Ian was born in Gravesend in Kent in 1934. A talented musician, he studied at the Royal College of Music in London from 1950. Soon afterwards he began a part-time painting course at St Martin’s School of Art and found he could combine promising careers both as concert pianist and professional painter.
He began exhibiting in London in1956. A year later, while showing at the Rowland Ward Gallery, the wild life specialists, he met Edward Seago, a celebrity artist, equally popular with the man in the street and the Royal Family. Seago had recently returned from accompanying Prince Philip as friend and ‘tour artist’ on a trip to the Antarctic aboard HMY Britannia. Seago saw great potential in the young Houston and encouraged him (in the same way perhaps that Munnings had encouraged the young Seago). He persuaded Ian to concentrate on landscape painting, a remarkably unselfish suggestion as it was his own speciality. Ian tells us that ‘Ted was enormously generous and such a nice person. He used to give me a box of paintings to copy’.
In 1964 he moved to North Walsham in Norfolk, with his wife and family, where he taught music at the high school. With Seago as his artistic godfather, it was natural to gravitate to the county that had made the great man’s name and whose distinctive ‘flat’ landscapes inspired centuries of artists to subordinate land and man to its towering skies. Solo shows soon followed in Lincoln and Norwich, the latter with Mandell’s in 1970. The success of the Norfolk exhibitions allowed him to buy the seagoing Thames Spritsail Barge Raybel in which he sub sequently gained his Master’s Certificate. Apart from the pure pleasure in sailing, Raybel allowed him to immerse himself in the offshore atmosphere of East Anglia. The sea, weather and traditional sail in action added an enormous authenticity of experience and knowledge to the depiction of his subjects that so many of his followers now lack.
Ian, described variously as an impressionist or post-impressionist painter, is the last in a long line of British 20th century landscape painters that leads directly to Munnings and Priestman, although through his association with Norfolk painting he is the spiritual heir to the older heritage of Constable and the Norwich School.