South Wales Argus Prettiest Pet competition judge and artist Chris Langley spoke to NICHOLAS THOMAS about his passion, his inspiration, and his early work in television

"I GREW up in Pontypridd, I was born in 1962, and my father was a bit of a celebrity – he was one of the Welsh diving champions in the ’50s and made an attempt to swim the Bristol Channel.

He was also an artist who painted in oils, so from then I always had a keen interest in art.

In school, at Hawthorn High School, I was noted for being talented, which is quite nice really.

It was then I was thinking about doing A-levels in history and art, but I was also interested in technology at the time, so I decided to pursue a more technological path.

I went to do various qualifications in the electrical engineering field, and I got a job with S4C as a broadcast engineer.

From there I was able to use my abilities in the editing and production field, and during the ’90s I became a member of the Institute of Amateur Photographers, where I won various certificates for video productions.

I was mainly making my own productions of music videos, producing them and putting them together.

One local band was involved but I also did covers of people like Madonna and Malcolm McLaren.

And then further on down the line, I discovered the iPad, of all things, and that re-introduced me to my art and creativity, back in about 2010.

I started to produce artwork, both digitally and hand-painted items, and I opened my very first exhibition in 2012 at the Pontypridd Museum.

I put in roughly 12 paintings – mostly abstract expressionist works, with some of Pontypridd, the Gower coastline, Tredegar and Newport.

I sold seven on the first night, and the very first painting I sold was to someone from Newport.

I thought then, if I could sell one item, it wasn’t just me who thought it was good – the public thought it was good enough to buy.

From there, I went on to do several other solo exhibitions.

I was approached by a gallery in New York to see if I’d like to show work over there.

I submitted two works for a body known as the Lumen Prize, and one of my works called ‘Turbines in Red’ in 2013 was named in the top 50 international works and went on tour.

Another work of mine called ‘Newport Beach in Pink’, which is based in Newport Beach in the USA where I visited, also got into the top 100 international works for the Lumen Prize, so that gave me some international recognition.

I applied to the Welsh Assembly and they gave me two solo exhibitions.

One, sponsored by Julie Morgan AM, was in the Senedd, and the following year the other, sponsored by Mick Antoniw AM, was in the Pierhead building.

Then I started to branch out in the Newport and Cardiff areas. I had a number of works on show at the Celtic Manor, and from there I now enjoy a permanent exhibition of some of my best work in the lounge area and dining room of the Newbridge-on-Usk.

There have been a few people who have inspired me.

One person is David Hockney, who was one of the first people to actually come out as a digital artist.

His works in the ’60s and ’70s were absolutely huge and incredibly inspiring, with amazing detail.

I went to one of his exhibitions last year, and I found it to be out of this world.

He embraced modern technology, which was unheard of in the art world.

There’s an incredible amount of snobbery, but Hockney said he was going to have a go at it.

And most artists – probably all artists, like Monet, Manet and Van Gogh – if they’d had access to today’s technology, of course they would have used it. They would have used whatever medium they could to get their ideas out there.

Hockney has done that, he’s embraced iPad paintings and he’s done the most incredible work which I find very inspiring indeed.

There are a few others. Bob Dylan, for example, is incredibly popular, and Gillian McDonald does the most amazing watercolours.

There’s also a Welsh artist called Rob Piercy that I like, and David Gray is another influence – I like his landscapes and beachscapes, and in fact a lot of my Tenby works are influenced by what he does.

For example, sweeping seascapes and he puts in very small figures to give a sense of size.

It just transforms a painting, and my Tenby series is so far my most popular.

There’s also a really good artist called Paul Corfield. He does the most extraordinary works in abstract expressionism, and I’ve done a number of paintings, including one of Pen y Fan, influenced by his works, and I plan to use that technique to paint a few locations in Newport, as well.

This year I’ve worked with Giovanni Malcorino, quite a famous entrepreneur in Cardiff, who invited me to paint a portrait of Alan Sugar.

Alan Sugar visited Cardiff in November for the South Wales Business Show, and he signed the portrait which was later sold to raise money for the Army Benevolent Fund charity.

That was quite a highlight of last year."