Alan Cotton - 2012


Foreword by David Hempleman-Adams

I first met Alan Cotton when I bought one of his Irish landscape paintings after I had crossed the Atlantic in a balloon. Alan's painting of the magical Dingle Peninsula on the West Coast of Ireland captured my memory of the landscape I flew over. A bond was formed between the artist and adventurer.

Over the years I have visited Alan in his studio in Devon where I have spent many an hour admiring his landscape paintings. Alan loves to travel and his special knife paintings portray each new place in a unique way. He has a natural talent for spotting an extraordinary view, be this a Venetian canal scene or a Devon seascape at Hartland. He is a true artist in the way he portrays light, colour variations and subtle textures giving depth and meaning. Over time, I've learned Alan is also an adventurer who loves to go in search of new countries and alternative landscapes for inspiration and to feed his vivid artistic imagination.

A while back, I decided to invite Alan as the expedition artist on my 2011 Everest Expedition. I knew he had travelled with HRH The Prince of Wales as an official royal tour artist so I thought I'd see if he'd consider travelling with me. I explained that our trip would not be the height of luxury and warned him that temperatures could be very low and conditions would be harsh. Alan accepted the opportunity, excited at the prospect of painting the highest mountain in the world. We hatched a plan that Alan would travel to Base Camp where he would make a series of drawings of Mount Everest. Meanwhile, my aim was to lead a team up the North side of Everest, a feat I had not attempted before. Alan trained for the expedition to ensure he was fit enough to cope with the altitude and physical challenges which lay ahead. I admit, he trained harder than I did.

In April 2011, we embarked on the Everest Expedition. I went ahead to set up Base Camp first and the plan was for Alan and his son, Robin, to join us. Sadly, Alan did not reach Base Camp as the Chinese clamped down on visitors due to a protest. By this stage, I had embarked on climbing Everest having avoided the political unrest. Alan was devastated that his dream had come to an abrupt end and returned to England without the sketches he needed. Needless to say, I was disappointed for Alan, but carried on up the mountain; I was fortunate enough to reach the summit and return safe and well. It is a dangerous place and people often ask me 'Why, do you want to keep climbing Everest?' All I can say is, I am in awe of the mountain, its beauty and danger.

On my return to the UK, I met Alan and invited him back to Everest in October 2011. I wanted to accompany him all the way to Base Camp to ensure he got the sketches he needed. The pair of us set off, excited and a little nervous. This time, luck was on our side. Not only did we reach Base Camp safely, we were also blessed with the most beautiful clear blue skies. Alan enthused about the dramatic light and set about making drawings of Everest, often wearing no gloves in freezing temperatures. I witnessed the artist at work, focussed on recreating this magical mountain in all its glory. We bonded on our trip together just the pair of us. It was a true privilege to see such a gifted artist hard at work, so excited to be up at the crack of dawn to capture sunrise and stay out late in the cold to portray the sunset. I saw Mount Everest in a new light, through an artist's eyes, not simply a mountain to conquer.

When Alan invited me to his Devon studio to see his Everest paintings I was truly blown away. All of a sudden I found myself back at Base Camp staring up at the mountain which has captivated me and many others for so many years. Alan's series of paintings offers a remarkable portrait of Everest charting different times of day and reflecting dramatic changes in weather. For me, photographs never quite portray a landscape, but these paintings capture the spirit of this magnificent mountain. I truly believe these landscape paintings of Mount Everest will go down in history.

David Hempleman-Adams 2012
Explorer and Adventurer