Jeffrey Pratt at Clarendon Fine Art Hampstead

Straw Bales Sunny September by Jeffrey Pratt

Straw Bales Sunny September by Jeffrey Pratt - Credit: Archant

Inspired by the post impressionists the veteran artist will be painting outside the High Steet gallery on Saturday

works by Jeffrey Pratt are on show at Clarendon Fine art in Hampstead High St

works by Jeffrey Pratt are on show at Clarendon Fine art in Hampstead High St - Credit: Archant

Vibrantly coloured landscapes, seascapes and still lifes of the Cotswolds Cornwall, and France feature at a Hampstead Gallery.

Clarendon Fine Art in the High Street is hosting a book launch and 40 new works by Jeffrey Pratt.

'Searching For Colour' sums up the artist's pusuit of immediacy, authenticity and integrity in paintings that are inspired by Van Gogh and the Post Impressionists.

'For me, the constant shifting of light, colour, and weather is a magical, joyful and spiritual experience,' says the 80-year-old.

On March 12, he will be outside the gallery painting the local Hampstead scene 'en plein air'.

Painting on the spot is the quintessential element of his process and trips to Europe, Africa, Turkey, India and the south of France have supplied the themes for an artist who tirelessly seeks sunlight.

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Although Pratt showed early promise he was stymied by parental disaproval: 'As a nature loving runaway boy, winning Art prizes came easier than Maths … to my fathers grave dismay .. but my artistic gift was abruptly put on hold when my very artistic mother became ill and died when I was 16 and my family home dissolved,' he says.

'My father was very suspicious of art schools but at that point I also questioned if an Art College training would help me to afford a home and the security I craved. My 'difficult' father moved house 16 times so life was 'hellish' for any boy.'

At agricultural college he quickly became known as the College artist.

'Happily I was in great demand, but failed my exams. Then onto the 'Farming Express' in Shoe Lane , and finished, happily painting in the evenings down by the then derelict docklands, and there it all began.'

Through a combination of part time courses at St Martin's College and dedicated practice in his spare time, he began to exhibit regularly in America from 1986 onwards. After handing over his business to his son, he has painted full time. His love of the Post Impressionists springs from 'their huge passion for colour and their courage'.

'Vincent especially used colour as a vehicle for releasing his emotional turmoil. By 42 my own turmoil was beginning to boil over into ' manic depression'. Yes I had provided the stable wonderful family home I'd dreamt about for my family, but I wasn't painting !! Rather than submit to the 'lithium prescribed', I left my family, picked up a brush, easel and began to travel. It was a hugely emotional journey - frustration, setbacks, shame, tears but the depressions vanished and I was and felt alive, living the unattainable life of which I'd dreamt as a boy .'

He is inspired by what he calls his 'trust in the natural world' .

'Our planet is in meltdown but once outside in the natural world, beside sea sunsets, racing skies, my enthusiasm returns at the very moment I begin painting. Magical stuff! I just love doing it ...and accept an often uncomfortable unstoppable drive.'

As for painting on the spot, he defends the practice even if it is derided. 'Brian Sewell claimed 'plein air painting' to be long dead! But I don't agree. There is a sweetness , an integrity , an honesty in mark making directly from eye to canvas. With luck, the eye extracts a truth that viewers recognise subconsciously. My aim is not to copy , but extract an essence.'

Pratt's collectors range from jewellery designer Elizabeth Gage to celebrity chef Rick Stein and his work has been exhibited from the USA and UK to Singapore and the West Indies. Increasingly, he says, he is 'driven to convey the intense emotions of being alive- in colour drawn from nature, yet tipping towards abstraction as we experience it in music.

'Most of us need the eternity of the sea, I'm stuck in 'harsh green 'Oxfordshire so I need to travel - and think, hope, dream of creating something beautiful and original which is bloody difficult! But a wonderful reason for painting every day, even if 'beautiful' is somewhat out of fashion.'

Jeffrey Pratt will be painting en plein air outside Clarendon Fine Art, 76 Hampstead High Street on March 14.