Middlesbrough artist Barbara Renton Wood celebrates the re-birth of Redcar's steelworks

PUBLISHED: 00:06 16 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013

Middlesbrough artist Barbara Renton Wood celebrates the re-birth of Redcar's steelworks

Middlesbrough artist Barbara Renton Wood celebrates the re-birth of Redcar's steelworks

An artist from Middlesbrough is celebrating the re-birth of Redcar's steelworks, as Helen Johnson reports

The energy and enthusiasm emanating from Barbara Renton Wood is so powerful, you could almost reach out your hand and touch it. That same energy leaps from her paintings which celebrate the power and might of her local landscape: a landscape that includes the monumental structures of Teessides industrial giants.

Barbara was born in Middlesbrough and she said: As a child, I always painted even chalk on pavements. My school reports always said I was good at art. But in those days, we didnt even think of going to art college, we had to work. I left school when I was 15 and got a job as an apprentice hairdresser.

By the age of 21 she was running her own shop in Middlesbrough by day, and attending evening classes by night. I enjoyed hairdressing, she said. Its a creative job and it was good to make people feel and look nice. But painting was always a passion and I did it whenever I could. I feel I have to paint, to create. And I love it when people look at what Ive done, and they enjoy it.

Because Im not formally trained, it all just comes out. Im always experimenting. I use all sorts of media, especially acrylic, pen and ink, and watercolour. And I use all sorts of things to apply the paint: sticks, knives and spatulas, as well as brushes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt, but I have to experiment, I have to stretch myself.

And since she retired Barbara has had more time to devote to her art and although she paints a range of subjects, she has developed a reputation for her paintings of Teessides industrial landscapes.

As a child she lived beside the Transporter Bridge and it now appears in many of her pieces, in all its moods, lights and seasons. By joining art groups she was introduced to galleries, including ArtsBank in Saltburn where her industrial scenes were immediately popular.

When the steelworks in Redcar became the last on Teesside to close, Barbaras energetic paintings of the live, working furnace became top sellers. Over a thousand people were made redundant, and Barbara believes many of them bought paintings, as a memorial to their lifes work.

Now the steelworks is revived, new people are buying Barbaras pictures, celebrating the return of steelmaking to Teesside.

I think the reason why my paintings are popular is because of the loose, exciting technique, she said. Photography now is so brilliant, that when people are buying original work, they want to see the marks in the paint, and the loose, impressionistic, splashy expression in my work.

Fortunately, with different lighting, and the different fields around, I can do lots of paintings of the steelworks that are all different.


Greetings cards have now been produced featuring Barbaras work and her next aim is to crack the international market. Id like to sell my work abroad. Lots of Australians have bought pictures of the Transporter Bridge there are lots of Middlesbrough people living in Australia.

I grew up in a council house we were just ordinary people. So I think that for a council house tenant to go international is quite an achievement.

* See more of Barbaras work online at www.barbararentonwood.co.uk and at ArtsBank on Milton Street in Saltburn.

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