A pleasing sense of meticulousness arises from the artwork of Mike Rome. There is a crispness and clarity to the light captured in his oil paintings, and a confidence of line and scale that lets you know this is an artist who understands how to translate what he sees onto a canvas or page for all to appreciate.
Yet, Mike says, becoming an artist was for him less a conscious decision, than a consequence of experience, time and circumstance.
“I had an interest in and enjoyed drawing as a child, with, of course, no thoughts of a career at that stage of my life,” he says, “I was encouraged by art teachers at school, and during secondary education did consider going on to art college.”
Coming from a working class family, however, Mike had no choice other than to start work at sixteen, but this only put his artistic ambitions on hold briefly.
“My father found me a job as an apprenticed engineer, and after three years on the workshop floor my employers recognised my artistic ability and transferred me to the drawing office where after a short time I became a design and detail draughtsman,” he says. “Although I used a drawing board and technical instruments to create working drawings, I also enhanced the work with freehand illustrations to aid production, at the same time giving myself the opportunity to improve my drawing skills.”
In his mid-twenties, Mike made a dramatic career change into financial services, which he worked at for 20 years. “During this period I found the time to continue to draw and still had the desire to return to an artistic career,” he says. “I attended evening art courses and a basic graphic design course, eventually finding a position as a graphic designer – albeit on half my previous salary!”
In 2005 Mike felt ready to concentrate fully on his art, designed and launched his own website, and became a self-employed artist.
“All of my paintings are oils, although I do draw as well,” he says. “I’ve experimented with watercolour and acrylic paint, but find the consistency and slow drying nature of oil far more suited to my style of painting – deliberate and cautious. I love the feel of working with the paint and the depth of colour one can achieve.”
Without a doubt, the style of Mike’s art has been influenced by his previous careers, which required him to produce accurate and representational work. “As a consequence, even my abstract works have a tendency to be tight!”
The majority of Mike’s paintings are created using photographs and grids “so as to be as true to the original as possible. I sometimes work from sketches, but rarely en plain air as this style is more suited to artists who work quickly and with a loose style, using watercolour or acrylic.”
The chosen composition can make the difference between a sale or no sale, Mike says, so he crops his photos “to create the desired layout before any painting commences. Sometimes colours are varied or elements changed to add emphasis.”
Mike usually paints on pre-primed canvases, occasionally opting to use board for smaller works.
“For the ‘photographic’ works I normally grid, draw, over-draw with pen, erase the pencil, cover with white to knock-back the pen, allow to dry and then proceed to paint by blocking in the darkest colours first to create the initial contrast,” he says. “I sometimes work purely with shades of grey to achieve the overall contrasts before adding colour and/or colour glazes.”
The biggest pleasure for Mike comes at the very start of a new picture, when all possibilities still remain open. “I love the creation process. Starting with a blank canvas, deciding on a subject, working with the paint and colours and producing something that people enjoy are all part of this.”
Knowing when to stop painting and setting the sale price can also be difficult, “as not only am I trying to produce a work I am pleased with and satisfied is of a sufficient standard to market, but I’m also attempting to sell the finished product at a realistic price for the work and hours involved.”
Mike’s aims for his art are straightforward, if not necessarily simple – to achieve “Realism, to the best of my ability, colour and impact in my abstracts, and beauty in all my work.”
Find more of Mike’s paintings and details of upcoming exhibitions at mikerome.co.uk.
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