St Albans artist Alan Norris dies

By Steve Rogers

WELL KNOWN HVAF artist Alan Norris has died at his home in St Albans, aged 83.

Alan trained at St Albans Art College under Malvina Cheek and at Bournemouth where he did his artists teacher training.

He ran the Art & Design Department at St Albans FE (later Oaklands) College until his retirement in 1991. He also taught day and evening classes at the college and is remembered by many as a gentle and helpful teacher.

When he retired he ran classes from his home in St Albans on Wednesday and Friday. I attended his Wednesday portrait class. The sessions ran for three weeks from 10-12 with a coffee break, and cost the princely sum of £2.50 each. At the end of the three weeks Alan would offer the framed painting to the sitter in exchange for the modelling fee. Most would take up Alan’s offer and own an Alan Norris framed original for the equivalent of £10.

Alan was a very capable artist and could always get a good likeness, but quite often he would get something beyond that – where he captured something true and unique about the sitter; through that real connection between artist and subject which we all strive towards.

When he retired from Oaklands he picked up his brushes and carried on painting St Albans. He painted every day and over the years created many hundreds of paintings of St Albans and its people. He sold through word of mouth and more recently through Hertfordshire Open Studios and there are many homes around the district with Alan’s paintings.

As long as I knew him (the past 5 years), his cityscapes and landscapes were created from photographs. He developed photographic collages in a similar manner to David Hockney. He would photograph all around the area he was interested in and collage the results into a sort of composite image. He used the result as source material and did not copy directly from it. He often used these photographic collages several times making different interpretations of the same subject.

Alan Norris had several 'styles', sometimes tight and careful and at other times open and playful. The painting Verulamium Park is almost naïve in it’s approach but captures the mood of a family outing to feed the ducks. He could really paint trees and they were frequently the dominant subject of his works.

His palette comprised the colours one would associate with a traditionally trained painter of the old school (siennas and umbers) but with many more modern additions like light purple and middle green. He used strong colours like fire engine red rarely or sparingly – preferring oranges and madder type colours. He was a strong colourist. His colours were always fresh and bright, but his work was also underpinned by great drawing. He would leave out and move things about to compose the work and there is a simplicity and stillness to many of his works that is reminiscent of Edward Hopper.

One of Alan Norris’s last paintings was his Manor Road home which I know he was pleased with. His colour sense, composition, use of light and shadow are all there in this quiet interior – with pigeons.

There is a plan to create a catalogue of Alan’s work containing photographs of known works and their whereabouts for the Hertfordshire archives. He usually signed his work AN with the date. However half the paintings left behind in his Manor Road home are unsigned and undated. If you own an Alan Norris, Steve Rogers (01727 811412) would be happy to hear from you.