"ASHLEY JACKSON - THE YORKSHIRE ARTIST" written by Adam Shergold of the Yorkshire Post
In a professional career spanning nearly 50 years, Ashley Jackson's powerful watercolours of the Yorkshire landscape have been displayed in leading galleries all over the world.
But it's a safe bet they've never been enjoyed while hurtling across the country at 125mph.
Now a train named in honour of the artist will allow just that, with enormous versions of Jackson's brooding skies and windswept Yorkshire moorlands greeting passengers as they step on board Grand Central services between Bradford and London King's Cross.
“Ashley Jackson – The Yorkshire Artist” was officially unveiled at Bradford Interchange station on the 20th October 2011 and is the world's first art exhibition on rails. Examples of his work and quotations from his sketchbook will be on display right through the train – including, bizarrely, on the back of the toilet doors.
“I asked for the ones in the toilet,” said Mr Jackson, “Ever since I was 16 years of age, I've believed that the best place to have one's work is on the back of a public convenience door where you're on your own and you can make your own mind up.
“I have seen better paintings on the back of public convenience doors than in many municipal galleries of today. And they are a lot more informative.”
“The Yorkshire Artist,” a Class 180 high-speed diesel multiple unit, will run three times daily between Bradford and London, and Jackson hopes his world-renowned watercolours will inspire passengers to explore his beloved home county.
“I've always tried to take art to the people and get tourists and industrialists to come up to our great county,” he said. “This train will make three journeys a day and anyone, whether they can normally afford it or not, can see a free exhibition.
“It will still be running next year during the Olympics, so will hopefully bring people up to Yorkshire. I'm a big fan of Yorkshire and in the same way John F. Kennedy said, I say: 'Ask not what your county can do for you, but what you can do for your county.'
“For Grand Central to name a train after me – with the metal nameplate and everything – I just couldn't believe it. It's been my ambition throughout my career as a professional artist.
“I've done it all without a grant. Before I was recognised, I had to work to subsidise my art but if you're passionate, you don't need a sugar daddy. It's like the old Barnsley saying – you need to put your talent where your mouth is.”
Since opening his first gallery in 1963, Mr Jackson has captured the imagination of each subsequent generation with his exhibitions, television programmes and books. But it through new technology that he hopes to inspire the next.
Each example of his work on the train will have a QR scan to allow those with smart phones to learn more about his life and paintings.
“We've taken art into the 21st century with the QR boxes and I'm the very first artist in the world to do this. It's all a bit overwhelming for a lad from Barnsley – I've never had celebrity status but I'm a painter and an artists in the same way someone else is a bricklayer or a journalist. They have passion for their work and are doing what they love to do.”
Jackson's passion for capturing the raw beauty of the moors around his home and gallery in Holmfirth - “mother nature's love letters” as he refers to them - remains undiminished.
“I still paint the Brontẽ moorland and things like the Druid stones at Blakey Ridge, which are thousands of years old. I love painting them – I'm a fan of Brontẽ's Yorkshire, not Barbara Cartland's Yorkshire."
“Sometimes I think 'what am I doing?' when I'm squelching about in my boots on the moors but when I'm up there I'm getting a thrill. You can either write it down as the Brontẽs did or paint it – and I call it Mother Nature's love letters.