A Maverick who neither courted nor curried favour with ‘The Establishment’
Being brought up in Lambeth in the 30s by a father in the film business; being an avid cinema goer, watching the black and white drama portrayed - all viewed through the eyes of an unapologetic romantic - was Ken’s springboard to a life of painting faces. His then colourful passage of travel and experience only added to his understanding of the faces around him. Faces he felt compelled to put down on canvas.
His formal education was unexceptional except for his obvious talent for art. His art master had to beg the headmaster not to cane the unruly boy on his hands, as he felt Ken was that rare and wonderful thing - a natural artist.
The war meant the end of school, such as it was and the young Ken flirted with a number of jobs. He went hop picking in Kent. There was a spell at Twickenham Art College, which failed to tame his style. (Not understanding the need to draw precisely from the antiques when he could represent a face or body so emotionally with just a few shapes, Ken and the College parted company relatively quickly.) He was an apprentice commercial artist for Caplins Advertising Agency in London. He worked for the Huddersfield Daily Examiner in Fleet Street. He was a coalman and a painter/decorator. He didn’t stick at any of these for very long and was called up in November 1944.
He went into the infantry of the Queen’s Royal Regiment. He freely admitted that he wasn’t a very good soldier - having not previously been introduced to the concept of discipline. He spent most of his army years in Northern Ireland.
In 1948, much to the chagrin of his father, who wanted him to find work in the film business, he joined the Merchant Navy as a Fireman/Stoker and signed on to his first ship at Ravens Point, London Docks in 1949. The army had taken him away from his family and the Merchant Navy took him away from England. He travelled the world and his thirst for adventure was fuelled by the sights and sounds he experienced.
In 1957 he took his young family to California to start a new life. He obtained a GI loan and a green card. He again floated from one job to another, before finding an outlet for his art as a quick sketch artist in Knotts Berry Farm, Buena Park.
Although he returned to England after a couple of years, he found himself drawn back to the US again and again. To California and New York. He experienced hunger and periods of loneliness but found friendship within the art community and was offered wall space on the corner of Colombo/Broadway. His work was exhibited frequently in the West Coast galleries.
His first marriage failed, as did his second and he suffered a period of depression/ME that led to him losing the central vision in one eye.
From this eclectic life, a body of work has evolved that brings to life the very essence of his sitters. His portraits are not always pretty but they are impossible to ignore. He felt it his mission to capture a generation. He never shied away from the harsh reality he saw in the faces he painted and this honesty shines through and is often affecting for the viewers of his work.
Ken was made a member of the Pastel Society in 1982; a member and Master Pastellist of the Society des Pastellistes de France in 1987 and Vice President of that society in 1990. He has exhibited regularly at the Mall Galleries, with the Royal Portrait Society; the Royal Institute of Painters in Oil, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour and the Ing Discerning Eye (invited artist).
There have been many exhibitions, perhaps most notably at the Holburne Museum in Bath in 1999, l’Abbaye de Flaran in Valence sure Baise, France in 2010. Both exhibitions courtesy of the Michael Simonow Collection. Also the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in London, the Jablonski Gallery, London, the Edward Day Gallery, Ontario, Canada, Linda Blackstone Gallery, Pinner (with whom he travelled to Israel with a number of other artists for the 50th anniversary) and the Frost & Reed Gallery, St James’ Street, London. A brand new exhibition of his work is currently hanging on the walls of l’Abbaye de Flaran waiting to be shown to the public (subject to Covid 19 restrictions). The exhibition will run until January 2022.
A film was made of Ken for Sky Arts, in which he was shown teaching, talking and ultimately painting a portrait of the actor, Joss Ackland. There are two publications: Ken Paine - his life and work by Michael Simonow and Ken Paine - Nowhere to Hide by Penelope Lee.
His personality was playful, flirtatious and joyful. As was once quoted in a French magazine after a demonstration at the International Salon in Lille, “when he releases you, a friend is missing”.
Ken passed away peacefully on 9th June after a long illness, at home with his third wife, Penny