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change he uses glue and paint to create more contempo- rary images – colourful frogs and lobsters are popular with buyers.

Neil paints in a studio in the converted garage of his parents’ home near St Clement’s Church. His father, Ron Patey, has just retired as one of Dartmouth’s best known electricians, and Mum Marion is proud of her son’s achievements. Their home, unlike Neil’s, is full of his paintings.

Neil and brother Stephen grew up and went to school

in Dartmouth. “Stephen’s my older brother who worked hard at school and did well! He’s an accountant now and lives in Plymouth. I always used to draw for myself, mainly birds and animals, but at school then we didn’t do much art. When I left I went to the sixth form in Totnes to do biology and art, oh and economics (but that was mainly to keep my Dad happy!) and then on to college in Torquay to study graphic design.” His design skills were honed at Loughborough Univer- sity before Neil got a job as a graphic designer in Bristol. It didn’t work out as he’d hoped: “I lasted six months. “It was the time when all the telephone numbers

changed and had a One added in, so I spent all my time changing people’s stationery. It was so boring. I didn’t pick up a pencil in six months. So I packed it in and came home. I called my parents from the train – it didn’t go down very well!” Realising the need to earn a living, Neil reached for his

paints. A week after arriving home he painted a picture of a tawny owl and took it to a gallery in Totnes. “The gallery owner looked at it, asked me to paint five more, and sold them all. My work has carried on from there. If he had said no thanks, I don’t know what I’d have done.” Neil loves Dartmouth and is drawn to the

river and the sea, trying to find different views as backdrops for his work, new angles that Dartmothians haven’t seen before. Looking back he realises how much he missed the water at university in the Midlands and while working in Bristol. “I was always on the river as a kid – I still love walking beside it and going out fishing - and when I was away from it I really


missed it. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else – and I couldn’t paint like this if I lived in a city or big town. I’ve always painted what is all around me.” A disciplined artist, Neil paints from 8am until 4pm

daily. He lives with girlfriend Tracey Callan, his partner since schooldays, and the couple are about to become par- ents any day now, so Neil has been frantically finishing off all the DIY in their house ready for the new arrival. Their parrot, Eddy, pines if left alone so he makes the short trip to the studio at Neil’s parents’ home every day too. “I’m lucky to enjoy what I do, but I do get cross when people think it’s a hobby. This is no hobby – it’s my job. I don’t take a sketchbook on holiday with me.” It might not be a hobby but it is a gift. His originals and prints are highly sought after, exhibitions are popular and his results are breathtaking. But he is humble, almost seem- ing embarrassed at the attention. “I keep pretty quiet about this. Most of my friends don’t

know anything about it. I go to football with them and we talk about the game, or I might go fishing. They know I do a bit of picture framing, but not about the paintings and exhibitions.

“I suppose I’m quite a private person, and I’m always looking towards the next painting, trying to make it bet- ter and knowing my work isn’t perfect. I have thought about having a gallery but if I paint on my own in my studio I can just get on with it. I don’t know if I would like to paint with people looking at me. I don’t think I’d get anything finished.” For more information about Neil Patey’s work go to


Barn Owl

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