Photographer steps out from behind the camera to pick up the paint brush

Meghan Markle - Duchess of Sussex
Meghan Markle - Duchess of Sussex

Charlotte Harding meets up with a photographer who is picking up the paint brush once more.

As a painter and photographer Derek Martin is used to capturing the likeness of people and those sometimes fleeting moments.

Derek at work

Derek at work

“There’s something very satisfying about capturing and sharing with paint or a camera things I have seen or imagined,” reveals Derek Martin.

“I’m sure it was the same for the earliest cave painters.”

Based in Thakeham, Derek has taken up painting again after a 40-year break which saw him work for local newspapers as a photographer.

“I had always wanted to return to painting but as the years went by, I rather lost confidence in my ability and family life left me with little spare time,” he explains.

“Redundancy from my position as a local press photographer gave me the motivation I needed.”

A week at West Dean College near Chichester gave Derek a push in the right direction and along with encouragement from his wife Meriel he found he was enjoying painting again alongside his work as a freelance photographer.

“Meriel has also proved to be a very useful critic,” he adds.

“She is always ready to tell me what I don’t want to hear, which is so important.”

Derek invites commissions for portraits of people and their animals and says that he is ‘fascinated by faces’.

“Each commission is different and begins with a discussion with the client to find out what they are looking for and how best to achieve it,” he adds.

“Only occasionally can I work from photos taken by someone else without at least seeing the subject for myself.”

He adds that: “Pictures are nothing without an audience. I like to know my commissioned paintings have a very particular audience and I like to be able to show clients something familiar but in a new way.”

As for his inspiration, nature plays a big part.

“It is a big part of my life and photography, painting and drawing have added to my enjoyment of it,” Derek says.

As you can imagine, there are many similarities in Derek’s approach to painting and photography including light, mood, composition, contrast and use of colour very common to both.

“With photography I often have to work very quickly with what’s in front of me, but that’s fun” he explains.

“It can be very much like a sport, you identify your target and take aim.

“Painting of course is much slower but in fact the early stages can be fast. Waving the paintbrush like a magic wand, the essence of the subject can suddenly appear, which reminds me of the old days of making black and white prints when the image appear would appear in the developing dish - pure magic.”

As a photographer for many years it has helped him hone his observational skills and he feels his painting has improved.

“That’s the one big difference between photography and painting,” explains Derek.

“To paint you must observe in minute detail. If you find yourself looking at the canvas more than the subject you’re doing it all wrong.”

Derek is also fascinated by the way people react to images as if it is the real thing.

“Show someone a picture of a dog for example, ask them what it is and they will say it’s a dog,” he reveals.

“It isn’t, it’s a picture of a dog. Mother nature has not equipped us very well to differentiate between pictures and the real thing.

“Pictures trigger the same emotional responses and are more important in our daily lives than ever before.”

And he has found his return to painting ‘very exciting’.

“I enjoy a much freer style than years ago,” he reveals.

“I nearly became a full-time illustrator before branching off into photography but that was all about attention to detail.”

Up for a challenge, which may include trying to paint a horse and rider flying over a jump, Derek is obviously passionate about both photography and painting.

“Image making and sharing has exploded in recent times thanks to the incredible invention of the mobile phone,” he enthuses, “which seems to show there’s a primitive need for picture making built into our DNA.”

Visit to find details of a special offer of a free painting to whoever Derek think deserves it most.

He also offers painting and photography coaching from just £30 tailored to specific needs. Gift vouchers are also available.

Contact Derek for details.

Personalised gift vouchers also available.