Rosanne Barr

“The skies are what excites me the most and are always the initial starting point for a painting, I find if you get an interesting mood in the sky then the rest of the painting flows quite naturally.“

How did your journey in art start? What is your background?

I loved art from a young age, always drawing and sketching, I was successful at high school had the most encouraging teacher and I submitted my portfolio to art school. I accepted a place at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. I studied constructed textiles and graduated with first-class honors in 2003.

After traveling across the USA in 2004 I returned to Scotland. I was inspired by the landscape paintings I had seen in the galleries of New Orleans and I returned to painting and with landscapes at the forefront. I wanted to paint memories of my visits to the beaches and cliffs on the west coast of Scotland, some of the most beautiful remote spots only accessible on foot. I came up with the concept of lands of escape, painting views from my imagination which were inspired by my memories. It also helped that I had won a crossword completion and the prize was an easel, paints, and canvases, so I had a wealth of materials to hand!

After creating the first series of about 15 paintings I organized my own exhibition at a shop in Glasgow and it was a near sell-out. After this, I had the confidence to approach galleries and they accepted my paintings. Sales were good and from then it was a snowball effect, other galleries started contacting to exhibit and in 2008 I had my first solo exhibition at the Green Gallery. With a few awards under my belt and shortages for the Jolomo landscape painting Award I received great exposure and now exhibit across the Uk, now Ireland with paintings in private collections in Dubai, Australia, USA, Thailand, and Italy to name a few!

Your paintings have as subject landscapes, but they have a strong humane touch in the emotions they convey. What do you think is the reason for this apparent contradiction and how do you create and use it?

As I said I was inspired by the idea of Lands of Escape, I have always loved just sitting for hours in awe on a deserted beach, looking out to sea, not a footprint in the sand and only the sound of the birds and the waves. This where I go in my mind when I begin to paint, intuitively  I let the paint direct how the composition develops, I often apply paint straight to the canvas as opposed to mixing on the palette, as colors blend , the canvas becomes the palette , shapes can start appearing and I adapt these to suggest headlands and cliffs. Often areas that started as the sea can end up being part of the sky. (My time-lapse videos show how the paintings go back and forth till it all comes together)

So to answer your question, I rely heavily on stirring both my emotions when I paint and in turn I hope to stir up the viewers’ emotions, hoping they can connect to the view with their own memory of a place. I hope they imagine themselves soaking up the sea air and sinking in the sand. The whole process is driven by my longing to be by the sea and out in the wilderness, I paint to music so that I get lost in the journey and enjoy the experience. I enjoy the freedom of expressing my mood, sometimes bold and a bit wild to other days more peaceful and subdued. I continue to experiment, trying out new tools to see what effects might create and develop my style further or in a new direction.

Sea surge © Rosanne Barr
Warm after glow © Rosanne Barr

“Memory is still-life art in the making” is stated to be on your website at the center of your work. Can you explain a little more? What role has memory in your work?

All my paintings are from memories, I never paint from photos, so by ‘memory is still life ‘ I mean my paintings are like a snapshot of my memory of a place, it’s the image when you close your eyes.

Using memory also helps edit a scene, you don’t get caught up in too much detail,  as you can’t remember all the little details , things can be a little hazy and that adds to the atmosphere. Scotland is a huge inspiration as we get such changeable weather, the skies are what excites me the most and are always the initial starting point for a painting, I find if you get an interesting mood in the sky then the rest of the painting flows quite naturally.

Virtually all of your landscapes have a water surface. What does this element represent for you and why do you think it grasps so much your attention?

Being at the edge, looking out over a vast sea, again it’s that feeling of awe, the sea is quite hypnotic and being by the sea always makes me feel emotional. This same emotion is echoed when a painting comes together and you stand back and you can’t take your eyes off it. The sea and thick, glossy sumptuous colors of paint have a magnetic quality for me, I am drawn to both.

What you paint is a real plein air panorama or a crystallization of your imagination?

I have painted plein air (I was selected to paint at the Colour festival in Sardinia on the beach in front of a crowd for four days), also when I visit Orkney I paint outside as my parents’ house overlooks the sea. However,  the majority of my paintings are from my imagination, created in my studio.

A morning in autumn © Rosanne Barr
Flooded with light © Rosanne Barr

What is your main painting technique?

I use a combination of palette knives and a huge range of paint brushes, especially large ones to make bold and expressive marks. I use oils and often paint using impasto techniques wet on wet. Majority of paintings are finished in one sitting.

The artistic movement that most fascinates you? How has it influenced your work?

William Mallord Turner is a huge inspiration, impressionists. I love as well as the work of the Glasgow boys. Emotional paintings and anything with lots of energy and atmosphere. There is a well known Scottish artist called Joan Eardley who sadly died in her forties. As a 15-year-old student, I was lucky enough to meet the artist’s sister who had a huge collection of paintings in her house, they were full of character and emotion, thick with texture and wonderful colors, from the moment I laid eyes on those paintings I knew I wanted to paint like that.

A living painter you want to give a shout out to and suggest our readers? Why?

Hester Berry , an artist based in Devon, exciting, gestural brush strokes and beautiful color combinations. Scottish artist James Fraser, paintings are like a patchwork of colors and full of interesting details.

A bit of precious advice you would have wanted to receive earlier in your career?

Keep painting even when you think you can’t get it right, some of my best paintings have resulted from ‘off ‘days when everything seemed muddy and a mess, somehow, suddenly a ‘happy accident ‘ would breathe fresh life into it and it would all click into place. Also good to ask advice from gallery owners, without the galleries I wouldn’t have received the exposure and success. At the start of my career, I was very intimidated and worried about rejection, but you have nothing to lose there is no better feeling than finding out someone has chosen to buy your painting, I still get a thrill every time.

Next and upcoming projects?

A busy year ahead as well as group shows across the Uk and in Dublin, Ireland, I have a feature slow currently running at the Green Gallery in Dollar, (Scotland) In May a two-person show at the Lemond Gallery in Bearsden (Scotland) and a solo in September at the Annan Gallery in Glasgow (Scotland)

As well as a number of private commissions, including one of my clients requesting a painting which features his boat.


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Credits: Rosanne Barr


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