It was my father who taught me how to draw, though as a sheet metal worker in a Bedford aircraft factory, he was an unlikely mentor for a would be artist. Nevertheless, from somewhere he’d picked up the basic principles of perspective and how to render a three dimensional object in two dimensional terms. So, from the very beginning, though I did have the basic skills, it was an ability that lay dormant, a kind of sleeping beauty, awaiting the kiss of life.
It was briefly awakened in 1953, when in the art class at my secondary school I produced a painting of the Coronation. Placed on prominent display for the end of term show, my father asked Mr King, the art master if I might be good enough for Art School? Mr King didn’t think so, at which point the budding artist in me turned over and slept again for the next forty years.
Or did it? The creative impulse, however small and undernourished will find a way to express itself and so it did with me. Not in Art however, but in Drama. I became an actor. The next forty odd years, from the age of eighteen to sixty, were spent working in the Theatre, Films and Television. A fuller account of what I did in these areas can be found in my entry on Wikipedia. A ten minute video of clips of film and TV appearances from 1969 to 1991 can be found on the Videos and Sketchbooks page.
Because there were periods when I experienced some success in all these fields, painting took a back seat. My interest in the visual arts was kept alive by visits to London galleries and exhibitions. Those times when I picked up a pencil and drew were brief, mostly in those periods when the acting jobs were thin on the ground.
The painter, whose star I followed throughout these years was David Hockney. Almost my contemporary in age, and from a similar background to my own, we had much in common.
I was in my fifties, with my services as an actor less in demand, that the question arose of what to do with my surplus energy? More and more what seemed to keep depression at bay and give me a sense of fulfilment was painting. Rather late in the day I found myself in Art School; or rather art classes at London’s City Lit.
In 2004 my partner and I bought a small property in Umbria and it was here that I started to apply myself fully to my painting.
In 2005 I produced a sole exhibition at the Barbican Library in the City. Called Icons, it consisted of eighteen life size portraits of historical personalities in a contemporary style.
Having moved to Cambridge in 2009, today I participate annually in Cambridge Open Studios and the City’s largest painting group, the Cambridge Drawing Society.
More recently I have had work accepted by The Society of Wildlife Artists, The Pastel Society and the Royal Society of Marine Artists for shows at London’s Mall Gallery.
In July 2020 I took part in a ten week course run by the Yorkshire painter Louise Fletcher. As a part of that rich experience I found myself a member of two internet art groups, Find Your Joy and Art Tribe. As with all similar groups we share our paintings and comment on each other’s work. A frequent response to the paintings I posted online was -
‘Hi John, I really love your collages, but could you please say more about your process’.
It was in answer to these repeated requests that I produced my recently published book ‘Working with Collage’. In it I attempt to show the great variety of subjects where collage has something to say.
As an unemployed actor, another area of creativity I was drawn to was gardening. I’m no plantsman, but in the past thirty years, two of my three gardens have been fortunate enough to win major awards. In 1996 my Hackney garden was the outright winner of a BBC Gardener’s World competition to find ‘the best small garden in Britain. More recently, our Cambridge garden came third in a similar competition run by Gardner’s World Magazine. See a YouTube video entitled ‘Gardens of the year 2018 John Tordoff’.
Finally, just to round things off, I can report that the ‘acting bug’ is still alive and kicking. On YouTube can be found several short comic monologues, which in recent years I have written and performed. Their titles are -