Antony J Bridge
BA (hons) General Illustration (2002)

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Young Guns
The Art of Antony Bridge

At the age of 22, not many artists can boast three solo exhibitions within a single year, or having their work on display at the Silverstone Gallery alongside some of the leading automotive artists of the World. Antony Bridge however, can add these feats to his resume. He is an art student in his final year, and a promising young illustrator with considerable talent.

Growing up in central England in a little town called Malvern, Antony was surrounded by some of the most inspiring landscapes around Great Britain. Drawing has always been a part of his life and walking around the house, he would constantly gather things to set up still lives. As he grew older, his interest in art strengthened to a point where it became clear that he would also pursue a career in this field.

Initially his intentions were to follow in his father's footsteps and take up work as an architect. Every summer he would work at his father's practice as a draughtsman, which helped him become very technical and accurate in his work ethic. At the age of 17 he then began studying physics, math, mechanics, art and graphical communication for his A-Level exams. However, his desire to pursue a more artistic road grew stronger and as he became more skilled with contemporary techniques, Antony decided it was time for a change of course.

Around the same time, he also came into contact with what should later turn out to be his greatest passion of all - the airbrush. During his A-levels he entered a competition to design the Malvern Hills Citizens Advice Bureau logo. Having produced the winning piece, he had an opportunity to see the graphic designers at work who were preparing the logo for print. The head of the design agency, Martin Hicks, introduced Antony to airbrushing and helped him with the basics of how to use a spray gun. "I have been hooked ever since", he says. "The airbrush seems to be an addictive tool for a lot of artists. The smooth feeling when you spray onto the surface is extremely satisfying, and you can almost see reality forming in front of you. For me, it's almost like meditating. I seem to go into a deep trance and can't part myself from the painting until it is finished. Only my body lets me down when it gets tired, but my mind still wants to carry on painting."

With his new aim in mind, Antony decided to attend the Hereford College of Art and Design for a year and he found it very inspiring to see other artists at work: "I was very focused at that time on exclusively producing airbrush paintings and didn't listen to the advice of the tutors that tried to get me to broaden my repertory of techniques". The artist also points out though, that eventually he realized that by strictly adhering to just one technique, he would never be able to achieve the artistic freedom that he had always been aspiring to. So he decided to go to university to further broaden his horizon, seeking to combine the technical accuracy he had already acquired while working in his father's practice, with more expressive painterly styles. At the time it seemed that technical illustration would enable him to do just that, so he focused his research on finding an appropriate course: "I contacted a Technical Graphics course at the Swansea Institute of Higher Education, in Wales. There I was introduced to Andy Penaluna, who I found out to be an amazing airbrush artist with exactly the kind of talent I was admiring at the time. However, the Technical Graphics course he was teaching back then had been discontinued so I accepted a place on a three year degree course in General Illustration instead." Antony wanted to use the time of being in education to experiment, and also to find out were his true passions and strengths lie with regards to art, something which he says he will probably not be able to do as easily in a working environment. Encouraged by tutors like Andy, he has thus managed to develop and mature a broad range of individual styles over the past two or three years. As a result, today he does not have just one characteristic way of working. Instead, he likes to produce anything that looks good in any style and accordingly alternates his painting processes to give himself a fresh approach each time. He still gains the most pleasure from using the airbrush though, although he now mostly uses it along with other techniques, combining everything he has learned at once. Antony points out that the airbrush has huge advantages when it comes to simulating smooth textures and achieving realistic tonal ranges, but also he finds it a lot harder to express himself with it, like one can do with conventional painting. This should not be seen as a limitation though, but rather the opposite, as such that it illustrates his ability to put the tool into the right context and introduce various other techniques whenever needed, to achieve the goal of what it is he wants the artwork to express.

His ideal would be to be able to produce any type of illustration or painting, and to become an expert in as many fields and subjects as possible. Certainly an ambitious aim, but his resolve and willingness to work hard are without any doubt evident from the great variety of stylistically different paintings he has already produced. Antony derives a lot of his inspiration from the masters of the past, but also from works of various contemporary artists. This as well might explain his love for different painting styles. Already from the age of about eight, he started collecting Salvador Dalí postcards and for a while he was almost obsessed as he says, with the surrealists. He particularly admired Dalí's mastery of technique and his eccentric and powerful way of expressing himself. Later he began to be attracted to Fantasy Art from people like Chris Achilleos and Boris Vallejo, and was also greatly influenced by artists such as Damien Loeb or Chuck Close, who has produced some of the most outstanding photorealistic works of his time. A recent addition to his ever expanding list is Jack Vettriano, whose paintings trigger a great sense of mystery and thought in him.
However, his main source of inspiration is still derived from his passions, as Antony likes to call them: "I am most passionate about things of subtle beauty like interesting and inspiring people, beautiful places in nature, in fact anything that is somehow visually stimulating. The shine on a well designed car that contains bold and strong colors, beautiful figures with eyes that radiate life and energy, the way certain people move, all these aspects make me want to paint. A certain pose on a chair or a perfect composition excites me to the point were it must be forever captured on paper."

Antony not only embraces all kinds of traditional media, but also actively incorporates the computer in his work. Although personally he still prefers a hand made painting to a computer generated image, he is well aware of the necessity for professional artists to be able to use digital media as well. Nearly all creative job advertisements today ask for computer skills. Antony points out though that unfortunately, these skills are often not being taught sufficiently well to illustration students in art colleges. He uses it mainly to construct paintings, and he finds this approach easier to make changes, experiment with colors or distort reference pictures to get the perfect composition.

Such a determination but also an openness towards all media will surely be very helpful for carving a successful career in illustration. Antony has already experienced this himself while working on live projects. He has undertaken several commissions for painting cars and portraits in the past, and also he has produced other artwork for various companies during his studies. Seeing as he will be graduating from university in July of this year, he is presently building up contacts, and sending out work to different agencies to get some commissions he could do after leaving art college. Ideally, he would like to work in a studio with other illustrators and artists, people who share the same passion towards art as he does. Whichever road his artistic career will bring him though, take our word for it that it will be a successful one..

Antony Bridge can be reached at:

125 Wells road,
Malvern Wells, Worcs.
Great Britains


Anthony J Bridge
BA (hons) General Illustration (2002)

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