Monday, 30 October 2017

Meet Colin Rowe — Challenge Member

Colin Rowe

Where do you live? Tell us about your family:

I was born in Plymouth, but I moved to North Devon when I was twenty and have lived here ever since. North Devon, for those who don't know, is a beautiful little corner of South West England — not exactly 'Metropolis,' if you understand what I mean, but a wonderful place to live.

I live with Nicola, my very patient wife (who doesn't seem to mind when I get diverted away from the household DIY tasks to draw and doodle), our blind Collie dog Willow, and two cats. Molly, our tortoiseshell, is the studio cat, spending much of her day sat at my elbow or 'helpfully' tap dancing on the computer keyboard. Pickles, our photogenic ginger tom, is on his way to be immortalised in print as a character side-kick.

Between us we have four kids, all grown up and independent. My son lives in Cambridge, my daughter in Penzance, my stepson in London, and my stepdaughter in Portsmouth; not forgetting my two beautiful grandchildren who live in Penzance with their Mum and Dad. Despite being pretty well scattered, we get to see them all pretty regularly. 

Photogenic Pickles

Have you formally trained as an artist or illustrator? Describe your art background/journey:

As long as I can remember, I have been drawing or painting. Discovering at the age of sixteen there were actually jobs out there in the creative industries was, for me, a revelation. As a result, I spent three years at the Plymouth College of Art, studying Graphic Design, mingled in with Illustration and Photography.

This was in the mid-seventies, so everything we did then was all 'by hand'; the only technology we ever saw was the occasional electric typewriter!

Following Art College, I worked in a couple of agencies until 1985, a momentous year — not only the birth of my daughter, our eldest, but I quit employment and started my own Design Studio. Thankfully, we had a big old Victorian house, so working from home was easy, with plenty of room for giant drawing boards and a dark room to house the precious but enormous copy camera, but also plenty of room for the kids to wander in and 'help'.

They were very different times. All the old techniques with Rotring pens and Letraset gradually disappeared when the technology started to appear. I embraced every gradual aspect of it, and still do, always self taught... so it was learning by trial and error.

I work full time as a Graphic Designer. These days it is mostly for tourism and the holiday trade, so I have plenty of opportunities to bring some nice bouncy illustrations into my daily routine. My business is intentionally small — just me. I have never had any kind of ambition to create a business empire. Essentially, I love what I do. 

Day job illustration

Oldest job Colin still has, Rotring pens, approximately A3 size

Typical day job illustration

Do you have to juggle your creative projects with other responsibilities?

I am working on creative projects all the time — for other people. BUT there are still plenty of my own projects that I really want to get done, so there will always be an element of juggling. Some of the 'Personal Projects' progress, but so many get postponed, so often that a better word might be 'abandoned'.

All down to the age old problem of time. I guess we all know about that one, the problem with creative projects, they never flow in an orderly list. I have started far more projects than I have completed. 

Dragon and ladders

Where is your favourite place to create and illustrate? Describe your routine.

When I am asked this, I usually describe myself as a computer hermit sat in a darkened room with only a cat for company.... I will confess this isn't a million miles from the truth, but it really isn't that grim!

All creative and planning is done at my desk, with all of my Graphic work likewise done there. Anything that needs assembly or text handling is all done at my desk. Illustrations used in my commercial projects will usually also be done 'at the desk'

I very much see my studio as where I spend my working week, so unless work deadlines dictate otherwise, I will very rarely do anything at weekends or evenings in there.

Most of my 'fun' illustration, including that done for the Challenge, is done on my iPad. The freedom liberating, so it usually means that I will do most of these drawings somewhere comfortable like a sofa.

Evenings and weekends are family time, but I am not very good at just sitting about doing nothing, so the Challenge illustrations are created evenings and weekends in the lounge with Nicola and the critters.

Friday night on the sofa

How would you describe your style? Do you have a favourite medium or subject matter?

Pretty much all done on the iPad using Procreate, though I do also use Corel Painter on my main computer. I guess that style wise, if you had to compare to conventional materials, it would be coloured pencils, with a touch of watercolour — coincidentally the tools of choice when I worked 'by hand'.

I do also like to occasionally get my hands dirty, so modelling clay and plaster bandages fulfil those urges. I have been working on a mixed media 'sculpture' of a dinosaur for at least two years (paper, clay and plaster), and I will finish him one day!

Do I have a favourite subject? Not really, but I don't do 'serious'. I much prefer the frivolous and whimsical, subject wise.

A Companions of Oz portrait

A Companions of Oz portrait

How did you hear about the Challenge and when did you join?

At the end of 2015, I was already drawing on the iPad most evenings, and having drawn the furniture, ornaments, the dog, dog toys and even the corner of the room far too many times, I needed to find a channel that would give me that reason to draw something. 

Pre-Challenge lounge drawing

What do you love about the Challenge? What have you learned?

Every time you draw something you learn a little bit more. Random subjects force you to think 'out of the box' and go areas that you would not have even considered. Add that it is open to everyone, of all ages and all abilities, is absolute genius. The ability to see how other contributors have approached the same problem provides an even wider view of the subject. And all in a wonderfully friendly, non competitive atmosphere. I really don't do competitive.

You can never do this on your own; someone else has to be there to provide the push that makes you go into new directions. I am hooked — I love it! 

Renoir's Boating Bears

What is the favourite illustration you have done for the Challenge so far?

A difficult one, but if I had to choose one then it would have to be Week 37 - Queen. I just love the characters and the books that Lewis Carroll created; this is a subject area that I have visited several times. One day I would like to do something properly with them.

Alice and the Red Queen, Week 37 2017: Queen

The Door, Week 42 2017: Door

Anyone for Croquet?, a portrait of Alice in Wonderland
Tweedledee and Tweedledum
The White Rabbit

What are your creative goals?

I would like to move more into book illustration, and with the aid of the 52-Week Challenge, I am already making my start.

I have a set of three picture books currently in progress for one of my design clients. I have worked in collaboration with another challenge member and have a book presentation/package out there looking for a publisher. I have also created illustrations for a local author's book, which is going to print.

I have also been contacted by a Publisher via the Challenge and am currently at the initial stages of developing the illustrations for a book with them, with an aim for publication late 2018.

In other directions, I have dabbled with computer 3D modelling for at least a decade, so to actually master it would be brilliant. I have the technology, it's just the practise I need now — back to that time issue!

Teeny Tiny Witch

Tell us something that we don’t know about you:

I have a life size fibre glass alligator that lives on my back lawn — he is named Mr Snappy.

Connect with Colin online: