Inspired by the Yorkshire mill towns that shaped his youth, Bob is known for his ‘Northern Impressionism’ style. Depicting touching childhood, family and romantic scenes, his nostalgic artworks feature a neutral palette of greys and browns with splashes of vibrant colour and a unique inner glow created by the manipulation of light and shadow. Bob's latest instalment of his best-selling From Yesterday to Here collection is available now!
Bob’s loyal collectors are touched by the genuine feeling of nostalgia that each of his artworks evokes. His childhood memories – including riding scooters with his friends and walking home from school to the mill where his mother worked as a weaver – influence his industrial scenes, which feature themes of work, love and friendship.
Elements of his work can be likened to those of some of Britain’s most important artists. His factories and smoking chimneys echo L.S. Lowry’s industrial landscapes, while his street scenes and figurative tableaus may resonate with fans of Harold Riley. Similarly to the Polish-British painter Josef Herman, Bob focuses on the working-class, celebrating the bonds that can be created through shared experiences.
Bob's family are central to his work, with his grandchildren inspiring some of his characters. Another inspiration is the light he believes is unique to the north of England. Where others see soot-blackened brick and polluted skies, Bob sees light and colour; capturing a warm glow in the moonlight, windows and streetlamps. He explains: “When I paint, it’s almost as if this northern light pours from my brush onto the canvas. It transforms everything it touches, from the cobbled streets to the terraced houses, mills and back alleyways.”
To create his atmospheric scenes, Bob uses traditional techniques, including sfumato. Often seen in Renaissance paintings, this involves softening the transition between colours so they appear to evaporate like smoke. Artistic influences also include the Victorian landscape painter John Atkinson Grimshaw, the Dutch Golden Age painter Rembrandt, the German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, and the English Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner.
In recent years, Bob has experimented with different styles and mediums, including personalisable prints, sculptures and circular compositions. He has also begun to incorporate more colour through details such as raincoats, balloons and his signature motif of two red hearts. Exhibited at institutions like Leeds City Museum, his heartwarming artworks have raised money for charities such as the Jo Cox Foundation and One In A Million, establishing him as one of Britain’s best-loved artists.
An art collection and first-ever hardback book, collectively titled From Yesterday to Here, celebrated 15 years with our publisher, Washington Green. Bob says: "The safe, warm feeling of revisiting childhood memories through adult eyes is what keeps me in front of the canvas. This is not just something I love, or want to do: I have to paint."
Bob has always lived in Yorkshire, and continues to draw inspiration from his surroundings. He explains: "Where I live, it is impossible to walk a dozen yards from home without seeing old weavers’ cottages, cotton and woollen mills, Yorkshire stone flags or cobbled streets that have been there for decades, watching the landscape change around them. Every day I get to see and paint this history, and people get to share it with me through my paintings. How wonderful is that?"
The idea for Bob's signature heart motif developed after he began doodling umbrellas and noticed a heart shape taking form. Following this, he asked his son and daughter-in-law to pose for him. While the concept started as an experiment, it now represents a feeling of togetherness, with Bob adding: "Life takes us to unexpected places, but it is love that brings you home."
The glaze of his original oil paintings is inspired by the Old Masters of the Renaissance period. Techniques include grisaille: a method used by artists such as the Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck, whereby neutral tones or shades of grey create the illusion of sculpture. He has also mastered sfumato, which softens the transition between colours so that they appear to evaporate like smoke. By using repoussoir, he paints objects in the near foreground to lead the viewer's eye into the painting and enhance the depth, light and perspective of the piece.
Describing his painting process, Bob says: "Before I squeeze the first drop of oil onto my palette, I sit and gaze at the blank canvas, sometimes for quite a while. With music always playing in the background, I visualise the composition, change the colour of the sky, nudge buildings into new locations, make it rain and many more combinations until I am happy. I then make a few very quick lines on the canvas, just to set the scene, because by now I am impatient to get some paint on the canvas.
"When the initial painting is dry, I usually rework it by applying glazes (thin washes of oil paint that allow the colour of the underpainting to show through), either to the whole canvas or to individual areas, thus creating intense contrasts for luminosity and depth."
The Northern Light collection is inspired by Bob’s memories of the Yorkshire mill towns that shaped his youth, the body of work is a series of tableaus that immortalise the light and shadows that have captivated him for a lifetime.
A very special collection of original works by Bob Barker, in collaboration with Sheffield United to celebrate their 150 year anniversary.
Thank you for signing up to our newsletter.
We'll be sending you an email with a verification link, just click it and you're good to go!
© Copyright Washington Green Retail Limited trading as Castle Fine Art. First published 2012, last updated 2024. Washington Green Retail Limited acts as a credit broker and offers credit products from Secure Trust Bank PLC trading as V12 Retail Finance.
Washington Green Retail Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Our registration number is 726395. Credit provided subject to age and status. Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies V12 Finance