author of the Museum page and the Traditional Craft and Folk Art
sections of Canal Junction is Tony Lewery, an artist and
designer with a very wide range of practical and academic
experience. He trained at Brighton College of Art as a
painter but his subsequent career has taken him into the fields
of theatre design, museum conservation, traditional folk art,
old fashioned signwriting and modern exhibition design. He is a
lecturer and the author of four major books, and a skilled
practical craftsman. He was the main designer for the production
of the Chester Mystery Plays in both 1987 and 1992, and of the
special millennium year pageant for the streets of Chester in
the year 2000. He continues to work as a designer and props
maker with a number of theatre and community arts companies
throughout the country. Recent work includes the construction of
a massive temporary clock tower in Leeds city centre for D. C.
Events from Newcastle on Tyne, a pair of giant cupids for a
firework spectacular in Tatton Park Cheshire and a huge lantern
dragon for the Sidmouth International Folk Festival, 2001 in
At the other end of the scale a
series of striking descriptive murals for British Waterways at
Gloucester in 1988 led, rather surprisingly, to the
commissioning of a set of commemorative stamps for the Royal
Mail in 1993, which were very well received.
1995 he worked with the National Waterways Museum at Gloucester
to produce an important temporary exhibition about canal boat
art ("Roses and Castles" 1995). This led on to the development
of a major Heritage Lottery funded gallery devoted to the
subject of Boat and Barge Painting (Painted Boats). Tony
designed the layout and contents in consultation with the
curatorial staff and painted two fresh mural panels as part of
the display. But he paints boats too!
Tony has a continuing and expanding obsession with understanding
and interpreting the history of vernacular culture, and in
presenting it in an interesting, accurate and entertaining way.
He offers a wide range of lectures on folk and popular art. He
can be contacted by email to
1) Narrow Boat Painting - David and Charles, Newton Abbot,
Devon, 1974. ISBN 0-7153-6771-4.
This was his first book, a comprehensive description of the
painted traditions of the narrow boats of the English canals,
and remained virtually the standard book on the subject for 20
years. It has now gone out of print, superseded by his new book
'Flowers Afloat' (see below), and is rapidly becoming a sought
after collector's item.
2) Signwritten Art - David and Charles, 1989.ISBN
The first book to discuss signwriting as a folk art rather than
a commercial craft, it has become a valued source book for
designers and lettering artists who are interested in the
special human qualities of hand painted lettering, the elegance
and the fun. It went into a second print run but that too has
now sold out.
3) Popular Art, past and present - David and Charles, 1991.
An all embracing look at British folk and popular art as it is
today, trying to remind the reader that there is still a broad
underlying visual culture, important to us all. Probably too
broad for comfort, trying to relate the history of certain
recurring imagery as well as individual craft subjects, this
book never found a proper audience and was eventually
remaindered. (The author is still proud of it, despite its
4) Flowers Afloat - David and Charles 1996. ISBN
A lavishly illustrated history and description of the art of the
narrow boat, exploring the traditions and way of life of the men
and women who developed it. It contains the names and short
biographies of many of the professional boatyard decorators, and
analyses all the various origin theories. The standard work.
Lewery has also produced two demonstration video tapes about
A detailed practical demonstration of painting roses and
castles, taking the viewer through every stage of painting a
traditional water can, from basic undercoat to final varnishing.
The colours and the brushstrokes are clearly demonstrated, the
choice of paint, how he mixes it, and the quality of brush he
uses - a mass of helpful information for anyone wishing to take
up the art.
A complete step-by-step introduction to the art of wood
graining as practised by the canal boat painters of the past,
from the simplest comb graining to more elaborate patterns of
heartwood and figured oak. He decorates a traditional boat cabin
from start to finish, shows historic examples and discusses the
tools and materials - a fascinating record of an enthusiastic
craftsman at work.
Running time 75 minutes.