When Pembrokeshire painter, Greg Pitches, was described as a “Sunday” painter by the owner of an art gallery in Madeira, he was not sure initially if that was a compliment! However, what was meant is that he has a compulsion to paint, which is certainly true. Now he has retired from a career as painter, decorator, restorer and gilder (including some time working in Florence), Greg spends as much time as he can in his studios. He has two – one here in his Pembrokeshire garden and the other in his home in Madeira. Greg and his wife, Katrina, divide their time between the two places. Strangely enough, both homes are at approximately the same height above sea level, but the whole island of Madeira is only half the size of Pembrokeshire.
Greg first became really interested in art during a course at Coventry College, which he attended in the 1960s as part of his apprenticeship in painting and decorating. He has always loved attending galleries and museums, but did not have much time or space to develop his talent during his working life. Forty years after they moved to Llangwm, Greg’s first wife passed away and he was lucky to find a second partner in Katrina. When they were planning their honeymoon, they wanted to avoid going to anywhere either of them had been before and a friend suggested a visit to Madeira….the rest is history.
Greg and Katrina fell in love with the island – the landscapes, people, food and wine – and hastily abandoned their plans to re-locate to Spain, deciding on a second home in Madeira instead. After a small flat, they later bought a house with room for a studio and Greg has been able to pursue his passion for painting ever since. They love to be there for the many festivals and parades and the only disadvantage of life in two places is too much time in airports.
As well as the astounding landscapes on the volcanic island, Greg has become fascinated by the heritage and old triangular thatched houses in Madeira – many of these have disappeared in recent years and he has made it his mission to paint and record as many as he can find to ensure there is a record of their existence. Known as the garden of the Atlantic, Madeira has many flowers and Greg is particularly keen to capture the landscapes with the smaller hidden-away ones.
Having made many friends on Madeira, Greg and Katrina, have become part of the community there and he is now one of the few landscape painters. Earlier this year, Greg’s work was exhibited alongside the work of a botanical artist and two ceramicists in Funchal and featured in a Portuguese TV programme about the event. He sells paintings and prints on the island and via his Facebook page here. A practical man, Greg has realised that few people paint scenes outside Funchal and that pictures or prints are more likely to sell in Madeira if visitors can fit them in their suitcase. All his prints are produced in Pembrokeshire by Tim at Cleddau Press, as the quality is exceptional, and he buys frames and mounts from Narberth’s Kadinski. Greg will despatch pictures from either the UK or Madeira.
Greg never goes anywhere without a sketchbook and often asks Katrina to take photographs for him to work from – she is a keen and accomplished photographer. Back in the studio, Greg paints with oils and will spend as much time as he can working on the latest piece. In Madeira he attends a weekly art class and talked of how he is continually learning and developing his art. His peers in this class and the tutor are ensuring that he is gradually learning Portuguese too – even if it is only at the rate of one word per week!
I asked him if he likes it if people come up to see what he is working on, but he does not enjoy it and immediately stops work! I think that may even happen when Katrina goes into the studio? Greg is finding it easier now to see paintings go to their new homes and has completed several commissions.
Greg is back in Pembrokeshire at the moment and about to have surgery on cataracts – he has many projects awaiting his attention once he has recovered! He is having a painting sale to make some more room in the loft, so have a look on his FB page if you would like an original work of art. Katrina told me that his work often attracts praise for the way he captures clouds and Greg agreed he loves to paint skies and has been intrigued by the contrast between those in West Wales and over Madeira. Other trips, where he has painted landscapes in recent years, have been to the Ring of Kerry in Ireland and to Iceland too.
So, what next? Back to Madeira with improved vision and a really exciting project to paint a beautiful ruin up in the hills, before it is turned into a luxury boutique hotel; it was once owned by one of Madeira’s wealthy wine families. I look forward to seeing how this progresses…