FE me

20th October 2006 at 01:00
Name: Christian Furr

Born: 1966

Job: Artist

Attended: Wirral Metropolitan College, 1985-1986

Studied: One-year fine art foundation course

Christian Furr is the youngest artist to have painted an official portrait of the Queen. She personally selected him to portray her when he was 28. He has presented ITV's portrait-painting competition, A Brush With Fame, and recently published his book, The Lost Art.

My tutors really tested me and taught me that creatively you have to go into unchartered territory to gain more understanding.

Joe, Ken and Pete taught me to see the heroism in everyday life so things around me became viable subjects for art. I remember having to do what seemed like ridiculous things as part of the foundation, but I'm glad I did them. I'm more open-minded now because of it.

Joe was probably my favourite tutor. He shared my passion for figurative painting. I remember my end-of-term appraisal sheet, filled out by Joe. In the student's name section it said: 'Christian (I think he's in the library) Furr.' This was because when Joe asked students where I was, they'd mutter, 'I think he's in the library?' I used to spend a lot of time there.

My time at Wirral Metropolitan was invaluable. It really set me up for my future career. It was a catalyst and triggered my creative pursuits. I remember tutor Pete dragging us (a motley crew of 18-year-olds) down the Dock Road in Liverpool one freezing February day with our sketchbooks. We ended up in a very desolate part of the road, where Pete said: 'Get out your sketchbooks and draw.' We thought he was joking. 'It's freezing and there's nothing here to draw,' we said. He ignored our protests.

We shuffled off resentfully to find something, and we all did in the end. I remember drawing a broken window.

When we finished, he said: 'You'll remember this day and thank me for it.'

Thanks Pete.

The college used to be an old Sixties complex with big windows. I went back recently in connection with my Gold Award and they have built a new college now. It really is amazing - in location, design and facilities. A proper Bauhaus.

I believe in doing as many things as you can because with each one you get a little insight into how things work as a whole and get to see other people's points of view.

As an artist, there is nothing better than being in the company of creative and inspirational people, trying out different things and bouncing ideas off each other.

I went on to do a fine art degree at De Montfort university, in Leicester.

I deliberately chose a broad-based course which included film, printing, animation and so on, and I ended up specialising in painting.

Most of my good friends are from my college days. In fact, I saw them all this month at my surprise 40th birthday in Soho. Some had flown in especially. It was very moving.

One of my main hopes is to see craftsmanship in art again. I want to see art everywhere I look.

One memory that makes me laugh is of being given projects to do in groups.

One of them was on the theme of metamorphosis. We all had to do a little show at the end, so we could all see what we'd done. My friend Ged was in another group of girls. They had decided to stage a 'performance' of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. One of the girls got the nice butterfly outfit, but there were no takers for the caterpillar, which was a crudely fashioned brown draw-string sack.

Ged ended up being virtually press-ganged into it. I have a vision of him to this day, writhing around in this sack on the floor. I remember him pulling the sack over his head so no one could see it was him. He's mortally embarrassed by it even now.

Another memory is of our life-drawing model. For a lot of us, it was the first time we'd drawn from a naked model. It wasn't made easier by the fact that the lady who modelled for us used to stare you in the eye intensely and unwaveringly as you drew her. I remember a lot of embarrassed youths hiding behind easels and occasionally popping their heads round.

There was a lively schoolyard next to our college and I painted a view of it with the Liverpool skyline in the background from our large college window on a bright day. It's a fine memento of my time there.

Christian Furr was talking to Shekhar Bhatia

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today