A childhood spent in cultural centres of Europe, the jungles of South America, and the mountains of Southern China, have all combined to shape the creative vision of British-born Simon Bull who has since become one of the world's most compelling living artists. His work is collected by royalty, presidents, celebrities, and museumsas well as a growing number of private collectors who find their lives enriched by the color and emotion of his work.
The second of four children, Simon's flair for art was first noticed when he won his first art competition at the age of six. Other childhood art prizes were to follow, including several in his teenage years and a national art students painting prize while he was at college.
At the age of seven he was sent to boarding school in the North of England with his elder brother. The next four years provided a heady cocktail of experiences for an impressionable young mind. The tough school regime, contrasted with times of adventure with his family in South America. Home was a rambling white colonial house on brick pillars, with floors of polished wood. A colony of fruit bats lived in the loft and emerged at six every evening, humming birds fed from flowering trees in the garden, which was also home to the family's parrots and a menagerie of different pets including a kinkajou and coatimundi.
Simon Playing Cricket
That's Cricket - Guyana 1966
The fringes of the rainforest provided the young artist with a wonderland of sight and sound. It was a world of color and mystery, the cathedral-like pillars of the forest trees and the swollen rivers adding a note of darkness and danger to the enchanted wilderness. During his teens the family moved to Hong Kong for several years. It was here that he first encountered the art of the East where the beauty of Chinese brushwork with its economy of line and energy of composition was to have such a lasting influence on him. It was here also that he held his first one-man exhibition at the age of eighteen. The success of that and other subsequent shows was to lead Simon into a lifetime career in art. While living in the East he continued his education in England at a boarding school in South London. Being in London afforded him the opportunity of becoming familiar with the great art collections and enabled him to benefit from the wide range of exhibitions as they came to town. Many influences were coming together and shaping an inner vision of the world that was to inform Simon's passion to create, not just an image, but an experience. In the early years at boarding school, the sense of desolation he sometimes felt whilst away from the bosom of the family opened him up to an intense search for spiritual nourishment. Coming from a Christian family had meant that a sense of God was always present with him, but as he grew older, a desire for a more tangible spiritual reality led him to the Bible and eventually to find in the person of Jesus, one who brought him the peace he so badly needed as well as a new purpose and sense of destiny.
While still at art school he married Joanna, his childhood sweetheart. As time passed the economic challenges that faced the growing family were many, but always there would be some buyer who saved the day, some last minute commission that turned up. During the late seventies and early eighties the skills in printmaking that he acquired at art school and which had especially fascinated him began to pay dividends. He sold his first three editions to Pallas Gallery in London and then entered a relationship with London Contemporary Art who sold out many of his meticulously worked multi plate etching editions.
Throughout this period Simon painted the world around him. Traveling extensively to the East, he trekked with his paints through the foothills of the Himalayas, toured the Mediterranean and spent many weeks painting the mountains of the English Lake District where he and Joanna later made their family home for many years. However, as each year passed a deeper creative current seemed to pull at the artist. Once again it seemed that what had happened during his teens in the spiritual realm was now touching him in the creative realm; a sense of something more, of something waiting to be touched and expressed beyond the world of visible realities. He was moving away from painting the outward things, his canvases began to be expressions of the inner world, the world of the heart and of the spirit where the real life of mankind is felt and lived.
Though he had gained early recognition for his finely worked etchings and watercolours, his work took an explosive new direction in the early 1990's with vibrant colours and bold, expressive compositions. It was this new ability to work with colour that was to bring him widespread international acclaim and produce the signature look that was to make his work instantly recognizable. Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, the rich and vibrant style for which he has since become world famous began to find expression, to find a voice.
It was not until his major one-man show at Harrods in London where seventy-six of his paintings were exhibited together, that the effect of this new work came home to him.
Simon in Spain
Plein Air painting. Spain 1990
I remember walking around the show listening to what people were saying. I began for the first time to understand what my paintings had become. The people were telling me! People were being transported, the colors and imagery were becoming a means of conveying the viewer into another world, the miracle was happening. People were being hit right in their emotional center."
This success has led to many accolades. He was the first to win the Fine Art Trade Guild Artist Print Award in 2000 (as the top-selling print artist in England), and in 2002 he was named the official artist for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. In 2003 and 2004 he became the first British artist to win the prestigious U.S. National Association of Limited Edition Dealers Print of the Year award, first for "The Journey Never Ends", and the following year for "Bird Of Paradise". During his career, his work has been introduced by Randy Jackson of American Idol, unveiled in New York by Donald Trump, and featured on ABC Television's Extreme Makeover Home Edition as well as MTV Cribs and ShopNBC. In early 2005 he was diagnosed and successfully treated for colorectal cancer and has used his talent to support various causes, including work with the American Cancer Society, the Ventana Wilderness Society, and Ronald McDonald House Charities, among many others. Increasing interest in his work among American collectors led him to California in 2003, where he now lives and paints from his studio in the beautiful Monterey Bay area.