“Fantastic artist. A rising star. So talented. Ingenious. Lovely chap,” are just a few of the compliments I heard when I mentioned I was to be meeting him.
He is one of the darlings of the Peak District Artisans – all the more since he secured a prestigious commission linked to the cricketing world’s Ashes Series.
His mixed media work caught the attention of Lancashire County Cricket Club and they asked him to become their official artist capturing the essence of the series, which is coming to their ground – Emirates Old Trafford – in August.
When I went to visit him in his studio at 49 Bridgemont near Whaley Bridge, he was already surrounded by cricketing images and his head was full of plans for the paintings – despite the fact he was just recovering from the Derbyshire Open Arts weekend and he also has to prepare for the Artisans’ Great Dome Art Fair, in Buxton, in just a few weeks.
On top of all that, he and his wife Sally and their three young children under ten are moving to a new home soon.
“There is plenty to keep me busy that’s for sure,” he said as we wandered down to his idyllic canal-side studio at the bottom of the garden.
“For the cricket commission there will be an original series of paintings, which I am working on now, which will be signed by the players and exhibited at the ground during the test match.
“Then afterwards they will be on display at Contemporary Six – The Gallery in Manchester – along with new work from the match,” explained Rob.
“I am really delighted to have been invited to do this work. It’s a momentous event and its great working with the team at LCCC.”
He deserves the honour, as the award-winning artist is fast building a reputation as one of the most exciting young contemporary artists in the North West and Midlands.
His mixed media paintings incorporate paint, print, texture and lines of stitching and are of a mixture of subjects including, horse racing, rural landscapes, architectural icons, such as Buxton Opera House, and vibrant cityscapes of Manchester.
He says his city pictures depict the energy and drama of living and working in a metropolis and he enjoys the juxtaposition of Victorian buildings and modern architecture.
He starts with a sketch on the canvas, adding layers of texture from maybe a magazine or a brochure, or just tissue paper. His particular favourite is using old sewing patterns. He says the graphics on the opaque paper fit perfectly with his work.
Once the colour and detail has been applied he cuts up the canvas and stitches it together again with a sewing machine adding in little extras with the needle to give the painting his unique touch.
If you look closely at the pictures you might just be able to make out the stitching and spot the sewing patterns.
Rob’s paintings are fascinating works of art that you need to look at more than once to fully appreciate. And you can be certain that every time you do gaze at the canvas you will see something new.
The 38-year-old twin has been drawing since he was five and growing up in Knutsford and says he loved being the arty one in the family.
“I think it was because I was able to forge my own identity. My brother was into maths and engineering which was completely different so instead of being just one of the twins I became The Arty One.”
His passion took him to Bradford University to study graphic design and illustration and the city’s rich heritage of textiles became a large influence on his work.
That and the fact that there was then a lack of equipment on the course, which meant 20 students were sharing a computer.
“I was a bit cross at the time but with hindsight it meant I had to be really creative with what was available. At one stage I had just a tin of emulsion and a tube of blue paint,” said Rob with a wry smile.
Despite his success Rob prefers to paint to relax and consequently he still has a day job running his own graphics business Four9Design and he paints in the evenings.
“I tried painting full time but I found there were too many distractions.
“When I started out I had always painted to escape from the day job and when it became the day job it didn’t work for me. I like to have nothing else on my mind when I am painting,” he explained carefully.
Rob, like many artists, is also full of insecurities and is always striving to improve.
“When you have a show and you hear good comments you are on a high but you always worry that’s going to be it.
“That’s why I always put pressure on myself to make each painting better than the last.”
I don’t think he needs to worry. Rob Wilson’s distinctive art is going to be talked about for a long time to come.
For more details about his work to go http://www.robwilsonart.co.uk