With no formal training, no background in fine art and having spent the majority of his early life doing everything but develop his interest in and talent for painting, by any measure, Robert ("Bob") Grimson is an unconventional artist.
For the last 20 years however, eschewing many of the conveniences available to the modern sailor, he has literally lived his art aboard his classic gaff ketch ‘Meander’, the home he has shared with his wife Jean since 1992. Meander also serves as his studio from where despite the confined space, often complex maritime subjects and scenes are committed to canvas – all with a choice of palette and attention to detail that truly brings to life the often harsh reality, but always the majesty, of working sailing ships from a bygone era. This specialist subject combined with his particular style attracts growing patronage from a number of specialist marine art collectors and his work is on permanent display in numerous galleries on both sides of the Atlantic.
In art, as in his every other exploit, he is largely self-taught - making up for any lack of formal training by a combination of personal drive, energy, dedication and plain hard work!
Born 1945, Bob spent most of his childhood amid the rugged yet beautiful cliff-hanging scenery of the north Devon coast where the seeds of his passion, and deep-rooted empathy, for the sea were sewn from an early age.
Inspired by his environment, Bob’s creative ability was evident at school though he spurned advice to pursue a career in art choosing instead to study full-time at the University of Life. As a teenager, his passions were motor racing and motorcycles and his insatiable appetite for excitement and adventure lured him away from the Grammar School he attended in Ilfracombe, N Devon at the earliest possible opportunity – it having demonstrated a complete inability to relate to such a restless, wilful and rebellious young man. At just fifteen years old, armed with no academic qualifications, Bob went on to explore a wide range of potential careers including mechanic, welder, deckboy on an oil tanker, regular soldier, racing driver, truck driver, salesman, carpenter and, eventually, harbour master and boat builder.
In 1993 Meander crossed the Atlantic and has since travelled as far south as Venezuela in S America and as far north as Nova Scotia in Canada. She has become a very familiar sight – especially in the Bahamas where, spurning engine power, her five colourful sails drawing, she tacks in and out of even the most crowded anchorage. Her traditional lines and distinctive reddish-brown sails always catch the eye wherever she goes. In 2009 the upkeep of Meander became too much and she was sadly sold. Bob and Jean now live close to the beautiful coast of Pembrokeshire and sail a small gaff cutter out of Fishguard.
His decision, finally, to take up the paintbrush full time was in part inspired by the excellent collection of classic maritime art assembled by the late John Chancellor, but also by his own strong sense of sailing tradition and his admiration for the craft and skill of his sea-faring forebears. Through his work, it is his aim to bring to life much of the detail and all of the spirit of those great days of sail, days now sadly buried in the past. Bobs' highly detailed marine art can be seen in fine art galleries in the UK and USA and can be found in private collections throughout the world. He has had work shown at the prestigious International Marine Art Exhibition at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, USA in 2007, 2008 and in 2010 when his entry won an award of excellence. One of his paintings was presented to H M Queen Elizabeth 2 when she opened the new Heritage Centre at Pembroke Dock and in October 2014 his entry titled 'The Kathleen & May in Mounts Bay' won the Derek Gardner Sea & Sky award at the Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition in London.