Words by Lottie Lewis
Images by Clare James
How a carpenter in Cornwall found a rare opportunity during lockdown to rekindle a passion for creativity.
After years of working on construction sites, carpenter Charlie Bakewell found that whilst the rest of the world seemed to come to a standstill during lockdown, he could use this rare down time to his advantage and finally spend some precious hours on his true passion, art. With the sites closed and construction work scarce, Charlie set up his studio and rolled up his sleeves. Over the course of the next few months, he built his art business from the ground up, painting, drawing and producing prints, whilst also learning about the fundamentals of running a successful business, from marketing to accounts.
Charlie Bakewell | Image by Clare James
Whilst this second lockdown may be a little less strict and he can go back to the building site, Charlie is still finding time to draw, paint and work on his art business. We wanted to pick his brains about these two contrasting careers and the future of his creativity.
What came first, constructing or creating?
Creating came first, but with an element of construction too! I was never really into computer games, and growing up in a small village with not much going on I needed to find ways of entertaining myself. I got into making things from an early age. Using my father’s old cabinet of tools I created little fishing rods, bows and arrows, skateboards, ramps and hand-planes. Using these tools and understanding how they worked helped me to develop a creative nature.
Left: Charlie was creative from an early age | Right: ‘Whale’
When and where did you learn how to draw?
My parents always encouraged me and my siblings to be creative as a way to pass time. On weekends my father would set up still lifes for us to draw or I would flick through magazines and copy and colour in pictures. Doodling in classes and pursuing art in secondary school furthered my understanding and subsequently my love for it. My grandma also played a huge role in my learning, taking me to numerous galleries, exhibitions and museums, and although it was daunting it helped me to understand what was, and is, possible.
What’s your preferred method?
I haven’t quite had the chance to really experiment with all mediums, but pencil and watercolour have become my current materials. They both require little space and are instant to set up and pack down without mess, which is ideal for life on the move. Pencil has been my most used and loved medium at home, I love the simplicity and ability to create incredible detail and the range of results are amazing. Watercolour has allowed me to add life to my drawings, delicately and patiently. It’s a slow process, but one I enjoy taking my time with. The results are worth it.
Why do you work as both a carpenter and an artist?
I recently rekindled my passion for art, and I don’t want to fall out of love with it by making it my only source of income, as this could make it feel stressful and take the joy out of it. I enjoy working on site and carpentry is good money, so finding a balance between both art and construction was perfect. I feel this balance is essential and as long as I can do each without either one taking away from the other I will pursue both.
How do you find the time to do both? Is it tricky to switch between construction and fine art?
Honestly, I actually don’t find time! I find it incredibly difficult to juggle both carpentry and art, as well as pursuing other hobbies such as surfing and spearfishing, plus hanging out with friends and spending time with my girlfriend. Construction is physically and mentally exhausting at times and coming home and finding the motivation to create works of art, which requires a lot of focus, is draining.
Not to mention the state of my hands when I get back; glues, resins and dirt, which I try helplessly not to get on my drawings! But because of the contrasting nature of the two things I find it easy to switch off from the other when working on either.
Painting ‘Chapel Porth’
Finished – the results are always worth the time
How did you utilise your time during lockdown to launch your art career?
Pre-lockdown I only produced about one drawing or painting every three-to-six months, each being a simple sketch and taking only a few hours. It was purely a hobby and one that I only did when I felt like it. When lockdown struck in March I found myself with more time on my hands than ever. What better time to learn, practice and pursue an ongoing relationship with art?
I set up my little studio and dedicated eight hours a day to it – laying out my materials I found inspiration and away I went.
As well as producing works on a daily basis, I also dedicated a few hours to an online art course to further my understanding of the fundamentals of art. I started on the business side of Charlie Bakewell Art too; creating a brand, an online presence, business cards and a website, plus educating myself on how art is sold, seen, printed, packaged and dispatched. The lockdown months were the best opportunity I could ever have hoped for and I made the most of every second of it.
Image by Clare James
What’s your favourite thing and the worst part of creating art?
The best and worst part of creating art is that there is no finish line. I am always learning which is fantastic, because it keeps me busy and motivated. Finding new processes, new materials and new ways of application is exciting, but it is also very daunting at times, not wanting to ruin a piece that you’re so close to completing is scary!
Lockdown was definitely a tough time for a lot of people, financially and mentally, but one thing we noticed was how many people used the furloughed months to finally pursue something that they’d previously never had the time to commit to. Books were written, websites were launched, jewellery was created, clothes were stitched. Small businesses popped up all over the place and our community was incredibly supportive of one another.
If you’d like to purchase one of Charlie’s prints or chat to him about a commission you can reach him via email, website or Instagram.