Sheffielders play at ‘spot the building’

My Sheffield by Phil Lockwood
My Sheffield by Phil Lockwood
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IT’S Sheffield as you have never seen it before.

You should recognise the buildings – the Town Hall, Telegraph House, the former Sheffield Playhouse in Townhead Street and the old St Silas Church in Broomhall – but the street layout is all the work of one man’s imagination.

Phil Lockwood

Phil Lockwood

For this stunning painting is an attempt by retired woodwork teacher Phil Lockwood to encapsulate his entire life in the city in the space of a few nocturnal roads.

And it seems, at the age of 69, recalling his own past is suddenly leading him to a brand new future.

See, his pictures have become so popular he has suddenly found himself inundated with commissions from art lovers as far afield as London wanting him to draw their imaginary memory lanes too.

“I think people like them because they’re so personal but also universal,” says married Phil.

A commissioned painting by Phil Lockwood

A commissioned painting by Phil Lockwood

“I think anyone from Sheffield of a certain age would look at my paintings and instantly recognise a lot of the buildings.”

Certainly they would.

There near the top is the old white marble Co-Op building in Ecclesall Road (“a place that was like a temple to me as a boy,” notes Phil), centre stage is the old Art School in Psalter Lane, creeping round one corner is an old Sheffield tram and in the distance are the Cooling Towers.

But, on a personal level, at the bottom is his childhood home in Hanover Square, Broomhall; right next door is where he lives now in Banner Cross Road, Ecclesall; and just over the way is the old St Silas Infant School which he attended.

There’s also Phil’s dog, Annie, who makes it into every one of his paintings, and a shop bearing his name – instead of a signature.

“I went to Leeds College Of Art when I was young,” says Phil. “But I sort of lost touch with painting when I became a woodwork teacher.

“Then when I retired I was looking through my old sketchbooks and I saw this drawing of Sheffield’s skyline from years ago and it made me want to have another go at doing a cityscape, but also to sort of create my own.”

And that’s what he did, and then thought no more about it until an art lover saw it displayed at the annual Great Sheffield Art Show – an exhibition he helps organise.

“He asked if I’d paint him one but with buildings which meant something to him,” says Phil.

“I’d really enjoyed doing my own and thought it would be a nice challenge.

“The thing is they’re quite therapeutic to work on.

“A lot of the buildings in each painting have to be fictional to fill the spaces and sometimes I’ll be working on one, sort of from my imagination, and I’ll suddenly realise ‘Oh, that is actually a real place, I stayed there on holiday years ago’. I drew a hotel we stayed in Barcelona and didn’t realise until I’d finished it.”

He has about six of the paintings on the go at any one time (“I’m easily distracted,” he says, “and find it impossible to be only working on one thing”) and a two by three foot piece could set you back a cool £1,000.

“It almost feels like I’m setting off on a second career,” he laughs.

“But I love doing it. The look on people’s face when they see the results is always worth it.”