Bury St Edmunds shop manager Tom Crittenden reconnects with his family's artistic roots
Descending from a long line of artists spanning about 150 years, the colourful roots of creative talent run deep for Bury St Edmunds shop manager Tom Crittenden.
His family home is decorated with five generations of work but the line ended with Tom, who pursued a career in retail management.
Yet over the last year, he has reconnected with his history by painting and drawing impressive scenes of Suffolk which has provided a jolt of escapism for himself and his hundreds of social media followers.
The 44-year-old, who manages the Adnams shop on Cornhill, hadn’t picked up an art brush in more than 20 years since school and was inspired to give it a try this time last year after buying a painting of the sea.
“I was thinking if I maybe put some work in and practise, I could produce a painting myself and from then onwards I became a bit obsessive about it,” he said.
“I taught myself how to paint landscapes, buildings, people.
“You have to talk yourself into thinking you can do it. I think just having the belief, because of my background, I always thought I could do it.
“At my parents’ home, there’s hundreds of paintings and sketches across all of the walls. I would like to make my mark in a way. It’s a nice idea that in 50/100 years time you might be forgotten but someone is still looking at your paintings and being inspired by them.”
Tom, who was assistant manager at Ottakar’s, in Buttermarket, and manager at Waterstones, in the arc, sold his first painting in January and he has since sold about 50. He now concentrates on ink sketches, water colours and acrylics of Bury St Edmunds and Southwold.
“It started off for pleasure but it’s really been an absolute godsend,” he said.
“It increasingly became escapism for me and for anyone who sees them.”
His great-great-grandfather John Denton Crittenden was a prolific sculptor whose work is occasionally sold at Sotheby’s. Tom’s dad Clive was an art teacher at Castle Hill Middle School, in Haverhill, and used to produce the scenery for school productions.
“As a child you don’t think that much of it but it was quite inspiring,” he said.
Tom’s work is displayed in the Adnam’s shop and The Coffee House, in Fornham All Saints, and he has supplied work to Moyse’s Hall Museum.
“I’m surprised how popular it’s become so quickly,” he said. “I think it’s the right time because people need escapism. In other time periods we might be making a political statement. The number one thing now is to try to cheer people up.”