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In the second of our monthly articles featuring the artists who exhibit their work on www.localartist.org.uk, we ask Rob Cooper, a Lincolnshire fenland and marine artist about his art and his background. His series of motorcycle paintings are evidence of his great skill and powers of observation. He has kindly provided the answers to our questions to help us to understand where his inspiration and influences are sourced. His gallery shows a variety of subjects and experiences, and here is the man behind them:-

Question 1: Of the different types of employment you have experienced throughout your life, which one gave you the biggest satisfaction?

Without a doubt my years as a traditional sign writer before the advent of the vinyl graphics cutter.  I often wonder if I possibly may have been one of the last apprentices in the art. It really is a craft and has always been on the fringe of art, the Victorians never recognized this craft as an art form.  I loved painting pub signs apart from the standard RED LION etc. The brewery’s would first ask me to produce up to three designs and go from there: some would be just lettering but nine times out of ten I would be given a free hand and a full pictorial would take about 40 hours for both sides in production time with about 20 hours development from sourcing ideas, drawings, etc.

Another brilliant time was painting Buses: these were fun “what a canvas size”. These were obviously adverts. One of the best was for Skegness Stock Car Stadium: the whole lot was painted. On another I made a whole Santa’s grotto and trimmed The Waterside Shopping Centre in Lincoln in 1996.

Question 2: Do you use photographs in your art, and if so, how much of a part do they play?

Photographs are a great source of reference. I couldn’t paint the action shots of bikes without them, the sharper the image the more detailed the final artwork is.  When I work with photographs I print an A4 size out in GREY SCALE.  These highlight the tones in the subject far better than colour.

Question 3: During your time teaching, did your interest in your own art increase or take a back seat?

In a sense it did, I was planning what the next projects would be then setting it up.

The teaching came around by accident and wasn’t a full time post. It started when my daughter’s teacher found out that I was an artist and I was asked into school,

She asked if I could help as she hadn’t an artistic streak in her at all. It was to last three years until my daughter went up a school and I myself went back to college to do A Level art.

My tutor asked me here if I would take some of the students on field trips and off it went again. My tutor, Irene Lord, and her husband, John, from Lincoln were a great support to me and I went on to get my Adult Training Certificate.

Question 4: Do you enjoy your art now?

This year has been one of renewal for me, Jean and I recently looked at a painting I had done two years before and had realized that I hadn’t done any since, so it was back to it. Only artists would know that we are looking into ourselves as we produce a piece of work: we look and observe, not only the subject, but also how we emotionally view it and perceive what we are trying to portray. I love to be challenged and it’s part of a painting where you get that gut feeling point.  "Help! Is it going to work or not"? then a little later you think, “Yes! It’s working. Phew!

The winter is going to be about trying some new approach subject, and for once in an imaginative way. So the bottom line is, yes, I’m enjoying my art for me, but I do love the challenge of commissions.

Question 5: What or who influenced your art the most for the better or worse?

My uncle was my main influence, in that I always wanted to be as good as him, as a child, but then I had to achieve my own way. Yes, I loved the Renaissance art as a teenager; trying to copy their styles and craftsmanship. I went to Italy, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel “ what a sight to behold”.  Love Stubbs, Van dyke and the Classical approach, and in my teens didn’t think much to the Impressionists, but as I got older and started to look at colour I changed my mind, I even designed a poster for the Usher Gallery’s Renoir exhibition which they use.  I cropped a bit out of the umbrellas painting.

I started to look at Photographers such as Ansal Adams and was amazed how he used light in his images. However, the artist I always love to look at time and time again is Michael Andrews of  Ayres Rock / Brighton Pier. I went down to London in the 80’s to look at his work and was bowled over by the size of the canvases. I didn’t think much to the craftsmanship but the image before me was awesome:  the nearest thing of that size I have done is a double Decker bus.   

Question 6: What would be your ideal commission?

As long as it pushed me to my limits and scared me, and I could say, “Yes, I did that,” it would be what I’m looking for. ‘Something that gets the brain buzzing’.

Watch out for the next feature article in December.

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