art world.

And part of the process was to chat about their life experiences during the sessions at Wells Lifeboat Station - with some of the nautical banter recorded to be played at listening posts at the exhibition.

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Mr Frary said: 'I think people might get to see me from a different perspective. You can have these glossy photos which can be tinkered with, but this is how Malca sees me. It is not just a case of coming here and drawing. She tries to get inside your head.'

Mr Frary said he enjoyed the 'non-politically correct' conversation at the sittings, but turned down an opportunity to visit the private viewing of the finished artwork.

'I have been at some of these exhibitions and, no disrespect to anyone that runs them, but a glass of wine and a bit of cheese is not my thing - I would prefer a pork pie and a tot of rum,' he said. 'There are no pretensions about us. With the nature of fishing and the sea, there is nothing arty about the people who do that. What you see is what you get.'

But Norwich-based artist Miss Schotten said: 'There is much more than what you see. People might make a judgement based on that, and they can be very wrong.

'My portraits are not just about having a drawing - it is about telling the story of that person.

'I am very lucky to have got two portraits which I am very happy with. With Allen being such a twitchpot I am amazed I got anything at all. I told them I didn't want any posing - in the end I got him chewing his lip.'

t Malca Schotten is one of 42 artists showcased at the Salthouse 09 exhibition in Salthouse church, which runs from 10am to 5.30pm from July 2 to August 2. Entry is free.

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