AS HE turns the shop sign to ‘open’ the working day in The Bingley Gallery starts for artist and T&A contributor DAVID STARLEY.

David tells his story as he takes us through a typical day at the gallery he has managed since 2019.

‘I never expected to become an artist; at school I was encouraged to drop art, my favourite subject, as it was ‘not useful’.

Since then I have travelled the world, qualified as a metallurgist, worked as an archaeologist and done dozens of jobs besides, but art was always a subtext, whether restricted to a holiday sketchbook, or an occasional evening class.

Ten years ago it became more serious; exhibiting in art trails, selling in galleries and finally taking on the running of The Bingley Gallery.

‘Painting is a fantastic hobby, but a precarious profession. However, it does have its advantages. Visiting favourite places to capture their essence with sketchbook or camera, then returning to the studio to convert my impressions into a personalised work of art, sometimes effortlessly, sometimes with the frustration of needing to scrape back or overpaint.

Thankfully, oil paint is very forgiving and a picture may be re-shaped over many weeks. The deep paint I apply may take a further six months to dry and allow to display. After that selling is a bit like fishing - waiting patiently for some interest.

People ask whether artists are sad to see a painting depart after so much time and effort, but you cannot get too attached - you just share your work with others, and, of course, bills have to be paid.

Running a commercial gallery has its own challenges and benefits. The Bingley Gallery is Tardis-like: its small frontage gives way to a succession of rooms behind and a basement display area below, which retains the industrial look of the building’s original cellar.

With so many walls, the gallery provides an outlet for a host of local artistic talent, including the popular, quirky work of its former owner Jane Fielder and the fantastically detailed oils of gallery assistant L. Amy Charlesworth. Another couple of dozen artists display there on a regular basis, but to keep things fresh the front display area hosts a new temporary exhibition every six weeks or so.

On our day in focus, a new exhibition by Leeds-based artist, Judith Levin is being installed. Some of the works are so large that they needed a transit van to deliver them. Others are no bigger than a playing card, but all share the same magical ability to convey spirit of place.

Although some depict other topics, there’s no doubting that Judith Levin’s true passion is for the moorland and nobody paints is quite like her. As one person commented: “Excellent….so good in fact I can almost feel my feet getting wet from those rain soaked moors.”.

A few busy hours and the walls are covered and new moorland-inspired ceramics from Cullingworth-based potter, Kath Bonson start being placed on surfaces. A ‘range of wood panels by Gavin Edwards add their own understated beauty and a scattering of other artists’ 3D work fills the gaps. The display is finished off with sprigs of lavender in vases and in the outside planter craftily tinted to a more heathery shade with spray paint -artistic license comes to the rescue.

Even when the gallery shuts for the day, there is one more challenge ahead. Well before anyone had heard of Covid, Otley Arts Club had booked an art demo. There are many art groups across the region. Their members are always friendly and enthusiastic, and I am happy to do my bit.

The Otley date had been bounced several times, but the group were keen not to postpone again, so easel paints and canvas are piled into the car and make their way to Otley Welfare Centre. Presumably noting my usual paint-smeared clothes, the organisers light-heartedly express concern at the difficulty in cleaning oil paint from their freshly re-furbished premises.

There must be some unwritten law that a painting can be completed in whatever time is available - in this case it’s two hours and, sure enough, a blank canvas has become a woodland scene and the watching members are pleased, though I know the painting will require some remedial work in the following days. More miraculously, all the paint is on the canvas and none on the floor and walls.

It’s been a long day, but a rewarding one, and one that is undoubtedly mirrored in many ways by many other artists based in the Bradford area. We are very fortunate to live in a place that abounds with talent.

*The Bingley Gallery, 29B Park Road, Bingley BD16 4BQ.

Judith Levin’s Moorland, Woodland and Flowers exhibition runs until Monday November 15.

*For more details and information about forthcoming exhibitions at the gallery visit: