Richard Knight is our fantastic new cityscape artist. Knight uses textured elements to create beautifully bright and striking paintings. Richard Knight grew up in Cornwall but left the country to study Graphic Design and Illustration at Kingston University, after which he moved to London to pursue his career as an illustrator and graphic designer and now he has become a full time artist. He loves to paint landscapes, cities and people, creating a record of places he has visited which inform his studio paintings. Richard uses the confusion of light and movement in each painting to create hazy impressions and using stencils he builds texture throughout his paintings, making each one entirely unique.
“Each painting seeks to create that initial hazy impression of place fused with precise primary detail, a lamppost, tree, vehicle, a shop window, a rushing commuter."
Driven by a love of the 'simple, beautiful things that life has to offer', this remarkable artist decided to quit the life of a retailer and devote his time to his true passion: astonishing art. An enterprise that not only encapsulates Michael's love of hands-on craft and construction: but has led to the creation of remarkable wall-sculptures that now grace the walls of luxury houses, businesses and interiors worldwide.
In this exclusive interview, Wyecliffe joins Michael Olsen for an insight into his unique, meticulous technique.
The inspiration behind my artworks and the development of my style
A love of the drawn line has always been my starting point, looking at anything and being able to draw it was my way of finding a career path, my drawings got me into art college where I finally got an introduction into a hitherto unknown world of incredible artists. Degas, Egon Schiele, Turner, Kandinsky, the Bauhaus movement - so much inspiration! And because I was now drawing constantly in daily classes I got to appreciate how fantastic these titans were and to learn that what appeals to me is a combination of observational drawing, pattern and colour. Being a country boy I’ve always seen London and other big cities with the eyes of a tourist, to really look and appreciate their magnificence, urban environments allow me to feed my inspiration with the constant dynamic of movement across the grids and lines of the city. Creating this 'dance to the music of time' by fusing observational drawing and painting with colour, texture and pattern has allowed me to create my interpretation of the familiar, and hopefully to allow others to see their environment in a new light.
Where did your love of art begin? Was your family encouraging?
Because my family was not engaged in any way in the artistic side of life, my appreciation of art came after leaving the farm I worked on and going to art college. Constant drawing classes and lectures on artists ensued, we had a tutor who particularly loved the impressionists and the many schools of thought that evolved from the beginning of the twentieth century. My inspiration will always start with Degas. I simply love his joyous pastels of women bathing, there is one in the National Gallery ‘after the bath’ which I never tire of seeing.
What does a typical day look like to you? After getting into the studio?
Depends on what my jobs are that week, and if there are any upcoming shows and commissions to plan for - it can be so varied.
After checking my email I look at what’s on the easel that day, evaluate its progress and carry on painting, I struggle with subject matter, within the confines of what I like painting, trying to balance love of subject with a commercial outlet for the finished product, the studio is expensive and I use my graphic design business head to be practical about what I paint. Sometimes I just try different stuff that will probably not see the light of day again, but it’s important to me to be creative and always stretch myself with new processes, subjects and ideas.I use stencils in order to replicate the feel of urban texture and they wear out, so I might have to make some more before I start, they hang in a mono print dryer above me so that I can easily select the one I want and let them dry out in between applications, I also use gallons of water to wash the brushes when using acrylics so keep two large buckets handy, one full and one empty to replenish dirty water. I line up the drawers holding the various mark making tools, switch on a large tv monitor linked to an iPad showing a photoshopped image of what I want to convey and then allow my eyes and hands to create what I ‘see’ and try to not let my brain overthink. Having a Bluetooth phone conversation with someone is weirdly a great way of stopping me do that, I continue to paint and make marks that are less constricted whilst talking, and the less tight my painting is the better it seems to turn out!
You previously had a career as an illustrator & graphic designer– what has the transition been like?
When I first got a studio specifically for my art I had no idea that I was undertaking a very long journey. What defines a successful artist? Selling work or simply creating art that pleases oneself? What do I paint!
Unlike the training I had as a designer, I had none as an artist other than a kind of foundation course at college. Transitioning was tough - finding my way amongst so many skilled professional artists has been daunting and converting from being a professional who uses his skills to sell a product I’ve become creator of a product that has to sell itself, but I’ve loved becoming an artisan as well as an artist with all the skills that have to be acquired along the way. I’ve been plagued by self doubt throughout this process but being part of a community of artists has helped me to mature in my outlook and realise that I’m not alone!
Once these conditions are met: the works are painstakingly recorded in our state-of-the-art database system (including advanced location tracking) and extensively photographed by Lucy and the image processing team. With extensive ‘macro’ detail shots utilising the Canon EOS 5DS camera: these shots not only form the basis for internet and print promotions: but form a visual record of the work at ultra-high resolution.
Finally; the works that aren’t immediately selected for the gallery walls (or better still, immediately dispatched to a lucky collector) are archived in our temperature controlled ‘vault’. Stored upright, fully surrounded in custom high-impact expanded rubber: the securely stored paintings are routinely checked and rotated onto gallery displays to ensure they remain in mint condition.
What is your studio like? Are you orderly like your paintings or do you have a little bit of chaos around you.
Chaotic order would best describe it, a client once came in and described it as the best man cave he’d ever been in, from painting to framing tools, and a huge cast metal framing mitre sitting in the corner, it’s got a very high ceiling so I’ve built various mezzanine areas to store work, tools and unfinished ideas - allowing me more free floor space. I’m based at Wimbledon Art Studios and my ‘cave’ has a huge window area that lets in tons of natural light, as I’m a studio painter at heart the space is both a refuge and an inspiration for new ideas and ways of creating new work, the size also allows me to paint big pictures, there is some truth in the maxim that your studio size influences the size of work you want to do.
Although my studio might look chaotic, the order is in the drawer and castors system, everything is on wheels in order to allow me to move both the easel and working tables to catch the changing light and make use of the variety of mediums and materials. As I work in both oil and acrylics I have two tool chests converted to contain each, with another even larger one containing my mark making tools, brushes, palette knives, sponges etc,... on wheels of course!
“I seek to capture a moment of impression, as when emerging from an underground station into a busy unfamiliar sunlit street, heightened senses, momentary bright light blindness, the confusion of information, noise and movement”