Richard Rowan

Born: Northampton
Lives and works: Wimbledon, London
Awards: Daily Mail 'Artist of the Year' (1992)
Exhibitions: Aurora Borealis (2018)
“You can do anything, go anywhere, and see anything. The whole of nature is yours, it’s up to you what you do with it.”

The Autumn Collection | 2021

An innovator of the lost art of painting on glass, Richard Rowan has braved the world's terrains to create landscapes that illustrate the power of nature. From the Icelandic wilderness to the fiery horizons of Thailand and towering mountains of Norway, his atmospheric scenes have been created using his unique reverse painting technique, whereby he paints backwards on a sheet of glass. Allowing viewers to escape from everyday life, his contemporary pieces respond to the light, creating a sense of intrigue in any living space. 

Inspiration

As the only fine artist successfully creating artworks in this style, Richard has become a part of the history and legacy of the glass art form, which dates back to Roman times and can also be seen in the Gothic period of the 12th century. Unlike canvas, glass interacts with the light, bringing the painting to life. Changing the lights and ambience in your room will create different effects, echoing the transformative power of natural phenomena like the northern lights, sunrise and lightning. 

The exhilarating unpredictability of nature has taken Richard around the world. His Aurora Borealis collection saw him travel to Iceland, where, accompanied by a local photographer and filmmaker, he drove out into the wild terrains to capture the wide skies, shooting rays, magical glow and hypnotic dancing of light. Closer to home, he explores the British landscape with his wife and two children, who are often symbolised in his paintings by four birds or stars. Through each artwork, he hopes to make viewers feel alive and want to "roam the land, fly in the sky, search for the stars.” 

Richard's landscapes are so detailed that they are often mistaken for photographs, when in fact each one has been meticulously painted by hand using his reverse painting technique. Classical influences include the work of J.M.W. Turner and even Michelangelo. Painted en plein air (outside) like the Impressionist painters of the late 19th century, his artworks evoke the passion and drama of the Romantic movement, along with the storytelling element of the Renaissance. Like the Dutch artists of the 17th century, Richard emphasises clouds in his skyscapes, while his focus on light and the effects of the weather echoes the work of Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 

Richard says: “The great thing about doing shows and meeting people is discovering how they see the work. Some people are in tears looking at it, while others say it was in their home for a dinner party and it got them talking about art all night. It’s amazing that it can go from something that decorates a house to sparking a conversation.”

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Inside the world of Richard Rowan

Richard's studio is at the end of the garden at his Victorian house near Wimbledon. From where he stands, he can see his children playing in the house and garden; this is important to him, as he wants them to be a part of his creative journey. His son's fear of lightning inspired him to paint artworks depicting this natural phenomenon, whilst his daughter's panoramic photographs pushed him to explore his scenes from different viewpoints. His family are also represented in his paintings by stars and birds.

He is known for his back-to-front painting technique, whereby he paints in oils on the opposite side of the glass. Used by decorative painters in the 19th century to embellish luxury furnishings, this painstaking method sees Richard completely reverse the traditional painting layers, starting with the foreground and the finer details before working backwards into the background. To achieve this, he has created his own tools, including cutting the handles of paintbrushes so he can work underneath the glass. The glass is baked in a makeshift box after each layer, where it dries out over two weeks before Richard scratches out the paint and removes layers with a palette knife to add detail. On each of Richard's original artworks is a transparent viewing panel to allow collectors to see the process behind their creation. 

Experimentation is a key factor of Richard's artistic evolution: he experimented with acetates at university before painting on discarded glass whilst working at Formula One. Wherever he is in the world, he takes reference photographs and sketches, which he transforms when painting his finished work. Each original painting becomes littered with post-it notes as Richard adds details and ideas. All of his pieces are created whilst listening to music, which can include anything from classical piano by the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi to songs from the Batman soundtrack. You can find out which song Richard listened to by clicking on the individual artwork. 

Richard says: “I do like to challenge myself with difficult work. Painting in oil on glass can make you want to tear your hair out, but it is also satisfying at the same time. When I sit down to paint, I want to paint better than the last time; pushing the boundaries of what I can do. Once I finish a painting, I want people to look at the piece and be drawn in and find themselves in my work.” 

From the blog

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Magazines and brochures

Fine Art Collector | Spring 2021

Showcasing the very best of our artworks, along with behind-the-scenes updates and interviews, the new issue of our Fine Art Collector magazine is a must-read!

Fine Art Collector | 2020

Showcasing the very best of our artworks, along with behind-the-scenes updates and interviews, the new issue of our Fine Art Collector magazine is a must-read!

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