Paul Wright Collection
Title: Paul Wright Collection
Scope: This collection contains designs, drawings, research material, a piece of correspondence and some photographs, mainly related to the creative process and conception of the artwork for Chadwick’s Ghost Train.
Dates: Circa 1994-1996
Extent: 2 boxes
Name of creator: Paul Wright
Administrative / biographical history: Paul Wright was a leading British fairground artist of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, renowned for his mastery of the airbrush.
Paul (1954-2019) started his career on the fairground in the late 1970s, using traditional brush painting techniques. While studying for a degree in Fine Arts at Newcastle University, he was spotted sketching at the Hoppings by the showman Ronnie Taylor. Realising Paul’s huge potential, Ronnie commissioned him to decorated one of his rides. Paul accepted the commission, which became the beginning of a lifetime career on the fairground. The ride was Ronnie’s Rib-Tickler, which Paul covered in images from the hit Hollywood film ‘Star Wars’. From the outset he found inspiration in motives from popular youth culture. His innovative and high quality artistic designs were soon noticed by the showmen, who commissioned him to decorate a wide range of rides from gallopers, speedways and waltzers to swings, meteorites, Miamis, ghost trains and fun houses, demonstrating the adaptability of his work to different audiences, from children to adults.
Paul’s artwork was a reflection of the fast socio-cultural changes occurring in the late 1980s, demanding heavier than ever influences from a fast moving popular culture scene, which impacted both fairground ride fabrication and visual design. The new trend exploited pop music and film imagery to create elaborate, busy designs in bright colours for maximum visual impact, a world apart from the traditional scroll and lettering design work of the 1960s.
Paul’s artwork became a direct response to this demand in an environment where visual impact is directly related to business acumen. These changes in taste did not only have an effect on the aesthetic landscape of the fairground but they also brought about new technical challenges. To respond to the new evolving cultural fluidity, it was imperative to use a faster, more dynamic media than the traditional paint brush. A media that embraced and connected with the demands of fair goers and reflected their aspirations, interests and taste. The answer was found on the use of the airbrush, which made his way into fairground art with its modern feel and crisp metallic finishes.
Airbrush proved to be the ideal media for the fast production of highly rendered, hyper-realistic, multi-layered scenes, which covered every inch of available space on all the new age thrill rides. The demand for this type of artwork opened the way to a new generation of highly specialist and technically accomplished artists, of which Paul took the lead. Paul flourished as an airbrush artist with some of his most iconic ride artwork taking central stage in the fairground scene, including Chadwick’s ghost train, Cole’s Master Blaster Miami and David Wallis’ Ice Maze.
Later in life, Paul was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to accept large commissions, thus he retired from airbrush work to focus on vinyl work for small rides and stalls. He also continued creating designs for other fairground artists to paint right up to his death on 20 March 2019.
Paul’s career evolved amidst some of the most radical changes in popular entertainment. These changes coupled with visual and technological developments, offered Paul the freedom to explore new themes of sexuality, hedonism and lifestyle youth aspirations. He developed his airbrush technique to become one of the best artists in the field, creating unrivalled artwork, with highly accomplished designs and skilful execution and finishes.
Related Collections: Orton and Spooner Collection
Source: Donated by Paul Wright via the Fairground Association of Great Britain
System of arrangement: Catalogued according to type
Subjects: Fairground, Fairground Rides, Fairground Art, Travelling Entertainment
Conditions of access: Items are available to view by appointment in the NFA reading room
Copyright: Copyright Paul Wright
Finding aids: Online finding aid available here