LEAP OF FAITH…
Full of drama and tantalising atmosphere, Steve Rostron’s paintings are inspired by the beautifully wild Ribble Valley landscape
Ribble Valley born and bred, Steve Rostron took a leap of faith when he decided to become a professional artist at the age of 40.
He abandoned a long-standing teaching career and, encouraged by his partner Janine, he became a full time artist in 2014, working from his home in Sabden.
“I have no regrets whatsoever,” says Steve, who paints big, atmospheric land and skyscapes in thick textured oils.
Spending his childhood in Mellor, Steve attended Oakhill College in Whalley, where his artistic talents were nurtured.
“I have always loved art. At school I was a bit of a late developer but I remember that my art teacher there was fantastic. I remember during one of the summer holidays he taught me oil painting techniques. I had a natural gift that gradually evolved.”
Steve was also lucky to embark on a work experience stint with UK renowned artist Steve Townsend from Oswaldtwistle, who taught him how to work with gouache: “I remember that very distinctly,” recalls Steve.
On leaving Oakhill, Steve attended Blackburn College and, as a student there, developed a different style: “Up until then I had a very traditional style but as many students do, I went a bit crazy with wacky ideas!”
When he left he trained as a teacher and spent a decade teaching at secondary schools in Yorkshire, relocating back to Lancashire in 2009 and working as a supply teacher, teaching art.
“I really got back into painting which began to sow the seeds of an idea that I could possibly take up painting full time. That was three years ago and it has been fantastic!” says Steve.
“Having spent the last three years painting solidly, I get really absorbed in my work. It has really helped develop my technique. They say that you need to get 10,000 hours painting under your belt before you perfect your style and technique. I’m lucky – working as a full time artist has allowed me to pass that goal. There is a certain degree of trial and error and experimentation – and of course, failing sometimes. But I have kept going and it’s worked out really well.”
“When people talk to me now about technique it’s weird as I don’t think about it as I have been doing it for so long. I love painting in oils as I find them very versatile. I like the textured surface and apply the oils with a palette knife and big brushes. I love the contrast it can bring to paintings.”
“I love the landscapes around here, they really speak to me – the dramatic skies and surrounding hills, they are perfect for larger paintings and work really well.”
Travelling around the Ribble Valley searching for inspiration last summer, Steve embarked on a theme of ‘rivers’ for a series of paintings, visiting Marles Wood and Ribchester.
“I get very absorbed in the landscape – it is part observation, amalgamation and imagination. I let the brush take me on a journey, seeing how it evolves. I don’t like to pre-empt, I have learnt through lots of experience, not to push myself too much or have any restrictions – just go with my instincts.”
One of Steve’s first exhibitions was at Longitude Gallery in Clitheroe in 2014 – an experience he vividly recalls: “It was a joint exhibition and I was pretty nervous beforehand. But it went fabulously well! I sold two at the preview and went on to sell a further eight fairly quickly. It was on that evening that I started toying with the idea of giving up teaching.
“It was probably a bit of a mid-life crisis, I had reached 40 and I knew I had a talent. I just thought, if I didn’t do it then, I would never do it.”
“As an artist you have to develop yourself and, of course, you have to develop a commercial sense too, which I found difficult. But I am starting to get that, asking myself at the end of each year if I have done better than the previous one,” adds Steve, who has a long association with the Picture House Gallery in Padiham, which is set to hold a forthcoming exhibition of his work this month.
“When I look back at my teaching career it seems like another life! I feel very lucky living where I do as I don’t need to go far to find something to influence and inspire me.”