Suffolk artist David Gillingwater surprised by popularity of RNLI portrait exhibition

David Gillingwater, who also volunteers with the Aldeburgh RNLI, with his collection of work 'Oilski

David Gillingwater, who also volunteers with the Aldeburgh RNLI, with his collection of work 'Oilskins' Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

A collection of portraits of Aldeburgh’s RNLI crew have gone on display for the first time.

The portraits have taken a year to create Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The portraits have taken a year to create Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Crew member David Gillingwater started painting his colleagues in October 2017.

Since then his work, known as the Oilskins collection, has been picked up by a “social media storm” which has spread interest in his work far and wide.

Mr Gillingwater, who runs Herring Bone Design in Aldeburgh, is currently exhibiting all 30 of his paintings at The Garage Gallery in Aldeburgh.

The collection has taken a year to put together with Mr Gillingwater spending every spare second painting his pieces.

Mr Gillingwater said he had been surprised by reaction to the exhibition Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mr Gillingwater said he had been surprised by reaction to the exhibition Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant


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Most of the pieces feature members of the crew but there are also three narrative pieces and a piece featuring the station’s dog, George.

Despite only having been open for a few days Mr Gillingwater said that the exhibition had been well received so far.

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“It’s been going fantastic,” said Mr Gillingwater.

“It’s a cold day in Aldeburgh and I have a gallery full of people.

“ People have been coming from all over Suffolk. It’s been busy.”

The furthest journey to see the exhibition so far has been from far beyond Suffolk’s borders and for a very special reason.

“A couple from Doncaster came to see the show,” said Mr Gillingwater.

“I was part of the rescue of their yacht. They had seen on social media I was having a show and said we have to see it.”

A special RNLI day was also held on Saturday for crew from the station to attend the exhibition in person.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to take part in a “sealed bid auction” to commission their own portrait by Mr Gillingwater.

All of the funds raised at the auction will go to the Aldeburgh RNLI.

Despite the amount of work he has put into the art Mr Gillingwater continues to be surprised by the reaction to his work.

“I knew that as a subject people would like it but I never thought this painting it would turn into the project it has.

“It has caught me off guard as to how popular it has been.

“It’s a celebration of my 20 years on the crew and the station. It benefits everybody.”

The Oilskins exhibition will continue until November 28 at the Garage Gallery on Kings Street in Aldeburgh.

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