Roy Anthony Nockolds was born in Croydon in south London, England on the 24th January 1911. He was the last of seven children; one of his brothers Harold F. L. Nockolds would later become a motoring journalist and author of the classic Rolls-Royce history, "Magic of a Name". His mother Flora Mary van der Heyden was the great grand daughter of Dutch Baroque-era painter and inventor, Jan van der Heyden. His farther Walter Herbert Nockolds was a descendent of farmers who had originally come to Britain from the Frisian Islands.
Nockolds enjoyed a relatively affluent childhood in Surrey and he attended school in nearby Sutton. He always claimed that his only successful subject was art. By the age of twelve the young Nockolds had won awards from Royal Drawing Society. In 1924 he visited the famed Brooklands circuit, captivated by the power and speed of the racing cars. By 1926 he was producing motoring art. His visit to the 1926 Grand prix du Salon at Monthlery in France, featured a battle between the two Talbot racing cars of Henry Seagrave and Albert Divo. Still in his teen he was getting his pictures published in the motoring press. His early work was in a variety of media, mainly pencil and charcoal drawings, but he also used ink, scraper board, lino cut and dry point etching.
Nockolds was primarily a self taught artist, and was strongly influenced by the two leading UK artists of the time, Bryan de Grineau working for The Motor and F Gordon Crosby of The Autocar. Most of his work at the time was published by the less prominent Motor Sport and Light Car magazines. Yet his talent could not be denied and that by 1932 Autocar were publishing full page reproductions of his etchings. In 1934 prints of his drawings were on sale to collectors via an advertisement in The Autocar. They cost was two shillings and six pence in those day or around 6 shilling if signed by the artist. In December 1934 there was an exhibition of his work at the Lombard Restaurant, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. By then Nockolds was working as a freelance artist.
When the war came to Britain in 1939 motor racing was halted. Nockolds initially found work with the RAF producing propaganda art. In 1942 he was tasked with improving the the camouflage of night fighters. He had noticed somewhat counterintuitive that a white owl is more difficult to see against a night sky than a dark bird. His idea was to paint the leading edge of the wing and underside of the aircraft white and the top of the aircraft black making it difficult to see from above and below. He prepared a painted model of a De Haviland Mosquito aircraft which was transferred to a full sized plane, resulting in the whole of 151 Mosquito Squadron being converted to the new scheme within days. He also investigated altering the appearance of the Typhoon fighter; due to its similarity to the German F.W. 190, several Typhoons had been shot down in error. Because of the specialist work he had been doing for the Ministry of Information (MOI) he was designated for deferred service but at the end of 1942 he was called up into the RAF as a Clerk. By 1943 he had been posted to the aircraft research station at Farnborough where he had civilian status. This gave him sufficient freedom of movement to continue the propaganda paintings and in his spare time accept commissions to supplement his income. He continued his work on camouflage of aircraft, particularly bombers, but also put forward his ideas on giving confusion to the enemy about the line of flight by trying with paint to alter the apparent wing shape.
Nockolds never got what he considered his due recognition for his work on aircraft camouflage. The return of motor racing and the growth of private motoring after the war resulted in more motoring art work together with regular aviation commissions and in 1949 he was accepted into the Royal Academy. Nockolds was married in 1948 to Elizabeth (Tina) Ingram and their marriage resulted in two daughters. He was also working part-time for The Motor magazine and was lent a Daimler motor car to travel through the continent attending various races including the 1949 Grand Prix at Monza.
In the 1950’s Nockolds continued to have many commissions from car makers such as Ford, Jaguar, Rover and Rolls-Royce. Nockolds added wildlife, hunting, shooting, fishing and animal portraits which were in demand by enthusiasts as well as greetings card producers. His work was displayed in many exhibitions in the UK and twenty four of his paintings were exhibited in New York in 1960. the exhibition was entitled ‘British Motoring Achievements’ and was a collection of paintings depicting outstanding performances of British cars during the previous ten years. These included the Vanwall and Cooper in Grand Prix, Monte Carlo and Alpine Rallies, speed records by MG and Austin, and Le Mans wins by Jaguar and Aston Martin. There was always a demand for views of Brooklands and pre-war motor racing scenes and much of his work was retrospective.
Nockolds took a keen interest of the Brooklands society which was founded in 1967 to foster the memory of the race track, cars and personalities and to create a full-time museum. He was an early Committee Member and chairman from 1976 to 1978 only resigning with the onset of ill health. In 1959 he helped organize the first exhibition of aviation artists under the guise of the ‘Kronfield Social Club’, these beginnings led to the Society of Aviation Artists. Nockolds continued to produce a wide range of artwork until his death after a short illness on the 7th April 1979.