Jeff Gilberthorpe was born in Chesterfield, England, a town noted for it’s Church with the crooked spire (Nothing to do with him he insists) After a childhood of constant relocation and war time evacuation, his family settled into the village of Ford, in Shropshire. It was here that Jeff, aged only fourteen years old, held his first exhibition introducing a foretaste of the success that would follow, with the sale of 16 oil paintings depicting Wild English Birds.
Around this time, Jeff was introduced to a well known French lady artist, who invited him to accompany her on her daily walks. “I’m not going to teach you to paint” she said, “you can do that already. No, I’m going to teach you how to look, and how to feel, and how to appreciate this fascinating world of ours”.
For nine months, Jeff did not touch a paint brush or pencil. Instead, he picked up bits of wood, leaves, stones, let soil trickle through his fingers, hugged trees, listened to the wind and stood out in the rain and snow. Months went by, then one day she said to him “paint me a picture”. The result was surprising. “It painted itself”, Jeff said. “You are now an artist”, she said. “Now it’s up to you”.
Between 1960 and 1963, Jeff completed his compulsory National Service with the RAF, one of the highlights of his life. Introduced to the world outside the limited environment of a sleepy little village, he yearned to travel. His rebellious nature collided with serious study at the Southport Art College during 1964-65, earning him the distinction of an invitation to leave. But it was during this period that fate intervened and Jeff met his match whilst hospitalised with a broken leg. Helen, his nurse, would soon become his bride after a romantic courtship. Married in July 1966, Jeff rejoined the RAF, allowing him to return to Cyprus where Simon and Emma, two of his three children were born.
During the RAF years, Jeff’s love of painting saw him take part in numerous ‘Joint Services Exhibitions’. Imagine an ‘Airman’ who can simultaneously win the Near East Command Singles Tennis Championships and then hold court at an art exhibition the same day.
1974 brought change as Jeff left the RAF and pursued a teaching career, gaining an Honours degree from Nottingham University. Graduation brought him to Boughton, Monchelsea where Jeff taught at an all boy’s school in Kent. Here, Jeff penned his first novel “Furfield” and his second daughter Lucy was born, completing the Gilberthorpe family.
In 1982 the family decided to up roots and emigrate. Perth, Australia was the first port of call. Whilst working at the Fremantle Arts Centre, a position as lecturer in Ceramic Sculpture was offered to Jeff in Queensland. Packing his young family into a VW Combi Van, Jeff ventured across the vast Nullaboar in 7 days. Still tethered to England, Jeff returned briefly to England in 1987 and taught at schools in Lancashire. During this period he held his first exhibition for the Wildlife Trust.
To realise his dream of painting full time, Jeff returned to Queensland, a move that would change his life forever… An innocent country drive up Mt. Tamborine, and, listening to his wife, proved to be the inspiration for his initial series of paintings depicting an old Queenslander Homestead suspended by hot air balloon and it’s adventures across the world.
Now, if hot air balloons can lift a homestead, what else can they transport? Penning the fictitious adventures of Ken Parker and his motley crew with their audacious plan to heist the world’s most famous architectural Icons, Jeff has embarqued on a unique journey – Fine Art with a Story to both captivate and entertain. In the spring of 1997, Jeff teamed up with entrepreneurs from Hong Kong, Ulrich and Kirsten Buchholtz and the Icon Collection was born. Since then they have worked together on developing the magic story on a series of massive canvases. It is the story of an exotic Billionaire Ken Parker and his outrageous plan to steal and transport the famous icons of the world to a mystical island in the South Pacific Ocean, carried there by hundreds of hot air balloons.