As a little boy, Robert dreamed of becoming a zoo keeper. Today, the lions, tigers and elephants who roamed his imagination are given life in his dazzling paintings.
Following a childhood spent roaming the forests of a North East coalmining village, his affinity with nature is evident in every instinctive paint drip and brushstroke. Immersing himself in Pop Surrealism, Robert presents viewers with what he calls “psychedelic natural history”.
The passionate conservationist takes reference from wildlife magazines, books and photographs. Starting with a large brush and thin yellow paint, he blocks in the shape of the animal and marks out the eyes and mouth while the paint is still wet. He then applies contrasting colours and lets them drip.
Robert says: “I love the freedom and brutality of nature, but I don’t like what we as humans are doing to it. My art is a way of exploring and exposing this.”
Robert usually starts with a two-inch brush and blocks in some shapes to decide where the eyes and mouth will be placed – usually in a very thin yellow wash. As this is drying, he cuts in the form of the animals. Once this is dry, he quickly covers the area with yellow paint and lets it run down the canvas before building up colour with successively thicker paint.
He adds: "The more I can throw down and the more abstract the shapes are, the more enjoyable the battle is. I’ve heard that the abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock said that if he planned a painting, he’d never make a mark. My work depends on spontaneity and a free association: I don’t really need an inspiration, I just do it."
Robert has a studio in a cotton mill in Stockport, Greater Manchester, which is open to the public. He also has a studio at home, which is where his work is created. The artist wakes up early and takes his dog out before painting from around 8.30am to 5pm. After enjoying some family time, he paints again until 1am. He listens to music while distorting his pieces, but tunes into podcasts, documentaries and audiobooks when adding the finer details.
As an animal lover, he has recently worked on projects with The Big Cat Sanctuary and the National K9 Memorial to raise money for animals in need.
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Robert’s vivid perspective of the world is shaped by an intrinsic belief that animals and humans are one and the same. Bringing the canvas to life, he wanted to see what happens if he uses only psychedelic primary colours – no more natural palettes, browns or greys.
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