Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andrew Liddle
Guest Writer
6:09 AM 23rd March 2024

Painting The Town With David Robinson

Andrew Liddle talks to a local graphic artist about his posters of Preston

David Robinson is a Prestonian through and through and the clean lines of his clear, bright retro travel posters, many of them done in blues and whites and creams – “Preston colours” - are buzzing with the talk of the town where he was raised and still lives. “I’m massively proud of the place, to put it mildly,” he says, almost his first words. “It’s my town and I live and breathe it.”

He certainly is not shy of sounding the trumpet for the place he loves, actually a city since 2002, which he rejoices to see taking off in so many bright and exciting ways at the moment. By the time he’s finished he will have created posters for all the town’s major buildings.

His current best seller, A Brutalist Gem, is the bus station built in the late 1960s which a survey revealed to be Preston’s favourite building. He believes its appeal is to be found in the function it serves as a meeting place, a central connecting point. “People seem to have emotional ties to places which have nothing to do with their beauty and everything to do with associations,” he ponders.

Another favourite spot he has immortalised houses Action Records, locally famous as the place to buy vintage vinyl as well as other musical media. “I’ve seen people queuing round the block to get in when they have one of the National Record Days.”

Unlike most of the modern school of poster artists currently riding a wave of nostalgia that seems to hark back to the idealised railway poster art of the early twentieth century, David is happy to make his posters more contemporary. The Journey Home portrays a surprisingly tender motorway moment - the lights burning in Forton Service Station's Pennine Tower, a blue dusk descending while late birds fly and the stars come out. Standing 65-foot high the Grade-2 listed structure is probably the most famous example of motorway architecture in the country, but few artists have appreciated its unusual beauty.

A very popular poster features the Odeon Cinema he used to attend in his youth - growing up in Lea and going to Our Lady’s High School. The memory of it standing empty, rotting away for 30 years, before being gutted by fire, is still enormously painful to him, particularly as a film buff. “My poster is unusually one-dimensional,” he considers, “probably to reflect the sense of loss people feel.”

He suddenly brightens. “If you come from this city, you’ve got to be proud of its football club and its colourful history.” He captured the club’s highlights in a series of calendar images that later became the basis for the eye-catching murals now displayed in the Deepdale stands. Of course, he’s celebrated one of England’s greatest sporting heroes, the Preston Plumber, the indisputably great Sir Tom Finney, a footballing icon of his generation and a one-club man. A couple of prints sold in limited editions in the Preston North End shop, done in the style of 1950s’ football comic strips, have inevitably become collectors’ items.

One of the town’s most elegant buildings, The Harris Museum, a Neo-Classical masterpiece from the 1880s, is currently being converted into the North’s finest and most inclusive centres of art and culture. It’s here that it all started for him back in 2015 when he sent one of his posters to ‘The Harris Open’, that wonderfully democratic annual event that allows budding artists to have their work displayed in a gallery. Its favourable reception made him realise he could put the skills he used in his job as a graphic designer - honed as a student at Cardinal Newman College and Blackpool College of Art – to express himself artistically. Pretty soon he had confirmation of the appeal of his work when out of the blue a large-scale commission came in from Barton Grange Garden Centre, the first of many from local businesses.

He’s not looked back since, and visits to his website and online shop reveal scores of stunning posters and montages, most of them available also as greetings cards. He sells his artwork in retail outlets, local fairs and markets and has online customers, many Preston expats, putting in orders from far and near. He’s grateful for the help he receives from his wife, Michelle, and teenage kids, Grace and Ben, when using promotional social media and dealing with all his orders - not least the labour of putting all the cards into envelopes when they arrive each week from the printers ready for distribution.

Behind every poster it seems are an abundance of memories, an awful lot of skill and research and endless enthusiasm. “I like to think about the place, take photos from different angles, get different perspectives,” he says. These he uses to sketch the outlines he will transfer onto his computer, which once “worked on, played around with and cleaned up” will generate a graphic image, ultimately an appealing poster with a sensitively harmonised palette.

It would be a mistake to assume all his art focuses on his native city. Rivington Pike in the snow, Blackpool Tower under a burning sky, Morecambe’s Art Deco Midland Hotel, the Mancunian Way are among many that have taken him farther afield - and he has plans to expand throughout Lancashire.

When The Harris has its grand re-opening , his merchandise will be on sale inside as well as outside as it currently is at the Saturday market. That’s one of the best places to see and appreciate his proud collection of Preston posters and cards. That’s where local folk, whom David considers “the warmest and most friendly in the world”, come to buy mementos of their city’s landmarks. That’s where it all began for him. Needless to say, he has done it proud in one of his posters!

For more information on David Robinson click here