Glaswegian artist Rowan Rosie reveals themes of travel, vulnerability and femininity in her bright paintings as she surrenders to the creative process. We spoke about her art rituals; the importance of scent and smell, as well as movement and dance to anchor her in creative flow. Rowan walks us through her process including how she tackles the challenge of overworking a piece; and shares how her art affects her well-being.
I think that it’s vulnerable to share your art and that vulnerability comes through when you’re making art that is truly authentic to you
Talk to us about your vibrant paintings, where do you find inspiration? And what are the key themes in your work?
I draw inspiration from everywhere but notably my experiences travelling through places that have a particularly strong energy and the experiences of life and people that have stayed with me. If I was to throw some theme words out there I would say; memory, travel, vulnerability and femininity. I’m creating a visual of what is powerful and meaningful to me but in turn will often resonate with the viewer’s own experiences.
If your paintings could speak, what message would they give the viewer?
They would encourage you to reflect on where you’re at right now, and then ask if you can think of a time you felt a similar way, encouraging you to appreciate the beauty of life’s experiences – both the physical and emotional and to fully feel them. Ask yourself if you can enjoy these paintings and the colours on a visual level and then question if the subject and deeper meanings resonate with you.
Walk us through your creative process …what are the different stages of your work? And how do you know when a piece is finished?
I do a lot of development work in my sketchbook and on scraps of canvas before I begin a final piece. Of course there are times when I just go for it but I do find my most meaningful work comes from really taking the time to develop before beginning. It’s a balance of planning, making good decisions etc and then just letting go and painting intuitively.
To start a painting, I prime my canvas / gesso boards with ‘underpainting’ base layers with either brownish-green raw umber or sometimes a really vivid bright fluorescent colour of paint. This is my first step in creating depth and gives the painting a feel of there being a story beneath the surface. I love fluorescent bright colours, however they only seem to exist in acrylic, so I go in first with any of these acrylic ‘accents’ and then paint over the top with oils (acrylic paint will not sit on top of oil paint). The process is very intuitive and when I enter that ‘flow’ state with a painting it just comes together most of the time. It can be really hard to make the call that a painting is finished but when I get it to a good place, I try to give it a few days or weeks if I have the luxury of time and make that call with fresh eyes. I think most artists are guilty of sometimes being too close to their work and can be overly critical about what it still needs etc.
I feel in alignment and at home when I’m painting.
How and where do you like to work? Do you have any art rituals?
So I work from my studio in Glasgow city centre beside the River Clyde which I am ever grateful for finding. It has huge windows and great natural light and the building hosts many creatives and small businesses etc so it has a great community feel. I work 9-6 Mon-Fri normally and in the run up to exhibition deadlines I’ll be in 7 days a week.
I love a ritual, yes! The first thing I do every morning when I get in is fill up my essential oil diffuser and turn it on which sets the mood and helps me tap into different energies. Scent and smells are so tied up with energy and memory etc that it’s a big part of my studio and home life. Then I fill up my 2L water bottle for the day, make a coffee which I sit with and have a chat over before I get my head in the painting zone. In an ideal world I would meditate every morning for 10 minutes; I aim to achieve this but I’m not super disciplined about it and I go through phases which I’m ok with. It does make a huge difference to my overall energy and in turn is reflected in my creativity and helps me to be less ‘heady’ and analytical about my paintings. I also love to dance: bachata, kizomba, salsa, ecstatic dance –I often dance while I’m painting and I think the movement translates into the painting.
What do you find most challenging about practising art and how do you overcome this?
Overworking paintings and being overly critical of my work is something that can happen. It really kills creativity to start over thinking and over working without taking a step away for a while. I can definitely be guilty of over working paintings and then they can lose their natural energy and that’s frustrating. I think that it’s vulnerable to share your art and that vulnerability comes through when you’re making art that is truly authentic to you; people can connect with that and feel more drawn to it. To combat over working I force myself to stop and come back to paintings with fresh eyes and a fresh mood later.
The process is very intuitive and when I enter that ‘flow’ state with a painting it just comes together most of the time.
How does art and creativity affect your overall well-being?
I feel in alignment and at home when I’m painting. I pour so much of myself into my art, a great painting day has me feeling brilliant! Conversely a bad studio day can be frustrating but there is more to life and you just have to get right back to it the next day. Consistently showing up in this area and seeing the fruits of that is also good for my sense of ambition and what you can achieve with a mixture of hard work and surrendering to the process. Being in creative mode feels great.
And lastly, what does art mean for you?
Expressing what you cannot say with merely words.
To view more of Rowan Rosie’s work: