Ted Coney was Head of Art & Design at Hills Road for over thirty years from 1971 - 2005 and has since opened the first pop-up art gallery in Ely.
Ted Coney's Family Portraits gallery is open to the public on most Sundays between 2pm - 4pm from April - December and other times by appointment. The paintings and objects that have inspired them are housed in a 300 year old grade 2 listed cottage on Waterside. A group of forty original oil paintings are there for viewing on the theme of family life and family relationships.
We were able to catch up with Ted and ask him a few questions about his time at Hills Road and his work that he is doing now!
What was your highlight of Hills Road?
“The highlight of my time at Hills Road has to be the day we went to Buckingham Palace to be presented with the Queen’s Anniversary Prize by the Queen herself. I was particularly pleased to take some of the students and art staff, as we all had such a good time. Princess Anne, when she heard we were the ‘art group’ arranged for us to visit the Queens Gallery next door, free of charge (it would have cost £100) and spirited us to the front of the queue. The only down side was that we put the certificate with its giant wax seal too near a radiator and it melted slightly!”
Do you know of any of your past students who have found success in the art world?
“I am always meeting past students from Hills Road who have done extremely well in the Art and Design world and thankfully making a lot more money than me. One I particularly remember is John Bendall-Brunello who went on to be a very successful children’s book illustrator and his work is now sold worldwide. One of his first jobs was to illustrate a tourist map for Cambridge. I remember he had written under the heading for Hills Road Sixth Form College – ‘Great for Art’, which was jolly nice of him.”
What inspired you to set up your own gallery and tours?
“The inspiration for opening up our home in Ely as a pop-up gallery was Kettles Yard House, which I have visited many times and seen paintings in a simple domestic setting. Also, I had opened our house under the Open Studio scheme a few times and I enjoyed talking about my work to visitors.”
What are your tours about and what can visitors expect to find out when viewing?
“All my work is about family life and family relationships and I’ve been making the paintings for over forty five years. As I don’t sell my work, there is enough to show a small selection in each of the eight tours. Each tour begins with a short film about the ideas behind the work and then I show around seven paintings and point out some of the objects used in them (including my Morris Minor). The tour ends with a look at how one painting was constructed, on the Electronic Sketchbook and a viewing of my latest painting in progress, in the studio.”
Have you still got your old car? If so, what is the model and make and how old is it?
“My 1931 Morris Minor, which I used for 34 years to get me to Hills Road, is still going strong. I don’t drive it as much as I used to (I prefer the bike and train) but I did deliver the Mayor of Ely to an event, recently. You can see the car flying back in time (like the Tardis in Doctor Who) to 1930s Hollywood on my Virtual Tour and driving down the centre aisle of Ely Cathedral (a series of photos) on my website.”
What advice would you give to any students studying art now?
“Well, the same as always – believe in yourself and don’t give up. The creative industries are very important to the health of the nation, so there is lots of work to be done. Being creative may not make you rich but it will keep you sane (or mad but in a nice way). I have just embarked on my 50th year of teaching and hope to keep painting for another 20 years at least.”
A big thank you to Ted for his contribution. If you have a story you'd like to share with us, please don't hesitate to get in touch by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Ted Coney and his gallery, take a look at his website: www.tedconeysfamilyportraits.co.uk