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 wildlife paintings. Immersing himself in Pop Surrealism, Robert presents viewers with what he calls “psychedelic natural history”. His new collection, The Dark Knights - Heart of Darkness, features an unusually subdued colour palette, with deep purples and blacks accented with yellows and greens for a moonlit feel.
Following a childhood spent roaming the forests of a North East coalmining village, Robert's affinity with nature is evident in every instinctive brushstroke. While he is known for his signature drip effect, in recent years, his limited edition prints have mirrored the 2D style of his original paintings to create a high-definition, contemporary look. Echoing his passion for conservation, Robert's artworks are printed on a 100% cotton canvas, with the pine stretcher bars sourced from sustainably managed forests.
His popular collections - including Primal Colours, We Three Kings and The Dark Knights - have explored the incredible variety of the animal kingdom, from Indian elephants to chimpanzees, badgers and turtles. He particularly enjoys painting big cats like tigers and panthers, describing them as a "stealthy power that lurks in the shadows, ready to strike its prey." One of Robert’s artworks took centre stage on the colossal chimney breast of a cathedral-style Lincolnshire home in a January 2021 episode of Grand Designs, showing his modern art can suit any décor.
For his latest collection, The Dark Knights - Heart of Darkness, Robert delved into Chinese, Sanskrit and Jewish mythology to bring tales of darkness and mystery to life. His shadowed cats symbolise both the power of the night and universal fears, encompassing demonic figures and female deities.
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. With my work, I try to keep animals in people's minds in some way. We used to look to the natural world for guidance, survival and knowledge. Animals are the guardians, workforce and soldiers of our planet."
Robert’s studio is filled to the brim with natural history books and reference photography, which he reworks and reimagines for his original paintings. His signature ‘drip’ effect is created by letting paint run down the canvas before building up colour with successively thicker application. This gives his work a hallucinatory feel.
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."
While painting, he listens to music, natural history documentaries and true crime podcasts. Along with his conservation work – which includes donating an artwork to raise money for the Koala Hospital in South Wales after the Australian bushfires – his passion for learning more about the environment feeds into every piece he paints.
Robert has a studio in a cotton mill in Stockport, Greater Manchester, which is open to the public, and a studio at home, where he creates his art. Waking up early, he takes his dog out before painting from around 8.30am to 5pm. He also developed a new passion for flora during the recent COVID-19 crisis. “At the beginning of lockdown, I fell in love with houseplants,” he reveals. “I think I wanted to bring the outdoors inside. I’ve collected around 40 specimens in various shapes and sizes.” .
If you like reading about our artists' studios, don't miss our regular Studio Sessions feature in Fine Art Collector magazine. Catch up on previous issues here.
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!
Dark, deadly and dangerous, the wildlife artist's three ferocious new limited edition prints draw inspiration from natural history and medieval legend. Featuring a lion, tiger and jaguar, this captivating trio boasts a neon colour palette and a new artistic perspective.
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