Kev was born and brought up in the industrial town of Hartlepool in the north east of England. Growing up, he loved fishing and football, and while he eventually trained as a mechanical engineer, his real focus was on the beautiful game. He was an avid fan of Newcastle United as can be seen in the black and white stripes that flow across the left-hand side of the painting.
His natural talent led Kev to becoming semi-professional and he played for Hartlepool FC. But in his early twenties a bad tackle and subsequent knee injury put an end to his career. After playing the game so intensively he struggled to come to terms with life after football. But all this was to change by chance.
One day as he wandered along the sea front at Seaton Carew beach, Kev spotted a surfer catch a wave. He was immediately captivated. When the surfer finally came ashore, Kev asked him how to get into the sport. The man offered to let Kev have a shot the next day and Kev’s football obsession was replaced by surfing.
Running up the left-hand side of the painting behind the black and white stripes is the industrial skyline of the ICI plants at Middlesbrough and Teesside. It’s this landfall which surfers at Seaton Carew see when they are on the waves. It signifies the place where Kev came to surfing but also the industrial setting of the Hartlepool surf scene.
By the time Kev discovered surfing he already had a young family so time to surf was precious and mostly done close to home. Occasionally he would make short surf trips in his van across the UK. To maximise surf time he would plan his trip like a military exercise. Kev would study sea charts, weather forecasts and use early surf alerts on Ceefax to ensure he had the best chance of good surf. Noticing how good the conditions were in Lewis, Kev made the first of many trips to the island, and over time he made close friends and got to know the place. I’ve referenced this phase of his life in the repeated square pattern map of Britain and Ceefax-like text.
In 2011 Kev was diagnosed with cancer. During this tumultuous period, the place Kev most wanted to escape to was the wilderness and peace of Lewis. Throughout his treatment and recovery, the goal of being able to surf again kept him going. Not long after he recovered, we met when he was on his first trip to the Island after his treatment, and soon after he moved here full time. We married in 2016.
Kev’s cancer made him reassess his life. He gave up a very well-paid job because he wanted to live a stress-free life, to feel healthy and to love life again. This dark period in his life can be seen in the circle on the right-hand side of the painting. The text refers to the feelings of helplessness and cruelty of cancer but surrounding this is a silver lining. The silver lining refers to all the things he has gained since having cancer and how it changed his focus and priorities to live a richer quality of life.
The circles with black feather patterns which flow up the right side of the painting are the feathers of magpies, both a symbol of Newcastle and of the birds’ love for silver which connects to the concept of a silver lining. The circles also speak to the round stones on Barvas beach. This is Kev’s favourite break where he delights in riding huge walls of water all the way into the bay.