Making Art is a peculiar business, how does it start, where does it come from, why do it ? . Other people have ideas and they remain ideas, others turn ideas into paintings or films or machines etc. The challenge for me as a gay man is to continually give myself permission to make art that is personal to me and my life. As gay men we firstly have to get over the fact we are actually gay. We are brought up homophobic , the same as most people. Next step , acceptance. I've always fell in love with men, it's totally natural to me, I know nothing else. I haven't changed , it's always been my life. After my partner died in '89 my life was changed, for years in confused and sad ways, then gradually I realized I was armed with more empathy and understanding. I like to think I help others in difficult situations. I knew I could paint, I don't know how. For my degree show in '90 I made a big oil painting in a gilt frame, I didn't want people to just walk past my little exhibition area, I wanted them to stop. A lecturer from a different year came up to me and my painting . He said " Do you realize that is real painting, it is real painting! " That was the first time I'd considered painting seriously. 'I could be a painter ? isn't that only for posh people, like tennis ? . He really gave me confidence with just one sentence. Words of encouragement are important, give them to people, you never know what you might inspire. I began to accept the idea. I painted 'MY PARTNER" in '94 and that was when I decided never to paint anything I didn't want to ever again. It was also my first well composed painting. I'd spent about four years getting my head around a composition formula and I'd pulled it off and it worked and it felt like I'd won something. The painting was accepted in the BP Portrait Award exhibition, hooray. I made paintings that other gay people could identify with and that were good enough ( in my opinion ) to hang in national galleries. My style was traditional with a twist, realistic and oils on canvas. There are numerous 'female subject' pictures in galleries by straight artists, I thought naively I could do my bit to address that for the big gay family I felt a part of. So began the continuous meditation of giving myself permission to make whatever imagery I wanted. You get used to being 'put down' if you're gay, putting your head out there by exhibiting your personal life through paintings is leaving yourself wide open to more negative comment, hence the 'continual permission'. In the end you just think 'Fuck It' and 'Fuck them'. There are miserable people everywhere, I can't help it if theyr'e unhappy, go see a counsellor . I am here, we are here. We are great, we just are. We get very little encouragement from birth for being gay so getting to adulthood with a smile is just brilliant. Make fun and love, everyone deserves good stuff , shut out nasty fuckers , drop negative people, pass on smiles, love and luck to you..US!