Charles Debenham – the man who painted Colchester.

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Aged 14 Charles Debenham began evening classes at Colchester School of Art, training there as an illustrator full-time from 1948-53. In the early sixties he was appointed to the list of designers for The Crown Agents.  His clients included Anglian Water, British Telecom and National Rivers Authority, National Power and National Grid for whom he designed a great many Visitor and Educational Centres.   At St Paul’s Cathedral he designed The Royal Wedding (Charles & Diana) Exhibition. In parallel to this very productive career, Charles Debenham has always kept painting the buildings and landscapes of East Anglia. 

For Charles Debenham the streets are his studio.  Over the years he has sketched and painted numerous scenes from local towns and villages in East Anglia, including Nayland in Suffolk. In these paintings he adds charm and details of everyday life. His work which is essentially figurative has a strong adherence to ‘traditional’ skills. Painting in oil and using a muted palette, Charles paints outdoor most days, on the spot, and divides his paintings into two categories: the “wet weather paintings” and the “fair weather paintings”. In the case of the former they are paintings which he does under cover when it drizzles. In terms of composition he starts every time by establishing what he wants. Then he composes a sketch in which he continually makes corrections and changes. Painting a building is to him like painting a portrait. Each building has a personality. As for the size of the paintings they are usually the same for the simple reason that they fit in a paint box which he made himself and which he carries around on his painting outings. On these outings many people continuously stop and talk to him, something he particularly enjoys …in moderation.