A bunch of artists

For a change, an item featuring contemporary relations, as various cousins have been caught in a Facebook trawl over the last month or two. Apart from being a source of family photos, including a few oldies (thanks Brenda), the number with an artistic line of work (or serious hobby) was noticeable. While this may be down to other occupations not leaping out quite so obviously, it seemed worth doing a round up, whether they are on Facebook or not.

Top of the list, not least due to the Schwitters exhibition {3} opening at Tate Britain tomorrow (30th January 2013), is Islwyn Watkins, first cousin once removed. He freely acknowledges his debt to Kurt Schwitters, in his collages and constructions created from discarded materials. Unfortunately there isn’t much of Islwyn’s work on the web {2}. Here’s a recent photo.

A small group of work at Bleddfa exhibition Nov. 2011
A small group of Islwyn’s work at Bleddfa exhibition Nov. 2011

Islwyn was also the person who raised the question of whether the family was particularly arty, or whether it was normal to have a fair number of the artistically inclined. He has also taught at School of Art Education, Birmingham and elsewhere.

Farthest flung: graphic design in Manitoba, 2nd cousin 2x removed Karly McRae of Whirlpool Design.

Most recently located (and youngest?): Kerwin Blackburn, a third cousin (once removed) has Kerwin Art Collections – acrylic paintings and products.

Currently most prolific: acrylic paintings and prints creator Paula Oakley, the partner of a half 3rd cousin.

Most closely related: Pete Howes, graphic designer, artist and photographer, teacher of such things – Red Back Graphics.

This sample is pretty small and no doubt unrepresentative, spread across the various branches with no particular line dominating.

Who have I missed?

Art in the Past

  • George Neal (1883-1963, great uncle). Art master, mainly at Harrow County school, where he was the first to hold this post, staying there from 1911 to 1945.  Someone searching for him on this site has led me to find a website with memories from Harrow County School. Memories are rather mixed, here are some quotes:
    • Bernard Wood ”Difficult” masters included George Neal, who never made any attempt to teach me art. He was more concerned with those who were naturally talented. His chief concern though was that the paint boxes should be scrupulously clean!
    • Paul Oliver: I was … very disappointed with Art at HCS which was taught by George Neal.  He was very restrictive – you always had to draw or paint something in a six inch, or four inch, square. … It did had a certain benefit which I did not realise immediately in that it focused me on fine detail.  Plant drawing was something at which he was good at teaching…
    • Ian Johnson: With his gaunt, lugubrious appearance, walrus moustache and half-moon glasses, he seemed to belong to the 19th century, which was true, of course.  His art certainly did, but I got on fairly well with him.
    • Denis Higham: Amongst the older ones, Georgie Neal whom I lived next door to for about 6 years, was a talented artist but a quiet stick who I regarded with awe when he recruited my father to play cricket in the father’s match.
    • Retirement article in school magazine.
  • Henry Betton Price gives ‘photographer’ as his profession on the marriage register in Camden 1889, but this seems to have been a fleeting occupation. (Great grandfather to sister-in-law)
  • Walter Crundwell, a distant in-law relation, gave photography as his intended profession in Canada on emigration in 1923 (he was previously a waiter).
  • Williams cousins – from the 1939 register, Alec is a silk textile designer, and Harry (Henry) is an architect, both in Norwich.

Do musicians count?

  • Joe (Joseph) Gregory of Cardiff and Tonypandy, 1900 to 1983 (first cousin 2x removed). Band leader (accordion band), musical instruments retailer. Update: Western Mail/Wales Online article Feb. 2019 mentions him in a piece about “the UK’s oldest record shop” in Cardiff (Spillers), although the detail is mangled – see Wikipedia entry for the shop instead. September 2019: Joe now has his own article on Cutlock & Co.
  • Matthew Sibley of Monmouthshire and Chicago, 1893-1945, gives ‘music teacher’ as his profession at 1911, while on travelling to America in 1919 he puts ‘professional musician’. (First cousin 3x removed)
  • William Griffiths Davies, of Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania (born 1888, died France 1918), applied for a passport in 1907, occupation ‘musician’, which he still was when signing up in 1917. (3rd cousin once removed)

What about a silversmith?

  • Henry Frederick Neal 1905-1963 in Norwich, first cousin once removed – family notes say “A silversmith of some repute” and “after the war (post-1945) he refurbished the silver in Norwich Cathedral”.

Back to now

Film, TV production, performance?

These are current, at 2013.

Back to the silver

Second cousins once removed Judy and Janette Mulloy (also first cousins 2x removed to HF Neal, silversmith) have sent in this:

Designs Brilliant is Designs Brilliantmade up of two talented sisters who live Nelson BC, touted “the best small Arts town in Canada” We try to live up to expectations! Glorious summers and greasy snow bring out the best in us as we make wonderful and funky jewelry.



1. Also see Occupations page.

2. Some other website pages relating to Islwyn Watkins: a couple  of his works on Art UK; one work at National Museum Wales (not digitised at Jan’19). An interview focused on ‘Recollections of Jeff Nuttall, Bob Cobbing, My Own Mag, Writers’ Forum, Group H & STigma in early 1960s London‘. A photo taken alongside 2008 audio interview by Ceri Thomas (half way down a long page). There’s a Wikipedia page (which has room for expansion). And Cutlock & Co remembers Islwyn.

3. UPDATE: Schwitters Exhibition obviously finished by now. There was also a major exhibition of Islwyn’s sculptures, assemblages and collages at Mid-Wales Arts Centre summer 2015. And a ‘Retrospective: Constructions and Collages’ at Old College, Aberystwyth University Jul/Sep 2018.

4. UPDATE, JANUARY 2019: Islwyn sadly died 30th December 2018.

5. Cutlock and Co doesn’t generally cover living relations to protect privacy (and also in case there are any embarrassing mistakes). Above links are to business websites rather than personal connections, but do let me know if you’d rather they weren’t on here.

Further Notes

Almost certainly the most popular profession amongst living relations is teaching. Apart from Islwyn, Peter (and George Neal in earlier days) above, we have:

  • Arthur Howes (technical drawing as well as maths), Chris Howes, Aly Howes.
  • Stephanie Amy (nee Kile) in Pennsylvania.
  • Gillian McMaster, from Canada currently teaching in London.
  • Sarah Shephard in Switzerland (science academic).
  • Gordon Neal has worked at Brandon University, Manitoba.
  • Dr Albert Dale Flowerday, researcher at University of Nebraska to 1983.
  • Glenn Lambert-Vickers in Auckland, New Zealand, who also adds his youngest son to the list (Oct’21).
  • Others to be sorted/recollected.

Quite possibly followed by accountancy/banking.

2 thoughts on “A bunch of artists

  1. I too was a teacher.While at school I had three paintings exhibited in Thetford guildhall and I was encouraged to become an art teacher and to attend life classes.

    My father was an excellent signwriter and during college days my ability to do this resulted in me being asked to print for all displays.
    Ann Dempsey [was Hardy] aunt of Kerwin Blackburn

  2. Our third son , Cameron has just qualified as a high school (secondary) teacher and our daughter Michaela is training to be a primary school teacher. Added to their father mentioned above.

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