Atkinson was considerably older than most of his fellow Vorticists. He trained as a musician in Paris and Berlin before taking up painting. Much of his early work has been lost, however, he appears to have painted landscapes in a fauvist style. According to the painter Kate Lechmere, Atkinson's work underwent a dramatic transformation under the influence of Wyndham Lewis whose work he saw at the Rebel Art Centre. In 1915 he published a collection of poems called 'Aura'. In these poems he extolled his passion for the 'undiscovered Countries' of the modern metropolis whose 'flame-bound windows/And their lightning shadows...tune the stolid rhythms of the walls/To the brilliant harmonies/Of the greater moment-'.