Andrew Wilson Dodds was born in Gullane, East Lothian, in 1927, the youngest son and one of eight children of Archibald Dodds and Margaret née Wilson. Archibald ran a dairy in Gullane assisted by Margaret, the first British woman to earn a degree in Dairy Management. During the Depression, when Andrew was just a few months old, his father took a farm as a tenant, in Essex, and on his death at the age of 53, in 1942, Margaret had to take over the running of the farm, while bringing up her large family. Although it was expected that Andrew would also farm, by then he had already developed a love of painting and drawing, although he had neither been to any art gallery nor met any artist but the advertising posters on Shell tankers, which delivered oil to the farm, inspired him to become an artist (1) and, in 1942 won a scholarship to Colchester Art School, went on to study there for the next three years.
In 1947, after completing National Service in the Navy (2), Andrew spent three years at the Central School of Arts and Crafts until 1950. There he was taught by Roderic Barrett (1920-2000) (q.v.), who became a lifelong friend, and William Roberts (1890-1980), a war artist of World War I and World War II and a fine draughtsman. After art school, in 1950, Andrew was employed as an illustrator by the Hulton Press working for Farmer’s Weekly, a magazine aimed at the British farming industry. In 1951 he was elected a member of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers and the same year he was asked by Radio Times to draw characters for their new series The Archers. This was a shrewd choice as Andrew had been brought up on a farm and was working for Farmers Weekly. Andrew thus created inseparable faces for Dan and Doris Archer and their family.
In 1954 he married Rachel Foster in Colchester (3). They had two sons, including the artist James Dodds and two daughters.
For 27 years from 1957, Andrew worked for the London edition of the Eastern Daily Press producing three drawings a week, a total of 4,500 drawings, with 530 of them appearing in Andrew’s 1994 book entitledLondon Then. He consequently produced drawings, this time of Suffolk and Norfolk, for the Eastern Daily Press ending up drawing for the paper for 47 years.
Andrew also worked on more than 40 illustrated books (4) for publishers such as J. M. Dent & Sons, Longman, Thomas Nelson and Michael Joseph, the subjects he tackled being very varied. He also illustrated magazines such as Lilliput, Family Circle, Motor, Reader’s Digest and Homes and Gardens, not to mention the Central Office of Information, ICI, the GPO and Essex University. He also did advertising work, including a full page farming advertisement for Shell and became a dedicated teacher. He was a visiting Illustration Tutor two days a week at St Martin’s School of Art in London from 1953 until 1972, and joined Suffolk College School of Art and Design in Ipswich as a full time lecturer in 1972. He later became Principal Lecturer and Deputy Head Teacher at the College (1980 to 1989). In 1983, he was elected a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers.
He was a long standing member of Colchester Art Society, making friends with artists such as Charles Debenham (q.v.) with whom he would spend much time painting in Norfolk. He lived at Bourne Mill, Colchester, as a National Trust tenant for more than ten years, from March 1972 to 1983. During his stay at the Mill Andrew and his son James rebuilt the 18 ft. diameter water wheel and repaired whatever milling machinery was left in the building to make it work again. There Dodds used the large ground floor room as a studio, where he held several exhibitions of his own watercolour and pen and ink drawings. He also hosted several fund raising events, medieval styled banquets with stargazy pies (5)and roasting pikes bound in willow sticks on the open fire at the Southern end of the hall. He held harpsichord recitals too. In 1983 he moved to the Round House in Lower Raydon, near Ipswich, Suffolk, a house he had bought in 1982 and restored extensively.
When Dodds painted this watercolour landscape he had already contributed with drawings and paintings for nearly 30 years to magazines dedicated to the English countryside and its farming community. These chronicle paintings, whether of East Anglia or further afield (6), as can be seen here, have great aesthetic value and his skill in drawing rural subjects is evident. Although Dodds mainly drew in black and white for the many illustrations he produced, he was also very successful in working in colour, adding delicate hues to carefully constructed line drawings. This method increased his great sense of composition and perspective, not to mention texture and light effects, creating delightful evocations of places easily recognisable for their detailed accuracy. In that sense Dodds is the natural heir of great East Anglian artists such as Cozens, Crome and Cotman, not to mention Constable.
1961 Studio Club, London
1963 The Assembly House, Norwich
1970, 1983, 1985, 2003 The Minories, Colchester
1972 Bourne Mill, Colchester
1975 The Mermaid Theatre, London
1990 Aldeburgh Festival
1991 Digby Gallery, Colchester
1999 Chappel Galleries, Chappel, Essex
Some Essex Water Mills, Mersea Bookshop, 1983
East Anglia Drawn, Jardine Press, 1988
London Then, Jardine Press, 1994
East Anglian Sketchbook, Jardine Press, 1999
Here and There, Jardine Press, 2003
BAKER, Martin, Artists of Radio Times, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2002
BBC Publications, The Art of Radio Times, 1961
BUCKMAN, David, Obituary, The Independent, 7 January 2005
(1) Looking at the designs by artists such as Paul and John Nash (q.v.), Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden on the
Shell publicity posters, had made him dream that, one day, he would himself produce such beautiful posters.
(2) Being sick at sea, Andrew ended up on a shore base in Malta.
(3) The marriage was dissolved in 1972.
(4) Including East Anglian Drawn (1987) and East Anglian Sketchbook (1999)
(5) Stargazy pie (or starrrey gazey pie) is a Cornish dish made of baked pilchards, eggs and potatoes, covered with a pastry crust.
(6) Andrew painted local scenes during visits to the Peak District, Cornwall and also Portugal, Majorca, Greece, Turkey and Australia