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His nibs: Copperplate Mick

A man of many parts, Hampstead School of Art teacher believes in the incredible dexterity of the hand

02 June, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Mick Bray

WHEN Mick Bray mentioned that he taught calligraphy we were at cross purposes at first.

I thought of the beautiful and mysterious Chinese characters that run across scrolls, an ancient art form.

He had something less precious in mind – English expressed in handwriting.

Handwriting? In this age of emails – some may ask what is it?

But you all know it. Many of you used it every day sending letters and writing documents, before the age of typewriters and now keyboards.

When the penny had dropped, I cringed a little. My handwriting is awful. Almost indecipherable, worse than that of a doctor!

Mick’s an artist, as you would expect of a man who teaches it at the Hampstead School of Art where I met him last week.

And he looks every inch an art teacher. Now in his late 70s, Mick, who has a mariner’s look about him, has been lots of things in life.

I knew I wasn’t the only one who had had patchy schooling but Mick left school at 14 on his way to the Canterbury School of Art, where he studied for four years.

Afterwards came the lure of the advertising world, where he spread his gift for words with top advertising copy as well as directing commercial films for such companies as Cadbury and Nationwide.

A sample of Mick’s artistic handwriting

In the evening he played his favourite instrument, the clarinet, and took to the canvas where portraiture drew him as a favourite art form.

With his whirling, polymath of a mind he wrote his first novel after retirement a few years ago which is now being followed up as part of a trilogy telling the story of women caught up in the world of the internet.

As we sat in the evening sun in the grounds of the Hampstead School of Art he talked about his latest commission, a portrait of the Reverend Alistair Tresidder of St Luke’s in West Hampstead, and his love of handwriting.

He talked about the incredible dexterity of the hand, and the fact that the art of handwriting – like most art forms – is only learned by practice.

He actually practises what he preaches. He writes a lot of his letters by hand but doesn’t necessarily post them. He copies them and sends them by email, just to speed up the message, but the art form remains untouched.

In my photo of him here he is standing in front of one of his art works – a version of the Star of David.

Any relevance?

It turns out he discovered to his astonishment at 50 that his mother was one quarter Jewish, which inspired him to turn to the canvas.

He is a man of many parts – and surprises. As you would expect of an artist.


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