Born in Manchester, England in 1943, John Watling was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Leeds College of Art: he graduated in 1965. Later, he was a founder member of the ‘Sweet Street Group’ (bringing art into industry). Various group shows have included one man shows at Leeds City Art Gallery (Education Gallery) and the Austin Hayes Gallery in York.

After teaching art for two years, John left Leeds and moved to Newcastle upon Tyne where he became a freelance illustrator for the Sunday Sun newspaper. From 1971, he found himself (more by accident than design) involved in the entertainment industry. This took him round the world until 1974 when he returned to Leeds and then back to Newcastle where he helped to organise several local arts festivals and teach art part-time. More recently, he has moved to Hexham, where he paints full time.

In 1989, John went on a holiday to the West Coast of Scotland, which started an intense period of painting that continues to this day. He has visited and painted Ireland, Jersey and Holland. Currently, he is concentrating on Northumberland and the North East of England. His work can be found in collections throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.