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Fine Art By Jim Pierce

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This article appeared in the publication "The Old Watercolour Society" in England in the 1980s.


R.W.S., R.B.S.A.



Members of the Old Water-Colour Society’s Club will have noticed that I have occasionally published works by Dorothy Lockwood.  I always hoped that some year I would be able to include her among my series of members of the R.W.S. reserved for lengthier commendation. Dorothy Lockwood is probably one of the most diffident, albeit accomplished, artists in the water-colour method. For her it is the loveliest medium of all. She has a free, spontaneous technique, acquired after years of arduous practice, combined with intense poetic feeling, which is summed up in her own sentence, “When people ask me how I paint I say I do not know. The subconscious seems to take over and do it for me.” That no doubt accounts for her lyrically Impressive style.


Before I suggested writing this article I was aware that Dorothy is a personality in Birmingham and, in fact, became a member of the distinguished community, the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in 1959, with her twin-sister, Marjorie Sinclair, who died twelve years ago. This relationship was a remarkable case of very close and happy affinity.


Dorothy Lockwood’s autobiographical notes are a revelation of a happy destiny. She writes, “My sister and I were born into a very artistic home in the south of Birmingham.  Our mother was a dress designer, and father a fine craftsman in wood, and he made beautifully furniture.  We were surrounded by lovely things. Our walls were covered with pictures and we had plenty of good books. From an early age we showed talent in drawing. At eight years old we decided that when we grew up we would write and illustrate children’s’ books”.


Obviously these twins were born not only with a talent for drawing but with some occult force that their talent and love of art would reach fulfillment.


Their art education could not have been more propitious of the progressive development of their gifts; three happy years at Mosley Road Junior Art School, ”where we had a splendid all-round training,” and then came their graduation to the Birmingham College of Art, where the sisters were guided  by  Bernard Fleetwood.


Fleetwood Walker was a great portrait painter in oils. Water-colour studies of faces and figures that he exhibited egularly at the R.W.S. had a masterly method, and characterization exclusively his own style.


 To return to Dorothy Lockwood, she was also fortunate as regards watercolour landscape in having the guidance of Harold Holden, R.W.S., P.R.B.S.A. I well remember his charming way of expressing the beauty of the countryside as it was until the beginning of the Second World War for Architects’ Perspective and Industrial Design; A. E. Harvey was the essential master.


But in due course we arrive at a change of pattern in the life-design of the gifted twin-sisters. Looking back, it was surely an inevitable influence on their careers as artists. That happy Birmingham home and that congenial art training were interrupted by the death of their father. Dorothy and her sister  “had to find work”. Dorothy writes, “I became a designer for Silk and Terry Ltd, a fine art printer, whilst my sister joined Siviter Smith’s Advertising Art Studios”.


I have always admired Dorothy Lockwood’s versatility and confidence in coping with any subject, human, figure, animals, and nature generally.  Nothing appears to be beyond her ability if she is interested. The simple truth is that the sisters had to work and to do whatever was wanted to time.


I do so understand this discipline, both for an artist and for a writer. As a journalist in my youth and for many years afterwards, in Fleet Street, there was no waiting for inspiration to help if one had to write a leading article on the spur of the moment or some topical verse in order to get it to press within an hour or so.


From the notes that Dorothy sent me, I assume that she married just before the 1939-46 war, and during that war became a draughtswoman at Udals, the safety guard engineers.


The war over, another important chapter began for Dorothy and her sister. They did illustrate the aforementioned children’s books, and their record is in keeping with their ingenuity and energy.  Here are a few of their publishers; Blackies, Oxford University Press, Elliott, Sinclair Books, and for six years Dorothy wrote an illustrated the Magic Coco-Beanie stories for Cadbury Brothers.


After the war, and still quite young in 1946, the twins began to paint seriously, or practice fine art as it is called. The difference between and excellent illustration for commercial purposes and one called fine art has ever mystified me. But we need not pursue that old-fashioned controversy.


However, I would like to say that Dorothy’s paintings in oils and watercolours, and her sister’s beautiful and famous studies of animals were all the better for those long years earning a living by their indefatigable industry and adaptability.

“After my husband died,” writes Dorothy, “I could not cope with large oil paintings, and water-colours became my obsession.” She was elected and Associate of the R.W.S. in 1969, and a full member in 1974. Her works have something of a universal appeal, for they have been acquired for public and private galleries in London, Liverpool, Leamington, Brighton, the Midlands, New York, Detroit, Quebec, Seattle, etc. She exhibits at the Royal Academy, the R.W.S., the Birmingham Art Circle, the Birmingham and Midland Medical Art Society, and she is a Paris Salon Medalist.


To return to her method in water-colours, Dorothy Lockwood writes, “I paint only subjects I love, and prefer to work on the spot. If not possible I do shorthand sketches and photograph the picture in my mind’s eye, and work it out at home. Good drawing is important to me. I always draw in the shadows on the spot. One strives for luminosity, letting the paper shine through, and three washes are the limit. My palette is Payne’s grey, burnt sienna, French ultramarine, brown madder, alizarin crimson, viridian green, cadmium lemon, yellow ochre (or raw umber).”

It is typical of her warm-hearted and generous nature that Dorothy Lockwood includes her twin sister, Marjorie Sinclair, in her notes on which I founded the above article. “My sister”, she concludes, “was a fine artist. We did everything together and were passionately fond of painting and poetry. I simply cannot write my art history and ignore her.”


My happy obligation is to record this rare and beautiful relationship in the OWSC Volume




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