Creativity, collaboration and artistic freedom are alive, well and thriving at Wimbledon Art Studios. Established in 1992, this bespoke studio complex houses and provides affordable spaces for over 290 artists, makers and designers. In the last in our series of three features, The Magpie Anthology visited Richard Knight in his studio to talk planes, cityscapes and how to make it pay.
Walking into Richard’s paint bespattered studio is a real treat not least because of the size and scale not only of the space itself, but of his paintings which take up whole metres of space in some cases. Unlike one of our previous interviewees Alex Rennie who works in a relatively small space, Richard’s studio has real height and we asked if that lends itself to his creating bigger canvasses. “You need room to step back from big pictures and if I’m painting in a small room then the pictures tend to be smaller too, so this studio is perfect for my bigger pieces. I also need height and storage in my studio as everything is used at some point – it’s not like an old person’s garage where they’ve kept every Daily Express since 1960 because it might be useful at some point – everything has a purpose.”
Richard finds his inspiration in cities and landscapes as well as in people and records what he sees in sketches and photos to create a visual record which he later uses in his paintings. His paintings are created using layers of paint, stencilling and cut outs as well as Pollockesque drips to create the impression of noise and movement, weather and atmosphere and evoke the sense of coming into an unfamiliar street and being momentarily blindsided by that unfamiliarity with confusion, light and noise all playing their parts. He is a fan of ‘accurate’ drawing, feeling that ‘it should be at every artists bed rock, a foundation to then build on…’
“I have a stencil machine, so I create patterns and paint through them to create a feeling without drawing things too accurately – there’s an element of abstractness in my work which I love to see come through and this works well with cityscapes. People say, ‘oh you’ve done a really accurate drawing’ and I think to myself, no actually it isn’t accurate – more spontaneous marks and splashes! You can stand back from it and see the whole picture, but I like the fact that you can stand closer and see that the details are abstract marks too, so it’s surface as well as depth. To me, a proper painting is not one where I can zoom into it like a photograph and see how tight it is – I want a story and for people to see how I’ve interpreted that story and to enjoy the looseness that wet paint gives you in order to create a feel. I just don’t enjoy painting photographically – to me they’re dead paintings.
To be a painter for pleasure is one thing, but to make a career out of it is quite another and Richard explains how he and his work have evolved over time. “When you run a studio I’ve realised you have to make it pay and this is where my experience of running a graphic design business has paid off. I guess I’ve hit a seam, giving people what they want in a way that satisfies my artistic needs. which I suppose makes me a commercial painter. I’m not someone who does competitions or anything like that – I don’t have the time and I don’t appeal to that market. My paintings are commissioned by private clients or companies who like them on their walls – Battersea power station for instance has been very popular, one recent painting went to America and another has been bought by the developer. It’s such a great building to paint. The lines are so bold, and I can interpret it in so many different ways and interestingly the paintings reproduce very well on metal – I put the prints onto aluminium, and it has a great effect. It’s not a job, you’ve got to love it and if you don’t then it shows in your painting. There’s also an artisan part of art and now that I’m old and grumpy I can admit to disliking people’s artistic fakery – particularly in relation to abstract art. They can’t draw, they can’t paint, and they splash a bit of paint around and suddenly they’re an artist but discovering your skills, developing and then practising as an artist makes it a profession that is hard won.
Plane paintings have recently become a thing! I get plane painting commissions – one for instance is for a lady whose husband was a pilot and trained on Harvards and so I’m doing one that’s huge for a single wall in their house of two planes with lots of texture. I went to the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and it was fantastic reigniting my whole love of drawing planes which I used to draw when I was 9 or 10, I could draw all the shapes without looking and also copied them from Commando Magazine. Then I saw some aircraft paintings at the air show at Biggin Hill and thought I could do ones which were more abstract and dynamic and so I started creating in the manner of my urban paintings with layers and stencils, they started selling and so that has lead me to a whole new stream of work.”
We leave the studio not just feeling enthused about the work that we’ve seen but with the explanation of the process that Richard goes through to produce his paintings which really need to be seen in situ to grasp the real impression that they convey. From a rainy London cityscape to a pair of spitfires ascending, you are there in the picture feeling the rain and hearing the planes and that’s something that not every artist can achieve.
Richard’s paintings can be seen on his website HERE.
For more information about Wimbledon Art Fair – see their website HERE
Words: Amber Beard | Pictures: Supplied