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Born in Ashton-u-Lyne in 1934, Owen has always lived locally in Dukinfield, but was educated at the County Grammar School, in Hyde. Sitting with Owen in his dining room; where he produces the majority of his work, he told me that he took an interest in drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil, and to this day, some 60 odd years since completing his first finished piece, the fascination with depicting the things he sees around him has never waned.
Owen began painting seriously in oils at the age of thirteen, when many of his subjects were taken from local scenes, also, at that early stage; he dabbled and experimented with more decorative and abstract themes. However, after completing his National Service in the army where he served in the Canal Zone, Egypt, Owen took a teacher training course at Bretton Hall College of Education, near Wakefield. This was a specialist college for art teachers. On qualifying in 1958 he found a position teaching art at West Hill School, Stalybridge, where became Head of the Art Department.
Owen reeled off the names of many of his ex-students who to this day have retained their interest in the subject, with quite a few becoming professional artists.At this time, Owen contracted a serious eye infection, which meant that he had to abandon oil painting for a while and it was during this period that a close colleague gave him a set of watercolour paints to try.
He showed me just how working in watercolor permits and allows the dropping of colours into wet washes to produce colour blends, flows and blooms; techniques that are impossible in other media. He told me, “Watercolour painting is heavily weighted toward technique and control and because it is more difficult, I believe it is appreciated more.” When one studies Owens work, it’s plain to see that he is interested in the formal architecture of a painting—colour, line, delicacy of the paint, as well as a purposeful composition. During our interview, Owen revealed that his time working in ‘his studio’ is a never-ending effort to make a good painting without being gratuitous, self-absorbed, trendy, market-driven, or lucky. To Owen, watercolour painting is obviously a lifetime’s goal to which he is wholly dedicated.
Owen held his first one-man exhibition in 1968 and his work has been in demand since then. Among his many accolades and achievements, he was the winner of the first Glossop Pro Loco Competition. In 1985 he won the Manchester Council/Manchester Evening News Painting Competition. He has been awarded prizes by the Society of British Painters and the British Watercolour Society and has received many commissions from people throughout Britain which include Greater Manchester Police, Barclays Bank and Manchester University to mention but a few.
Reproductions of his work have also been published by Felix Rosensteil’s Widow and Sons, London and Portfolio Fine Art, Manchester. His work was selected many times for the Laing Competition and he was presented with the Yorkshire Television Award for Painting. Owen, who is now 80 years old, still shows the same passion for painting that one would expect to find in a first year art student and judging by the popularity of his work, Owens talents are just as much in demand today as they were fifty years ago! Owen, on behalf of all at Community Matters we look forward to many more years of you delighting us with your work.
Words by Roger Bamford