Tributes paid to artist and teacher

John Bowden (September 16, 1941 to January 14, 2012)
John Bowden (September 16, 1941 to January 14, 2012)

John was a lecturer and tutor of art throughout Yorkshire and continued to teach until he died, lecturing at Leeds University.

He made a huge contribution to the teaching of art throughout England, Germany, Cyprus and the Isle of Man, something for which he has frequently been commended and celebrated. His passion and enthusiasm for his work motivated and inspired many students, teachers and advisors.

John, who currently has his artwork displayed in exhibitions across the country, graduated from Birmingham School of Art before becoming a teacher at a teacher training college in the city. He quickly became head of art, thanks to his enthusiasm and dynamism.


In 1969 John moved up to Yorkshire when he became a lecturer in painting at Bretton Hall College near Wakefield from 1969 to 1974.

He was then appointed senior art and design adviser/inspector in North Yorkshire and moved to Bickerton, near Wetherby. It was a post he held for 26 years until 2000 and which saw him become a well-known face in schools across the county.

More recently he worked as an Ofsted Inspector in the arts whilst developing his portfolio of arts education consultancy activities. In the last few years he lectured part time on art and design and design and technology on four different PGCE and BEd courses

He has also given lectures on art in venues across the country and held art teaching training courses at Grantley Hall near Ripon.

John was a council and board member of National Society of Education in Art and Design (NSEAD), holding the post of president from 1998 to 2000. He is a lifetime fellow of the NSEAD and the Art Advisors Association, of which he has served as chairman.

In September he turned 70 and a large celebration was held at his house in Knaresborough, attended by many of his contemporaries. Family and friends helped put together an impressive book of his life, filled with tributes from people who have known him and pictures of his artwork.

President of the NSEAD John Steers wrote in the book: “I valued immensely his integrity, insight and forthrightness.”

John also worked with the writer Gervase Phinn for many years, when they were both education advisors. John was an inspiration to his friend and colleague Gervase, who based the character Sidney Clamp, who appears in some of his novels.

In the birthday book for John, Gervase said: “There are some people it has been a privilege to know. John Bowden is one such person; he made the world a more colourful optimistic and happy place.”

John had an advice column in the Times Educational Supplement where he would answers questions on teaching art. He also contributed articles to the TES on many occasions offering ideas on art and design projects and has worked for the BBC editing and presenting activities exploring the Sainsbury art collection, including working with a school group at the Tate Gallery using a Turner painting as an inspiration for practical work.

His writings include several books and many articles on art and art teaching in both primary and secondary sectors including most recently The Art and Design Primary Subject Leaders Handbook, as well as a book advising secondary teachers on strategies to meet the requirements of an OfSTED inspection.

His individual style of artwork and photographs of his paintings and sculptures have appeared in many publication, including the Knaresborough Post. John used items such as sand, wood and debris from the River Nidd to create paintings and sculptures. His own garden is a testament to his creativeness and displays many sculptures he created.

He has had several one man shows, such as those at the IKON Gallery in Birmingham, The Arcade Gallery in Harrogate and Wakefield City Art Gallery, as well as in many private galleries, from places as far apart as Hebden Bridge and Corsham. His work has been included in Arts Council Touring shows and is in the Lincoln City Art Gallery and in many private collections.

Much of John’s artwork and writing can be seen on his own website

John will be missed and remembered by many: beloved husband to Tonia; father to Paul and Matt and ‘Papa John’ to grandchildren Mia and Joseph.

The family send the message: “We will love you and miss you and carry you in our hearts.”

A humanist funeral will be held at Stonefall crematorium on Wednesday at 11.50am. It will be a celebration of John’s life.

Written by family and friends