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Richard Friend: The Story Behind Canterbury’s Vibrant Artist

Canterbury on a dark day is grey and bleek, however Richard Friend, an artist from Deal has shown the city’s true colours in a beautiful array of colour and observation.

Over the last 20 years, Richard has sold paintings to over thirty five countries and has gained a following of more than 4.5 thousands on social media.

His star-laden work captures audiences globally, but the creator’s studio is very far from razzle-dazzle”.

“I love hearing about people from all over the world being energised and excited about what I’m making in my shed!”


‘Mercery Lane’ (2018). Courtesy of : Instagram


The artist stated: “Firstly I began investigating the transparent qualities of watercolour, firstly with imagined studies of leaves and hedgerows and later landscapes conjured from a remembered amalgam of childhood holidays. As a child I lived for a while in Dymchurch, the home of Dr Syn and I think the wild tales of the Scarecrow and his smugglers must have affected me quite deeply.

“We spent all of our family holidays in Northumberland with its patchwork of fields and stone walls and then on the South Coast of Cornwall, a county that is awash with mysterious goings on in history and folklore. Kent, where I’m from, and currently live is another Verdant county, steeped in mystery and folktales”.

“I’d never painted buildings before”

Richard also said that: “I’ve been painting professionally for about 20+ years and full time for about 7. I started painting my street scenes about 5 years ago when we moved back to this area after ten years or so in Rochester (following three years in liverpool while at Art College and three years in London) I’d never painted buildings before and I had promised myself never to put figures in my work.

“I was drawn to the first colour painting that I had made at Liverpool (I’d always painted in monochrome previously) it was a painting of some trees, a memory of childhood walks in the wood with my father, who died very young when I was 16”.

‘The Butchery” (2018). Courtesy of Instagram

He continued: “I found myself continually revisiting the woods and forests. I’ve always had a bit of a problem putting colours on top of each other (it just feels awkward) and at college I had eventually ended up making paintings of blocks of colour next to each other. This is how the paintings started. Building them up with blocks of colour. I like the way that complimentary colours make each other resonate and ‘sing’ so I’ve always embraced bright, vibrant colours. My brother lives in Sydney and sends us calendars featuring aboriginal art and I wonder whether this is where my dots and dashes come from? I find that it’s a neat and reasonably elegant solution to my inability to put colours together without making my teeth itch”

From the town centre to the winding side-streets and boutique shops, Friend paints the iconic urban views at dusk, reminding us that Canterbury is as diverse as the colour he implements and as creative as Friend’s interpretation of the classic locations.

Friend has painted ‘The Buttermarket’ (2013) and more recently ‘Mercery Lane’ (2018) ‘The Butchery’ (2018) and ‘Cathedral’ (2018) which has been ‘sold and is on its way to New York state!’

The artist explained the gap between his 2013 Canterbury painting and those more recently: “I had always intended to make Canterbury paintings but aside from the first one of ‘The Buttermarket’ I got completely side-tracked.

“I was supposed to be taking part in the Canterbury Inspire Art exhibition this month but it got cancelled unfortunately. However as I had put the time aside in my diary thankfully the three new Canterbury paintings got made anyway”.

The artist is currently selling the city prints, click here to visit Richard Friend’s Etsy shop.

‘The Buttermarket’ (2013). Courtesy of Richard Friend: Facebook.

“I never know what the paintings are going to look like”

Surprisingly, Friend doesn’t plan exactly what he wants the painting to look like, as he stated that: “They’re a celebration of colour and memory, I never know what the paintings are going to look like.They grow organically and are as much a surprise to me as anyone else when I’ve finished”.

Many of Friend’s paintings feature a lady in a red cape and a small often black (or sometimes white) cat, Richard explained: “One painting that I had made in 2012 had a curious shape in it that looked a bit like a figure. This shape kept reappearing in subsequent paintings and eventually morphed into the little red riding hood figure (Hester, named after Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter) She began to populate my paintings. I gave her Oscar, my black cat to keep her company as I didn’t like her wandering around by herself.

“Oscar, my cat that sits under my studio table next to the radiator”.

“The figure and cats were originally ‘curious’ shapes but evolved into recurring characters, “I started making paintings of Hester and Oscar wandering the streets of Deal”.

Featured Image courtesy of Richard Friend’s Instagram:


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