swindonweb®  home    make this my homepage
myswindonweb   LOGIN / REGISTER  

Ken White 

Swindon's famous mural man and artist
 
Ken White
Ken White
Ken White, who was born in Swindon in 1943, is one of Britain's most successful artists.
 
His work is well known to any Swindonian because he is the man behind the distinctive murals which sprung up all over the town from the late 1970s.
 
But he is also an internationally acclaimed artist who is perhaps most famous for his work for Richard Branson's Virgin companies, most notably his design of the Virgin Atlantic 'Scarlet Lady'.

Ken left school at the age of 15 and followed in his grandfather's and father's footsteps - into an apprenticeship at Swindon Railway Works.
 
He started as a rivet hotter but became a signwriter in the carriage and wagon works "because I was fed up with the burns on my legs".

The move encouraged Ken to take more of an interest in art and he studied and passed 'O' and 'A' level Art in evening classes.
 
Against his parents' wishes, but with the encouragement of fellow students Ray ('Gilbert') O'Sullivan and Rick Davies (later of Supertramp fame), he then decided to take the chance on his talent providing a living, and he enrolled on a four-year full-time course at Swindon Art School.

He had an undoubted talent, but renowned for an outstanding dedication to learning his craft. "The caretaker would have to tell me to leave in the evenings", he recalled to us. 

On completion of the course, he moved to London to do exhibition work for the British Council, but he returned to Swindon in 1978 because he did not want his children to grow up in the capital.
 
After a few months out of work, he landed a place on a job creation scheme for Thamesdown Community Arts. It was then that he painted first mural - a view of the Golden Lion Bridge on the end of a house in Fleming Way.
 
Little did he know what an effect it would have on the rest of his life.

Paint and pharmaceutical company Bayer featured the mural in a poster advertising campaign, and suddenly Ken's work was beginning to receive interest from far afield.
 
He received about £25 for the work and, as he desribed "...a mural painter overnight - albeit a poor one!"

In the meantime Ken had met Richard Branson when the now-famous entrepreneur launched his first enterprise - a magazine called 'The Student'.
 
Ken recalls that he sent Branson - who was aged about 16 at the time - a drawing of Dudley Moore for publication in his magazine. It was an acquaintance he would renew a few years later.

When Branson set up his Town House recording studio in London he commissioned Ken to decorate the outside of the building. The result was a stunning 3D scene which so impressed the Virgin boss that he asked Ken to do yet more work. But this time he had to turn down the work as he was already committed to another job.

Ken White
Mural painting at the Designer Outlet Village
Branson employed another artist but was disappointed with the outcome and contacted Ken again. This time he paid a retainer to ensure that he could always rely on Ken's availability in the future.
 
Since then Ken White's work has adorned the walls of Virgin establishments throughout the world, including record shops, hotels and airport lounges.

With the launch of Virgin Atlantic in June 1984, Ken produced what is probably his most well-known work - the 'Scarlet Lady' emblem which features on all the airline's aircraft.

His reputation has grown with commissions from organisations such as Madame Tussauds, and in addition to the more than 80 murals he has completed, Ken continues to produce his own paintings on canvas. He recently completed a series about his early life in Swindon's railway works.

But he is best known in Swindon for his murals.
 
During the early 1980s Swindon became famous for the many examples of Ken's work around the Town. Alas, some of his murals have been lost due to redevelopment.
 
Ken White's Swindon mural
Swindon personalities:
Ken White's mural which stood in Prospect Place 
 
And his most celebrated local work - a scene featuring famous Swindonians on the side of a wall in Prospect Place - had to be removed when the wall was found to have a damp problem.

But some still remain.
 
Ken White Lunchtime
Lunchtime:
a Ken White work inspired by
his time at the GWR Works
in the early 60s
The Golden Lion mural can still be found in Fleming Way and if you have ever visited Highworth's open-air swimming pool, then you will may well have remembered the ocean liner scene there (now overpainted) - another of Ken's works.
 
Still living in Swindon, Ken is still a keen and active painter, whose work is can be found exhibited throughout the UK.
 
He most recently pianted a series of work inspired by Swindon itself, or to be more precise the older Swindon that Ken grew up in in the 40s, 50s and 60s including his time as an apprentice at the GWR Works.
RELATED CONTENT
Swindon Artist Donates Work
Swindon Artist Donates Work Swindon Museum & Art Gallery acquires Ken White paintings, prints and drawings...
More28 June 2016
35 Years on from Breakfast in America
35 Years on from Breakfast in America Swindon's Rick Davies - the man who put the 'super' in Supertramp - No 1 in the USA this week in 1979...
More19 May 2014
'Lunchtime' at the Museum
'Lunchtime' at the Museum Ken White painting acquired by the Friends of STEAM (so isn't it about time he was recognised at the Swindon Gallery itself?)
More29 October 2013
Ken White - The Big Picture
Ken White - The Big Picture Renowned Swindon painter & mural artist hosts a show to celebrate his 70th birthday at The Post Modern Gallery - 23 APR-02 MAY - SEE PICTURES
More
Ken White Exhibition
Ken White Exhibition Local artists work to be exhibited at Great Western Hospitalís NHS Foundation Trust...
More08 October 2010
New life for Swindon masterpiece
New life for Swindon masterpiece Ken White restores mural that made him famous - watch updated video...
MoreTV06 August 2009
Inspired by the Swindon Works
Inspired by the Swindon Works Ken White paintings on show at STEAM museum...
More16 December 2008
Gilbert O'Sullivan
Gilbert O'Sullivan Swindon's 70s singing superstar...
More
RELATED LINKS
Ken White - website
RELATED BUSINESSES
  Ken White  
myswindonweb
Mackenzies Cafe Bars
Tree Nightclub
Karoliina Saunders
The Weighbridge Brewhouse
Kenzo 72
Bathstore Sale, Swindon, bathroom specialists
Jolly Roger
Swindon Rendezvous
Combat Splat
The Hair Group, Old Town, Swindon
The Brunel Shopping Centre Swindon