Happy Father’s Day! Bryn Hughes

Not only is my pops a great Dad, he is also an incredibly talented artist. He’s currently down in That London reuniting and touring with “27 architects vintage Sheffield Uni 1963”, but to honour him on Father’s Day I’d like to share with you this interview, which was originally written in 2010 for UK Handmade Magazine.

MEET: Bryn Hughes

Please tell us what do you do and how you started

I draw and paint (in that order). I knew I was going to be an architect when I was just 10 years old, which is strange really since I was born in a small village in South Wales where my father was a coal miner and my mother a nurse.

After years of threatening to produce a sketchbook of buildings which inspire me to stop and look, the gift of a small box of watercolours from my eldest daughter in 2001 was the spark which led me to start sketching.

Were you taught to draw and paint?

I did Art at ‘A’ Level and a degree in Architecture but I was left to develop my own style, which was really good. The only formal advice I was given was how to put on an even watercolour wash over a large area and how to set up one and two point perspectives. I do love to buy books on watercolour techniques which I’m sure have influenced my style.

Sheffield Town Hall and Peace Gardens

Tell us about how you work

I am always accompanied on my wanderings by my rucksack containing my box of watercolours, a 0.1 Pilot DR pen, sketchbook and a stool. 

My personal technique is to sit facing a building and draw directly in pen, normally without pencil pre-drawing, onto rough A4 size watercolour paper. This method gives spontaneity since mistakes cannot be corrected and the adrenaline produced speeds up the whole process. Then, to keep the mood going at a fast pace, I immediately start watercolouring by painting in the dark windows. I find putting the first strokes of paint onto paper the scariest step so I always start in this way. I then continue with the rest of the watercolouring dropping in yellow ochre, ultramarine or magenta to give those “happy accidents” that mixing watercolour directly onto the paper can give. Working quickly and with a light touch gives a sense of immediacy and the best results.

What memorable responses have you have you had to your work?

The most memorable response was being invited by Buxton Museum & Art Gallery to give a one-man, seven-week long exhibition of my drawings. I will also never forget winning the Stephen Welsh Prize for Draughtsmanship at the University of Sheffield in 1965.

What is your favourite piece?

A fisherman’s cottage in Puerto Soller, Mallorca

Fisherman’s Cottage; Puerto Soller, Mallorca

What themes do you follow and where do you get your inspiration?

My usual subjects are frontages and facades of buildings. My draughtsman’s eye draws me into painting detail of shape, shadow and texture. I’m always amazed at how clever humankind is at creating buildings, works of art and works of use (I try not to dwell on its faults).

London, St. Pancras

Favourite artists include Constable, Van Gogh, JMW Turner, John Singer Sergeant, Sturgeon, and the watercolourists John Blockley, David Bellamy, David Curtis and Nita Engle. I also just love the work of Ronald Searle and Quentin Blake. My favourite architects are Frank Lloyd Wright, James Stirling, C.R. Mackintosh, Peter Aldington and Richard Rogers. I admire the builders who work in all conditions to construct the edifices dreamt up by designers. I think modern architecture is going through a good period, designed by architects who are a small part of vast teams head by the accountants of modern construction – the quantity surveyors.

I’ve also recently discovered Urban Sketchers, which has inspired me to get out there and sketch, and I am really enjoying producing quick sketches on my new iPad.

Denver Airport

Your work is extremely detailed – you must have a lot of patience. 

I think detail is a relative term. After practising mainly as an architectural draughtsman for the past 26 years, my work is not that detailed. I don’t have great patience – just a will of iron! My drawings nowadays are usually a fast sprint and not a marathon. The faster my pen moves the more satisfying the result.

Venice Canal

What is your favourite or most inspirational place?

Venice. I would like to visit Seville/Cordoba area of Southern Spain. Castellon de la Plana (north of Valencia) is the place where I reinvented my drawing style in 2001, France has the most beautiful old villages but Spain has the colours.

Castellon, San Felix


You’ve just retired, congratulations! What are you excited about doing next?

Everything! I’m finally living my preferred lifestyle. Now I’ll have more time, I hope to use my weird imagination a bit more and increase my repertoire of artistic technique other than watercolours.

What’s your definition of the perfect day?

Waking up without the alarm clock, a quick burst of sketching/drawing, a speed walk or slow jog across the heather moors opposite our family home on the outskirts of Sheffield, then to end the day, a glass of red wine and meal with family and/or friends.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t be an architect. But it was my ‘calling’ and I didn’t (still don’t) know any better!

Sheffield Skyline

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

My website www.brynhughes.co.uk
Blog http://brynhughesart.blogspot.com

All images in this post Copyright Bryn Hughes

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