The Wapping Group of Artists - Est 1939
Alan Runagall

Alan Runagall RSMA

Alan Runagall was born at Rochford in South Essex in 1941 and still lives in Rayleigh, which, being only 3 miles north of the Thames, is an ideal base for painting his love of the Thames estuary  including Leigh-on-sea, and the rivers and creeks at the eastern extremity of the county. 

Alan has always painted since he was a young lad and is old enough to remember being in awe of the watercolour paintings by Jack Merriott , Frank Mason and others that used to be displayed on the old steam trains that ran on the LNER line into Liverpool Street. He worked for the Port of London Authority in the West India Docks, Millwall Dock, and Tilbury Docks for all of his working life until 1996. This is where his great love of ships, tugs and small working craft that were once commonplace really began.

Apart from school lessons under his art master Tom Wilcox at Southend High School he has had no formal art training. But he says he has learnt so much from studying the works of painters he has admired over the years. One of those painters was Vic Ellis, who had a small studio in Leigh in the 1960s until his early death in 1984.

Alan became a personal friend of Vic and although Alan paints solely in watercolour and Vic Ellis was an oil painter he always admired the way Vic captured the atmosphere of the sea and skies of the Thames Estuary, and his expertise in depicting the Thames barges, the smacks and the bawleys which once were so commonplace. Alan was a great admirer too of many of the old Wapping Group artists when their exhibitions were held at the Royal Exchange and so he was delighted and honoured to be elected a member in 1987.

Alan paints mainly on Saunders Waterford paper and for his on-site work he usually paints no larger than quarter imperial (15” x 11”). He feels more able to capture the fleeting changes of light and atmosphere when painting on a smaller scale. He uses a fairly standard watercolour selection of colours and believes that restricting his palette gives his paintings a better harmony of colour. He always tries to depict his subject matter much as he sees it, but is not averse to moving the odd boat around to make a more pleasing composition. As a fellow artist once said to him, ‘you are painting a picture, not painting a map’.  Alan exhibits mainly in London and East Anglia and also at the Lincoln Joyce gallery in Surrey. Although he now shows only his marine subjects he does also enjoy painting landscape subjects in a quiet location off the beaten track. He also paints still life with his local society, Rayleigh Art Group, of which he is an honorary member.   

As well as being a ‘Wapper’ since 1987 Alan has also been a member of the RSMA since 2000 with whom he has been Treasurer and a member of the selection and hanging committee. He won the St. Cuthberts ‘Best Watercolour‘ award at the RSMA annual exhibition in 2002 as well as winning a similar award at the Essex Open exhibition at the Beecroft art gallery in Southend. He has had work purchased by the Port of London Authority, Port of Tilbury London Ltd, Southend Museums Service and by various shipping companies.