Artist who used to be a Preston policeman

Ex-Lancashire police officer David Wiles has taken his career in a very different direction since retiring and is now running painting workshops inspired by the famed television artist Bob Ross. He tells Debbie James about his new life as an artist

By Mike Hill
Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 4:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 5:28 pm
David Wiles with an example of his artwork
David Wiles with an example of his artwork

A retired police officer who patrolled the streets of Lancashire for more than 25 years has swapped his handcuffs for paintbrushes to set up a new business teaching people how to paint, from his back garden.

Former Preston bobby David Wiles has found a new lease of life after creating his own art studio, saving him hundreds of pounds a year on the cost of hiring studio space, thanks to Rubicon Garden Rooms.

David, 61, joined Cheshire Constabulary as a police cadet at 16 before transferring to Lancashire Constabulary and went on to achieve 30 years’ service as a PC, most of which was in his home city of Preston.

David Wiles with some of his students at his art studio built by Rubicon Garden Rooms

He turned to painting 20 years ago as a way to relax after learning the skill thanks to American TV artist Bob Ross. Ross hosted a popular TV show in the 1980s and 1990s called the Joy of Painting and David was bitten by the bug.

After many years of attending workshops for his own personal pleasure, he became a fully certified Ross instructor. And now that he has more time on his hands, David is encouraging everybody else to relax and lose themselves in art in the glorious surroundings of his garden studio.

He turned to Rubicon Garden Rooms to cut down the cost of hiring venues for his art classes and opted for a 5.5m by 3.5m garden room.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to have something you can go home to, away from the humdrum of work. Painting was an outlet for me and I’ve maintained it ever since,” said David, who launched his business, The Painting Policeman, five years ago.

David Wiles at his art studio built by Rubicon Garden Rooms

“You get so engrossed in what you’re doing it takes your mind off to somewhere else. It’s therapeutic, it’s easy to forget you’re actually painting and when that happens to your students then you’re doing your job.

“When I was at school, I enjoyed art, but like most people I was nothing exceptional. I’m not really exceptional now. When I left school, life got in the way, which happens to most of us! But as the kids grow up and leave home, you retire, you find yourself with a little more time on your hands and so I found my way back into art. Now I can’t get enough of it and am fortunate enough to be able to pass on what I have learnt to others.”

David combines his passion for teaching painting with a part-time job as a driving instructor.The studio comfortably accommodates four or five students and benefits from spotlighting, a linoleum wipe-clean floor in case of spillages, external lighting and has an electric heater. Rubicon also arranged for rosewood UPVC windows to be fitted to match the home David shares with his wife, Jacqueline.

“I was trying to find venues for a reasonable price which was difficult,” he said. “I thought to myself, why don’t I put something up here in my garden where people can come to me and then I’d only have to provide the materials, with no added cost for venues.

David Wiles in his days with Preston Police

“My wife Jackie did the research and had me traipsing all over the North West! I was on the verge of going ahead with something else when she discovered Rubicon.”

Rubicon’s composite cladding is eco-friendly as it is 87 per cent recycled content. David, who has two grown-up sons aged 33 and 27, was impressed with the final result. Now David uses his Rubicon room to host his classes, which attract busy professionals looking for relaxation, as well as retired people and those suffering from ill-health, to learn how to create their own masterpieces.

Rubicon Garden Rooms managing director John Lyon said: “It’s a wonderful project to be involved in and we’re looking forward to seeing more artwork from David and his students for years to come.”

David said: “With traditional oil painting, you have to wait for each layer to dry before applying the next one. With the wet on wet technique this is not so. You apply a thin white oil paint known as liquid white brushed onto the canvas before any other oils are applied. This creates a wet surface. As you apply the thicker oils, you’re able to blend and move the paint as you go.

“It encourages people who thought they couldn’t draw or paint to have a go. Anyone can paint, so long as they have the desire, they can do it. They come to my workshops with absolutely no experience but by the end of the day they have a finished painting.”

David is a Certified Ross Instructor in Landscape and Floral paintings. He visits many groups, clubs and societies to demonstrate this style of painting. Any monies made from these demonstrations are given to local charity Heartbeat.

David added: “The wonderful thing about art is you can never retire! You never achieve perfection, you always aim to do so but continually fall short, there is always something ‘I could have done better.’ You can do it standing up, sitting down, when you’re in your 80s, 90s or beyond!

“I will be doing workshops for as long as I can hold a paint brush in my hand. I am sure to retire from driving instructing, of course, and when I do I will have more time for my art, what an exciting future!”

* For more information on David’s classes, visit: or