AUTHOR Angela Atkinson’s book, Secret Swindon, details many a local treasure.

Her latest work, Ken White - Muralist and Painter, is devoted to an artist many regard as a living treasure.

His works are seen all over the world, and his pioneering murals from the 1970s onwards put his home town at the forefront of what became a movement.

The artist, whose solo exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery in Bath Road runs until the end of November, is modest about the achievements the book chronicles.

“It was my daughter, Laura. She said, ‘You ought to do a book, dad.’

“I put a dedication to her at the front. She told me I shouldn’t have, but I said, ‘Well, if it wasn’t for you there wouldn’t be a book!’

“Angela was the obvious person to write the book, and I picked out all the pictures that should go in.”

The volume covers Ken’s career from the 1960s to the present day, and has dozens of reproductions of works showcasing a remarkable oeuvre.

The earliest include covers for hippie-era counterculture magazines such as Oz, pioneering feminist publication Spare Rib and cult British 1970s music paper Cream.

Ken’s covers for the latter are evocative images of Alice Cooper, David Bowie and Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson.

There are reproductions of what Ken sometimes refers to as his ‘men in caps’ pictures - industrial images of workers inspired by Swindon’s railway heritage, and his own unhappy stint at the Works as a very young man.

There are posters for concerts by greats such as Labi Siffre, and one of the best-known pieces from an exquisitely illustrated book of Beatles lyrics first published 50 years ago.

There are reproductions of the murals for which he became famous in the 1970s and, of course, photographs of the work he did for Richard Branson, notably aircraft murals which became familiar to millions all over the globe.

Many people say Swindon produces more than its fair share of notable people in the arts, and Ken has an idea why that might be.

“Perhaps there’s more of a struggle. I think Swindon’s always being laughed at in the press, so perhaps people have more fight. I had to fight to do what I did.”

His parents were not impressed by his ambition to be an artist, and there was no encouragement in school, which he left at 15.

“I was in the bottom class. You were always told you were rubbish by the teachers, then. There was no encouragement at all.

“Everyone liked sport but I didn’t. The art classes were disruptive, but in sport they had everyone standing to attention.”

“Then I went to art school and thought, ‘Good – I can do something.’”

Art school in Swindon followed four years at the Railway Works.

“I did two years rivet-hotting, which was an awful job, and then I got into signwriting. That helped me later on with the oil painting.”

Then, like many young people with artistic ambitions, Ken headed for London.

His flatmates includes two friends from the town.

Ray O’Sullivan, as Gilbert O’Sullivan, would become a major chart star in the 1970s and Rick Davies would found globally-acclaimed rock band Supertramp.

“Rick’s on Long Island and Ray’s in Jersey. I’ve been over a couple of times. I painted his portrait and he’s bought a couple of my big paintings.

“He’s on in Bristol soon and wants me to go. He’s sold out but I always go backstage.”

Ken returned to Swindon and was invited by visionary council arts chief Terry Court to begin creating murals.

Now 76, Ken is still very much a working artist.

“I’m still doing men in caps – people at work. That’s about it; I just like the subject.

“I didn’t like working on the railways but I grew up with that, I suppose.

“Some people say they don’t know what to paint next but mine just keep coming.

“I just like that period. People say I’m like Lowry, but I don’t think so…my men aren’t matchsticks!”

Ken White - Muralist and Painter is priced at £14.99 and is available from bookshops, the central library and online retailers.