The second of four children, Simon’s flair for art was noticed when he won his first art competition at the age of 6. Other childhood art prizes were to follow, including several in his teenage years and a national art students painting prize while he was at college.
At the age of 7, he was sent to boarding school in the North of England with his elder brother. The next four years provided a heady cocktail of experiences for an impressionable young mind. The tough school regime contrasted with times of adventure with his family in South America. His home in South America was a rambling white colonial house on brick pillars with floors of polished wood. A colony of fruit bats lived in the loft and emerged at six every evening and humming birds fed from flowering trees in the garden which was also home to the family’s parrots and a menagerie of different pets including a kinkajou and coatimundi.
The fringes of the rainforest provided the young artist with a wonderland of sight and sound. It was a world of color and mystery – the cathedral-like pillars of the forest trees and the swollen rivers adding a note of darkness and danger to the enchanted wilderness.
During his teens the family moved to Hong Kong for several years, and he first encountered the art of the East. The beauty of Chinese brushwork with its economy of line and energy of composition had a lasting influence on him. It was here that he held his first one-man exhibition at the age of 18. The success of that and other subsequent shows was to lead Simon into a lifetime career in art.
While living in the East he continued his education in England at a boarding school in South London. Being in London afforded him the opportunity of becoming familiar with the great art collections and enabled him to benefit from the wide range of exhibitions as they came to town.
Many influences were coming together and shaping an inner vision of the world that was to inform Simon’s passion to create, not just an image, but an experience.
In the early years at boarding school, the sense of desolation he sometimes felt whilst away from his family opened him up to an intense search for spiritual nourishment. Coming from a Christian family had meant that a sense of God was always present with him. But as he grew older, a desire for a more tangible spiritual reality led him to the Bible and eventually to rediscover his faith in Jesus – one who brought him the peace he so badly needed, as well as a new purpose and sense of destiny.
While still at art school he married Joanna, his childhood sweetheart. As time passed, Simon and his growing family faced many economic hardships but fortunately, there was always a buyer somewhere that would save the day with a last-minute commission. During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the skills in printmaking that he acquired at art school that had especially fascinated him began to pay dividends. He sold his first three editions to Pallas Gallery in London and then entered a relationship with London Contemporary Art who sold out many of his meticulous multi-plate etching editions.
Throughout this period Simon painted the world around him. Traveling extensively to the East, he trekked with his paints through the foothills of the Himalayas, toured the Mediterranean, and spent many weeks painting the mountains of the English Lake District where he and Joanna later made their family home for many years.
However, as each year passed a deeper creative current seemed to pull at the artist. Once again it seemed that what had happened during his teens in the spiritual realm was now touching him in the creative realm. He needed something more – something waiting to be touched and expressed beyond the world of visible realities. He was moving away from painting the outward things. His canvases began to be expressions of the inner world, the world of the heart and of the spirit where the mankind is truly alive.
Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, the rich and vibrant style for which he has since become world-famous began to find its voice. It was not until his major one-man show at Harrods in London where 76 of his paintings were exhibited together that the effect of this new work came home to him.
“I remember walking around the show listening to what people were saying,” said Simon. “I began for the first time to understand what my paintings had become. The people were telling me! People were being transported. The colors and imagery were becoming a means of conveying the viewer into another world. The miracle was happening. People were being hit right in their emotional center.”
In 2000 he won the Fine Art Trade Guild award for the top selling original print artist in Great Britain and was short-listed twice for the best selling published artist award.
His painting entitled “The Journey Never Ends” has also been awarded the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED) print of the year in the United States for “the graphic print whose artwork was the most outstanding in artistic quality and public appeal during 2003.” He was the first British artist to receive this award.
He moved with his family to Carmel, California in 2003 where he now lives. In 2004, Bull was one of two artists selected by Park West Gallery to work with Muhammad Ali in creating a limited series of paintings based on the legendary boxer’s career.
His art has come a long way since he held aloft his prize at the local cinema’s Saturday Matinee Coloring Competition in 1964. But that same passion to play with color and to create with radiant hues remains with him still.
“If I can touch a life… if through my painting I can show something previously unseen, if I can reveal something old in a new way, if I can enrich a soul on its journey into the eternal then my painting – my living – has not been in vain.”