Vivid pictures – by a colourblind artist

Looking through the eyes of a Norfolk artist, a whole different picture emerges - for after 20 years of painting Tony Garner has just found out he's colourblind.

Looking at the vivid blues, purples and pinks of Tony Garner's Norfolk skylines, a spectacular picture emerges of the county's landscape.

But looking through the eyes of the artist, a whole different picture emerges - for after 20 years of painting Mr Garner has just found out he's colourblind.

Now, as he prepares for a major exhibition of his work in Holt this weekend, the 61-year-old has been left wondering how he's managed to draw his landscapes so accurately.

And visitors to the Picturecraft Gallery are likely to be left peering even more closely at his work to try to spot the odd colours out.


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Originally from Yorkshire, Mr Garner moved to Norfolk in 1985 after falling in love with the scenery and now says he cannot envisage painting anywhere else.

Based in North Burlingham, near Norwich, the artist snaps sunrises and sunsets with his digital camera before re-creating the vibrant colours using pastels.

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Mr Garner gave up work as an office manager in 1993 to paint full-time and said that despite producing hundreds of pictures in his career, no one had said the colours looked unrealistic.

“It's funny really,” he said. “All my paintings are light-based and full of atmosphere, so when the specialist told me I was colourblind, I was a bit bemused.

“I see things as I see them and I'm aware of colours in my own way. I've made a living out of this for quite some time, and while what I see may be different from what other people see, I'm quite happy with that.”

It is not just the artist who's happy - the owner of the gallery where his work will shortly be displayed is more than pleased with the work.

Adrian Hill, director of the Picturecraft Gallery in Holt, said: “These pictures all look wonderful.

“It's uncanny really: he's produced 95 works of art for this exhibition and then finds out he's colourblind.

“Each and every one has a vibrant buzz of colour, and I challenge anyone to spot the difference in the views they know so well.”

Despite not now knowing how accurate his pictures are, Mr Garner said he had had no complaints from customers or at earlier exhibitions.

He added: “The Norfolk skyline is what it is and we all know what colours are in there.

“If I'd been getting it wrong all these years, I'd expect someone to have picked up on it, but no one's commented on it.

“There's a lot of colour in my artwork; that's why I use pastels rather than watercolours, which don't have the same intensity.

“As far as I'm concerned, I'm perfectly happy to carry on as I was. Any time anyone hangs something in an exhibition, it's there to be shot at - so if anyone wants to come to the gallery and criticise my colours, they're more than welcome to.

“Admittedly, I have lots of differences with my wife about the correct colours to use in my work, but, as far as I'm concerned, maybe she's colourblind too.”

Mr Garner's exhibition runs from Saturday September 24 to Wednesday September 28 (9am-5pm, Sunday 10.30am-4.30pm) at the Picturecraft Gallery, 23 Lee's Courtyard, off Bull Road, Holt; www.picturecraftgallery.com

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