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Interview with Cambridge artist John Pocock

Artist John Pocock lives with his wife of nearly 60 years, Janet, in the home south of the city that they designed and built about 45 years ago.

Artist John Pocock with some of his recent work. Picture: Keith Heppell
Artist John Pocock with some of his recent work. Picture: Keith Heppell

An accomplished painter who regularly takes part in Cambridge Open Studios, John, who was born in Cambridge in 1943 and grew up in the Romsey area, began painting more than 20 years ago, both as a hobby and as a way to provide balance in his stressful life in the estate agency business.

John set up renowned Cambridge estate agency Pocock & Shaw in 1984.

Now retired, the former student of Cambridgeshire High School for Boys – now Hills Road Sixth Form College – paints mainly for pleasure. A keen walker, John’s recent work includes scenes from Wharfedale in Yorkshire, where he and his wife went walking last autumn, and scenes from around Coe Fen and Sheep’s Green, which he has painted this year.

John says that most of the work he did in January and February was related to the local “winter conditions” that he and his wife witnessed on their daily walks.

“I live off Trumpington Road, and I’m pretty close to the river and to Coe Fen and Sheep’s Green,” he explains, “and Grantchester and Grantchester Meadows... that’s the sort of area where we choose to walk.”

John adds: “So I walk and I look and I take photographs, and then I come back to my house and spend a few hours in my studio doing a bit of painting, to capture the scenes of the time.

"We’re fortunate to live in a part of Cambridge where it’s not far to go to get some really attractive scenery.”

Morning Sun on Flooded Land, a painting by John Pocock
Morning Sun on Flooded Land, a painting by John Pocock

Of the Cambridgeshire scenery, John says: “There is a lot of seasonal variation. Whereas you might say the best time to have a look around the river area is in the spring and summer, it’s not necessarily the case because the scenery is interesting, totally different and rather attractive in the winter period as well.

“My situation is this: I paint because I like painting, I paint because I enjoy it, I paint because it’s the best form of relaxation I’ve ever found. I took up painting when I was in the middle of a very hectic professional business life, and it was a wonderful form of getting me completely away from the stresses of running a business.

“But I got to a point where it was clear that some people quite liked my paintings and actually started to talk about buying them from time to time. I then decided that I didn’t want to profit from it because it was something that gave me pleasure and enjoyment.

Artist John Pocock with some of his recent work. Picture: Keith Heppell
Artist John Pocock with some of his recent work. Picture: Keith Heppell

“So I opened a separate bank account and I give everything that I get from the proceeds of painting to charity. I have several favourite charities and it gives me even more pleasure to be able to not only enjoy the painting, but also have spare money to give away to people who need it more than I do.”

John says he doesn’t tend to stage exhibitions outside of Cambridge Open Studios and that he doesn’t go “out of his way” to try and sell anything. “I don’t get involved in the art scene generally,” he notes, “except for the fact that I’m a member of a local art club and I belong – and have done for some years – to Cambridge Open Studios, which I quite enjoy.”

John paints mainly in acrylic – and sometimes in watercolour – and did display some of his paintings outside at his home last year, as part of ‘Cambridge Open Windows’ – a socially-distanced alternative to Cambridge Open Studios.

He has also kept himself busy in his studio, where he has also painted portraits and other things in the past, noting: “I’ve still got plenty of subjects to paint from many previous visits to different places – abroad and otherwise.

Cambridgeshire painting by John Pocock
Cambridgeshire painting by John Pocock

“I’m not a skilled artist as such but I seem to be able to copy scenery quite well, particularly water and water reflections – or so I’m told.”

John also does do commissions for people but asks that they donate to one of his charities in return.

For more, visit painters-online.co.uk/artists/johnpocock.

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