St.John "Jim" Earp was born in 1937 near Brighton in Sussex (South England). He descended of a family that emigrated from the Netherlands to England in the early 18th century and had known a long line of artists. St.John's father, Clarence Earp, had been a water-colourist and was particular famous for his imitations of 17th century sepia pen-drawings. He must have been a man with an eye for the absurd. Like his knitting-machine for socks that could only produce woollen tubes without end. He died young after having fallen overboard on his way to emigrate to the U.S. Jim spent his youth on the dunes and cliffs of the English coast. There he learned to survive on what nature provided (he became a fantastic cook), and how one has to climb the soft chalk of the cliffs in order to gather gulls eggs, he also learnt how to recognize prehistoric stone implements in the rock debris at the foot of the cliffs at low tide and by handling them draw conclusions (Rightly or wrongly) about the character of the men who had made them, their humour and intelligence etc. Already at young age St.John was compelled by his parents to enlist in the military service, with the air force. There he was trained to be a mechanic and acquired a life-long fear of flying. After saying goodbye to the army he left for London to establish himself, as a restorer of paintings although he was virtually autodidact, never went to an art-school. His business prospered. He married for the first time and got a child. At that time he began with his free work of painting and drawing (he developed a special technique of drawing with black ball-point, and erasing somewhat the ink with fine sandpaper. Jim held the opinion that this technique offered a much richer result than using pencil. Where pencil gives only shades of grey, with ballpoint you can get everything between the lightest grey and the deepest black. Furthermore ballpoint ink is lasting.) Between his early experiments there were a number of portraits of friends and acquaintances. Successively after a while they all died of cancer. It excited a morbid interest in St.John and a superstition that compelled him never to paint a straight portrait again. Influenced by Sigfried Sassoon's descriptions of the horror of the trenches in WW-1 and the ongoing nuclear tests on Christmas Islands of that time, he painted a series of apocalyptical works.
Unfortunately his wife became seriously ill, it proved to be M.S. This frightened him so much that it was ground for him to leave her. Around this time London started to develop as the centre of pop culture. Jim Earp became acquainted with Joe Cocker for instance, and he designed a record-cover for the Beatles.
In the sixties St.John lived in Brighton with Marilyn Rogers and her two sons from an earlier marriage. Here Jim met Bruce Grimes, art-director and set-designer with film and TV. A man with the head of a pirate, complete with a black eye-patch as a result of an accident with darts, and a cripple leg due to polio in his youth. He was a master in reconstructing worn table-tops in pubs, by placing back used matches and cigarette-ends on burns, glasses on rings etc. Through this friendship Jim Earp's surrealistic world reached also to film. (See John Carter sketches )
It is then that with Bruce Grimes he visited Amsterdam for the first time, when the city was sometimes called "the magical centre of the world".
Magical centre it was but was also a very cold February and Hotel accommodation was at a premium so they were settled down on the pavement when Bruce decided there had to be a better way. He wandered off and gate-crashed a party where he met Hans 't Mannetje (my father), a young sculptor who just founded a studio for the restoration of ornamental decorations of historic monuments, "het Restauratieatelier Uilenburg" who with typical Dutch hospitality not only invited him to bring in Jim and friends and not just for the evening but put them up for the week. From this developed a life-long friendship. Hans was to Jim in Amsterdam what Bruce was to him in London.
Jim must have been very impressed with the sight of the ancient Amsterdam brick-architecture and the picturesque state of neglect in which it was caught (like civilization itself). And the attempts to bring about rehabilitation, as by the Diogenes Foundation named after the Greek philosopher who was to figure later on in several of Jim's paintings
This studio was established in a beautiful but "romantic neglected" 17th century building, the former Uilenburg synagoge. He was also one of the founders of a society collecting old handcarts, "De Nederlandse Handkarren Stichting". He brought St.John in touch with a group of friends who were publishing the first neighbourhood newspaper in the Netherlands, "het Geïllustreerd Bethaniënnieuws". In 1970 this group of friends helped organising an exhibition of the work of Jim in the rooms of the artists-society Arti et Amicitia. And for the occasion a television item was filmed in the courtyard of the Uilenburg synagoge with Jim standing in barrel as a personification of Diogenes addressing an audience. In the seventies Jim worked often in Amsterdam (preferably crossing the Channel with the Queen Juliana) were he had a studio for his own in Uilenburg, and moreover an additional income by participating in the restoration projects of the atelier. In the Dutch museums he discovered the phenomenon of the diptych, triptych and polyptich and the art of painting on wooden panels. His experience of the absurd was such that when the furniture maker of the atelier made a man-high oak-wood panel for him, at first a priest had to bless the work in a half forgotten ritual, before Jim would start painting. On a certain moment it proved that also Marilyn his second wife developed MS. Due to her deteriorating health but also his own bad condition as a consequence of his alcoholism, he hardly came out of Brighton and did little painting anymore. Together they worked on a book by Marilyn (Willem's Golden Bone), about the fictitious adventures of a pack of dogs in a legendary sort of Amsterdam. Financially they had a hard time, which made Jim to invent ingenious apparatus to reduce cost of housekeeping, like a brilliant sun boiler made out of plastic foil and aquarium tubes. He finished his last painting in 1987. He died of cancer on 22 May 1990, aged 53.