Artist Roger Allen
PUBLISHED: 15:02 17 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:38 20 February 2013
Ashley Franklin talks to the Brassington-based Derbyshire Life Award winner of the Derby City Open 2012
Derbyshire artist Roger Allen has been entering the annual Derby City Open ever since he moved to this county 18 years ago. His success rate is phenomenal: only one year were all three of his paintings returned. The 2012 exhibition marks Rogers greatest success at the Derby City Open so far. His one acceptance Watching Cow has won him an Open award, the Derbyshire Life Prize, in its inaugural year. The award includes a feature in Derbyshire Life and this year Roger shares it with Rowena Payne, who will be featured in next months magazine.
Roger always enters the Derby City Open because he feels its such a varied show and, for sheer quality, the equal of most national exhibitions. I feel privileged to see my work accepted. Its also prestigious because the City Open is quite a contemporary show with very few topographical landscapes. To get my work amongst them tells me I am producing something special.
In awarding Roger his prize, Derbyshire Life Editor Joy Hales praised his deep connection to the landscape and life of the county that is evident in his work, as well as his obvious skill and technical ability. His engaging study of a cow is typical of his naturalistic style. I am interested in the gritty realism of a scene, affirms Roger. He also favours slightly unorthodox landscapes, what he refers to as those little unremarkable corners that have an artistic feel to them.
There were three elements that largely drew Roger to this little unremarkable corner: I liked the contrast of solid rocks with the tracery of the bare trees, and I also felt a stillness. The inclusion of a cow is no surprise. As a youngster, Roger longed to work on a farm, and did so for a time to subsidise his income as a painter. As a result, I always see a working landscape, he says.
Roger himself works in the landscape whenever possible. Painting en plein air, you see so much more, he points out. Ill sometimes spend seven to eight days in situ as ideas can develop during the painting period. One can get very changeable and contrasting weather which means I can end up with a sunny painting or one that depicts a misty, overcast scene. Sometimes both. I can come away with two or sometimes three different paintings from slightly different viewpoints.
For larger paintings, Roger works from sketches and photographs in his studio. One painting Dew Pond above Ballidon Quarry was built up from over 30 photographs, all taken at different angles and in different conditions.
Most of Rogers paintings are in watercolour which, he points out, is ideal for his work: Watercolour has an immediacy and translucence fitting for landscape paintings. I work with a traditional technique of overlaid washes but push this to the limit to achieve the realistic effects I desire.
The overall effects of Rogers work makes his watercolours very appealing to visitors to Bakewells Ridgeway Gallery, as owner Sarah Ridgeway explains: The main response to Rogers paintings is surprise at how watercolour paintings have such a depth of colour and texture, where you feel you could grasp the tufts of grass in the foreground. However, its done in a naturalistic way. I personally like Rogers skies and distant views; they are so fresh. People also respond to the fact that he largely depicts the Peak.
I find the Derbyshire landscape so dramatic and varied, says Roger. It has got a bit of everything apart from the coast. OK, the uplands are not as dramatic as Snowdonia but I love both the rugged, austere quality of the Dark Peak and the gentle, verdant lowlands of the White Peak. There is also the rich industrial aspect to the landscape.
Like most artists, Roger is prone to vagaries in the art market and experienced a dip in sales in 2012 following a successful 2011. However, he paints on. I am my own harshest critic so I keep painting thinking I can always do better, Roger points out. Then, when an exhibition selects your work, you think Im doing something right. This Derbyshire Life prize means a lot; somebody has recognised something positive in my painting and its a great fillip. But Im still striving for the perfect picture. Im 61, and artists dont tend to retire so Im not throwing in the towel yet!