We’re delighted to bring you this week’s Featured Artist, Tracey Hollis Rowe, whose incredible talent for animal portraiture leaves us stunned. Read on for our Q&A with Tracey.
How did you get started as an artist?
I guess like most artists I was always creating in some way as a child, from colouring in books to the good old pencil and paper. I used to buy smash hits magazines and try and draw the pop stars. I was obsessed with drawing eyes and obsessed with detail.
It was only in my later years once my children got a little older and I had a few hours to spare that I decided to pick up my pencils again and I went and joined my local art group. It had been a few years since I had attempted anything other than doodles in my scrap books but it soon came back to me and the members of the art group where all so lovely and encouraging. The group were a huge support to me as I wasn’t the most confident person at promoting myself and my art (this got easier in time)and before I knew it I was selling my work at every exhibition and then I started to get commission work to draw pet portraits. I left the group some years ago now but I go to their annual exhibition every year for a catch up and they are always still so encouraging of my work and are pleased that my career is progressing well.
What inspires you to create?
I guess the answer is’ what doesn’t’. I have a great love for wildlife and nature, be it observing, photographing or drawing it. I can watch the giraffe at the zoo for hours on end and come away with a million paintings in my head that I would like to create. My head is always spinning with the many creative ideas that I have and sometimes you do just have to put pencil to paper and get the ideas down or it might just be a simple image that I have captured with my camera that when recreated onto paper will make for a powerful piece. I also read a lot about art, art processes and techniques, especially when trying something new.
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process usually starts if I am honest with an idea in my head. I then go out and collect what I need. This might involve going to the zoo or local nature reserves to watch, observe and photograph the animals and to try and capture them in the way that I need. Or it could be a flower/leaf/fruit to take home as ref material to draw from life. If I could get a giraffe to stand in my own studio for me to paint from life I would be a very happy artist, unfortunately this is not practical or in any way allowed so photography helps. I am a visual person so I need ideally to see something for myself and get to know what I am drawing; it makes the process so much easier in the end.
What is your favourite medium and why?
At the moment I would say oils. I have only been painting for a couple of years and it is fun to try new things as an artist. I am also currently trying my hand at watercolours. Oils are exciting and there is so much you can do with them. Sometimes it is great to work loose and release your inner child and just slap the paint on and look on with wonder at what develops or sometimes cry when you are left with a muddy mess!!. Or you can go in with the detail and be more disciplined in your technique. Having always been a drawer rather than a painter I can honestly say to anyone who is scared of painting – just give it a go, you may surprise yourself of what you are capable of creating.
How do you tackle a blank canvas?
I always get my line drawing down first then i will either tone the canvas with a wash – or I will go straight to work on the portrait and worry about the background later. I like the focus to be on the subject so my backgrounds are normally one block of colour or left blank in the case of my coloured pencil work.
What do you find the most challenging about the creative process?
Finishing what you started I would say to this. As I said earlier my brain is constantly coming up with fresh ideas and you are always as an artist very eager to start. Once a piece is coming to the end is usually when I start to feel I could do so much more to it. You just have to be disciplined in knowing when to stop and leave well alone and also try not to have too many projects on the go at once. The most I will work on is four and if it is commission work it gets my full attention until it is completed. Deadlines can work well for you sometimes.
In which ways do you differentiate your work from that of other artists?
Because I am predominantly a wildlife artist, that is a subject that has been produced in many many different ways, it is for me about producing work in a style that is unique to me and I hope can be recognized as being my work. Developing your ‘style’ takes years of practise and with all of my work and especially the oil portraits of the animals I am trying to capture the animal in a moment in time and to get across their nature and emotions. The giraffes are a great example of this and how I paint them. They can be quite quirky at times but also very elegant and gentle souls that I hope comes across in my work. I have been told quite often that my work is very delicate, detailed and captures the emotion and character of the subject well. I like to work big if possible with the focus on the subject leaving quite a bit of negative space helping the viewer’s eye to be drawn instantly to the subject without the distraction of a background.
What are you essential tools?
My essential tools are my sketchpad, pencils, putty rubber and my camera. Everything else develops from these items.
How would you describe your studio?
My studio is no bigger than a postage stamp but is like Dr Who’s tardis, it is amazing how much I can fit into it. It is my creative sanctuary, my happy place.
Any tips for preparing a portfolio?
I would only choose your very best pieces but try to include all the mediums you work in to showcase all that you can do as an artist.
Do you have a favourite art tip that you can share with our readers?
Invest in good quality products, spend a little more if you can – it really will make a difference to your work, especially with paper, I always try to use a heavy weight paper for my drawings that will take many layers.
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