Worthing artist Alan Tobias Williams
PUBLISHED: 00:16 27 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:57 20 February 2013
Alan Tobias-Williams' powerful art ranges from strong textured paintings to large sculptures, made from mild steel and reclaimed items. Simon Irwin went to the artist's home in Worthing to find out more.
Art was in the blood for Alan Tobias-Williams. His mother Julia was a sculptor and their home in Manhattan was full of her work. When he was a child, Julia used to throw shards of stone to him to work on but every time he tried, it broke.
This might be why he ended up working with steel, a medium where you can weld elements together in a way you cant with stone.
He says the main thing he took from his childhood experience was a respect for the work that went into the creative process. And he decided he wanted to be a creator rather than a performer.
As he grew up he travelled widely in Europe and visited his uncle at Twickenham on a regular basis. At 18 or 19 he rode on a motorbike from North Africa to Barcelona and Paris and then went to stay with his uncle.
His formal art training was at the School of Visual Arts of New York University. But he says: To be honest, I think I learnt a lot more from my mother.
After spending six or seven years in Spain, he came to London where he met his wife Lynn at a Royal College of Art sculpture show, where she had studied for her MA. In the end we came together and eventually married. Shes a very fine sculptor
We were in London for a long time. I had a great friend who moved to Brighton and we followed on as we came to like the idea of being by the sea. Eventually we began to visit Worthing and found it very charming. Its smaller with some lovely buildings and not as frantic as Brighton.
Alan works in oil for the paintings. Much of his sculpture is mild steel and reclaimed items like brake drums and discs because he likes their dimensions and curious indentation.
His works begin life as small models before he gets out his heavy cutting gear.
What I usually do is take a small roll of card and I make a tiny maquette. I make it out of that and then I get my proportions.
Big pieces have to be done like that or I would run into a load of problems later and at those sizes its costly and time-consuming if I make a mistake.
He buys and sources his materials locally. I go to a fabrication yard I know in Hove, Colburns. I go there and look around and see if theres anything interesting thats discarded.
They have been incredibly helpful to me over the years. I have been going there a long time. Everyone there has been marvellous.
Welders are unique. They really are incredibly talented and kind people. They do a very dangerous job and they do it very meticulously. They are really something.
The raw material is an open ended tube that Colburns produces for Alan.
"The steel comes in and then I have it rolled. They have an enormous roller, an incredible 100-year-old machine. They put a piece of sheet steel in and it goes through and is turned and becomes open tubing and that is what I work with.
Once I have the tube, I cut it with acetylene. I went to college in London for about six weeks to learn how to do it. I was the worst welder there. I have a dodgy eye and if I weld on a straight line, I cant do it. All kinds of images come out and I cut it different ways.
Then theyre welded together and angle-ground. The grinder gives you finishes of all sorts or you can cut into it with a grinder as well to create shapes. I either leave them clean and then varnish them or I paint them in a particular way and then take the angle grinder and remove part of the paint to get linear work within the colour.
That ties it all together and makes it much more interesting and brings the steel into play.
So you see the steel as well as the colour. Otherwise why bother? It is steel after all. But that gives it a fantastically interesting finish.
Typically, it takes Alan two months to create one of his pieces. He has been working in mild steel for about 20 years.
Prices for his sculptures range from 1,200 to around 10,000 depending upon the piece. As he says, each piece is individual.