Picasso-inspired artist with Parkinson’s ‘blown away’ by response to exhibition

Dawn McGuinness, Wales Community Development Manager at Parkinson’s UK Cymru, Cllr Menna Jones, Mayor of Ruthin, and Morton Roberts

An artist with Parkinson’s, who has been inspired by Picasso, has said he’s been “blown away” by the response to his exhibition.

Morton Roberts, 74, has already sold 19 of the drawings and paintings that are being showcased at Ruthin Library until December 23 as part of a fundraising effort for Parkinson’s UK Cymru.

The former Ysgol Brynhyfryd pupil, who was born in Denbigh in 1947, said: “The response to the exhibition has been excellent. I was blown away by it.

“A complete stranger came up to me in the supermarket and shook my hand. He said that he’d heard about me having Parkinson’s, and he’d read an article about the exhibition, and he said congratulations for doing it.

“He said that he’d just turned 70 and that he was getting a bit despondent with his own life, and that it has given him a kick up the backside. It was just out of the blue. It was in aisle 3 of Tesco, Ruthin.

“What I’m going to do is add more budget-priced drawings for December to top it up again.

“The response to the exhibition has given me fresh impetus and made me determined to create even more art, and put on more exhibitions in the future. There’s much more to come as a result of it. I’ve done around three pictures in the last week or so.”

The former agent for Universal Leather Goods, studied art at Wrexham Technical College, where he earned a diploma, and studied for a degree at Newport College of Art and Sculpture.

He has dedicated the exhibition, which has been sponsored by Mann Roberts Solicitors, to his late wife Heather, as well as to his daughters, his family and everyone who has Parkinson’s.

The exhibition is influenced by Picasso, and features drawings and paintings of moving water, old buildings, landscapes, seascapes and boulders. Many of the pieces are of areas around Ruthin and Bala.

There are over 40 symptoms of Parkinson’s. From a tremor or stiffness, to problems with sleep and mental health. Everyone’s experience is different.

Morton has spoken candidly about the challenges of living with the condition.

The father of six, and grandfather of eight, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2016, said: “One little aspect is, you wonder how your hand can get into a certain shape when you don’t even know that you’re doing it. It’s weird. I do have a tremor, but I can concentrate and stop it. Then it will come back. When I have it I really do shake. I can’t walk very far or do much.

“I slur my speech and I get quite bad pains, particularly in my legs. My shoulders are in a bad way. I want to sleep all the time because I get very very tired. Some of the medication that I’m on gives me flaky skin. That’s a common thing. It really is awful because it makes you very sore. It’s not nice.

On his love of art, he said: “I was always into art, ever since I was a child.

“I spent five years in art college where I learned about things like perspective, colour, proportion. I did a lot of sculpture.

“Picasso is an artist I really admire. He’s like The Beatles of the art world in the 1900s. He arranged the notes to be played in different places. Everything has the same notes, but it depends where you play them.

“Picasso changed the overall perception of how we look at things. So did Paul Cézanne, and then you can go on to Joan Miró later on, Roy Lichtenstein, it goes on. But Picasso was my linchpin for the change in what people call modern art. He evolved art. It was very clever.

“I went to his retrospective exhibition in Paris for a week and saw a quarter of it. It filled Paris. It was amazing. His output was unbelievable.

“I got back into art when I was living in Betws y Coed. It’s very beautiful there, and I did some quick drawings of local scenes and sold them to the tourists, who seemed to love them. Then I became a bit more serious about things.

“It stimulated me and I started doing some painting as well at the time. Art is something I have to do. It’s a compulsion, it always has been ever since I was quite young, but with having children and having a young family, the compulsion of making a living, I stopped.

“I had a lot of pictures and drawings knocking around and my sister happened to suggest that I do an exhibition.

“I started doing a lot of local drawings of around Ruthin and Bala. Some of the villages around Bala, they’ve got a lot of decaying old cottages, derelicts really, and I became fascinated with those. I did a lot of drawing up there.

“I’ve always liked boulders and stone and rocks. Everything I’ve drawn really has a reference to stone and rock really, apart from some of the last few drawings of around Ruthin. I’m a visual person rather than spoken.”

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