From their website: “Ken White was born in Swindon in 1943. At the age of 15 he left school and followed in the footsteps of his Father and Grandfather by working in the yards of the Great Western Railway. Ken started as a rivet hotter but later became a signwriter.
At the age of 17 Ken White’s interest in art led him to take evening classes at Swindon Art School where he passed A-level art. He then moved to London and became a commercial illustrator, designing magazine and book covers. A chance meeting with a young entrepreneur named Richard Branson resulted in Ken being asked to paint a mural for a London recording studio. Branson was so impressed that he paid White a retainer for the next 26 years as his personal mural artist. He travelled all over the world, meeting many of the famous musicians and rock stars of the day, and creating murals at Virgin recording studios, mega-stores, hotels and in the Virgin airport lounges …”Read more on the link below:
Museum purchases painting by Swindon treasure Ken White. So thank goodness for that! Brilliant news in this article by the Swindon Link magazine that: “Thanks to the Friends of Swindon Railway Museum, the STEAM Museum has now acquired a painting produced by Swindon’s internationally acclaimed artist and muralist, Ken White. The oil on canvas painting entitled The Rivet Hotters depicts a group of GWR rivet hotters who are gathered round a brazier, making their toast at lunchtime … ‘
Ken White’s murals have been a part of Swindon’s artistic landscape for many years now, though sadly much of his work exists only in photographic records held by Swindon local. As the Link Magazine article points out it is ironic that: “there is not a single painting of Ken’s in Swindon’s art collection, although McArthur-Glen bought seven canvasses for the Designer Outlet Village, and Steam Museum have a couple of Ken’s works on loan.”
It goes on to say that Ken is saddened by the disappearance of so much of old Swindon and the demise of its heritage … he further commented that: “Swindon doesn’t know what it’s got. We should keep what we’ve got and look after our history.” And, while I don’t especially want to rant and moan on this blog, I’m rather afraid I have to agree with him. There’s an old canal bridge with once lovely painted friezes on it going to rack and ruin for a start. And then most of the contents of the West Swindon sculpture tour are in need of TLC, ‘White Horse Pacified’ in particular but they could all do with a piff up.
Not being any sort of a pop-music buff I had scanty recollection of XTC – though I do remember enjoying the song ‘Making plans for Nigel’ but didn’t, until now, make the connection between the song and the band. So that’s something else I’ve learned.
“XTC were a new waveband from Swindon, England, active between 1977 and 2005. The band enjoyed some chart success, including the UK and Canadian hits “Making Plans for Nigel” (1979) and “Senses Working Overtime” (1982). However, they are perhaps better known for their long-standing critical (rather than commercial) acclaim”
Here they are in an early incarnation as ‘The Helium Kidz’ recorded by Swindon Viewpoint. And see them via the link below and talking against footage of Swindon and lots of shots of Ken White’s murals – many now sadly lost though luckily and thankfully a photographic record of much of his artwork exists in the Swindon Local collection flickr series.
Ken White – Swindon’s Mural Man. Known and loved by many Swindonians for the murals that once dotted the Swindonscape. Only one now remains, and that’s his first one, the Golden Lion Bridge mural.
If you haven’t heard of him and think you don’t know his work then you couldn’t be more wrong. An extract from the artist‘s website will explain:
‘Ken White is perhaps best known for his murals, sited in a wide variety of locations all over the world. To date, he has painted over one hundred murals.
He was, for many years, the personal artist for Virgin boss Richard Branson and has completed works for him in many Virgin establishments throughout the world, including record shops, hotels and airport lounges.
With the launch of Virgin Atlantic in 1984, Ken produced what is probably his most well known work: the “Scarlet Lady” emblem which features on all the airline’s aircraft’.
Ken’s early life
Life his brother and his father before him, Ken began his working life in the GWR works aged 15. He started out as a rivet hotter, later getting a move to sign writing in the carriage and wagon works.
As soon as he could he went to night classes at Swindon college to do his ‘O’ and ‘A’Levels in art. Those attained he left the works and entered Swindon’s art college to undertake a full-time art diploma.
Ken White – Swindon’s Mural Man
Ken’s mural painting activity didn’t restrict itself to Swindon though. As the personal artist for Richard Branson he travelled the world painting Virgin Megastores, airport lounges and more. You’ll find a great selection of Ken’s artistic output in this book: Ken White Muralist and Painter.
The Virgin Scarlet Lady
So yep. Not only has Ken painted murals all over the world he is the creator of Richard Branson’s ‘Scarlet Lady’. See, I said you’d know his work. So is he not something to celebrate about Swindon?