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Former Peterculter furniture salesman: cancer cut me adrift but art lit the way

Paul Nicol.
Paul Nicol.

A former Peterculter furniture salesman left lost and adrift by a cancer diagnosis says his passion for art has helped to light his way.

Paul Nicol was running a small business, happily passing the days selling furniture.

And then the big C waded in to his life like a 10-ton wrecking ball, forcing a change of direction.

Paul’s experimental digital photography shot in the woods at night using light painting and long exposures to create more surreal imagery.

He says the shock Lymphoma cancer diagnosis led him on a journey of self-discovery, from which he has never looked back.

Now, in his final year of a photography degree the Gray’s School of Art student, he knows a silver lining when he sees it.

Found passion in art

“Spending more time in nature, marked a huge turning point for me,” says Paul.

“I discovered a passion for photography and an ambition to make this my career.”

The 47-year-old, who became a grandfather during lockdown, initially enrolled on a HND photography course at North East Scotland College.

This was the pathway into 3rd year on BA photography course at Gray’s School of Art.

And for his final year degree show, Paul focused his work on social documentary portraiture.

With the onset of Covid-19, however, he decided to investigate areas closer to home and began examining the effect Covid was having on the environment around him.

Spending time in nature with his camera was a reboot for his mental health.

His project, Under the sun and Beneath the Moon, features two bodies of work that take a contemplative look at the natural environment.

Under the Sun is shot on medium format film with a vintage twin-lens reflex camera (TLR) camera.

Beneath the Moon is experimental digital photography which has has shot in woodland at night using light painting and long exposures to create surreal imagery.

‘No regrets’

He says:  “Once again, I spent time in nature with my camera and found I could harness this to help my mental health during the challenging restrictions of the
pandemic.

“I honestly feel the final project of the degree course is not an end but a starting point to develop my creative work further.

“My advice to others thinking about doing the BA course in photography is to apply now as it is personally one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

Paul’s work will feature in Gray’s School of Art annual degree show called Onwards launches online on Friday July 9 for 10 days.

Paul’s camera art work has given him the focus he has needed to get life back on track after cancer.

This year the event will follow the form of last year by being held entirely online in a 3D virtual space.

Due to Covid restrictions, the Robert Gordon University facility’s art school chiefs had to find a new way to let its painters, fashion designers and photographers display their work.

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