I paint to get a reaction – Interview with artist Roger Chamley

I met Roger at my first ‘Art In The Park’ festival in Leamington Spa. We were stand neighbours and I was very impressed by the mastery of his works and the characters he chooses to display in his compositions.

I’ve recently asked him if he’d give an interview for my blog and he agreed. I was really fascinated by his story and art journey. Feel free to read it below.

* * *

Every true artist had to struggle in life, my own story is a little romantic to say the least, but it has taught me to be independent.

I was born in 1942, a war baby in Coventry. Bombed out during the war, we lost everything and moved to my Grandmother’s farm. However, that was not easy as she hated my mother, called her a ‘scratch cat’. She would not have us live in her 10 bedroom farmhouse so we had to convert an old chicken shed. No shortage of rats getting in to steal food.

In the winter it was so cold – there was no heating – and only an old pot stove to cook on. Two boys living like wild animals: this gave me the chance to learn about how to survive on next to nothing. Christmas was an orange and one toy, normal for many at this time.

I tell people that I was born in a cardboard box alongside the M1, this raises a smile. Then I say hardship, you don’t know what hardship is, such luxury (Joke).

As to art,  I used to draw on old fish box lids as it was our family business selling fish so the lids were a good surface to draw on with white chalk. Then one year at the age of 10 I entered a painting into the city gallery. To my surprise it was accepted! It was inspired by my love of animals, to this day I can still see it in my mind’s eye.

I have painted and drawn all my life, never giving up. I want to be the best. Nothing less. Many disappointments would set others back but to me it was a determination that drove me on. Being Dyslexic and classed as a failure is no help in life… It has been a big problem in life for me, and has taken many years to overcome this blight.

It made me become almost a recluse.  I rarely display my art, other than at local art groups. I have occasionally had art galleries take my paintings, only to end up being ripped off by them. One gallery in London took several of my paintings and sold them but it was always a problem with them taking very high commissions and not paying me. So I now do just local displays. Now I paint only for myself and if someone likes them then that’s nice.

If you look at my Facebook page, you will see a lot more than just traditional paintings. I also draw, make models, musical instruments and model carriages and trains. The list is endless but in saying this it’s about creating things.

As to my art, the subjects cover many themes – animal studies, marine, landscapes, still life, portraits… You may think’s it’s a bit diverse but it’s all about the challenge. It really matters little the subject, it’s about skill.

There was a time when I used to go to Norfolk to collect shellfish to sell in the shop. There I met one of their local artists Jack Cox at the time.  I was not aware of his fame but he did help me with good advice, so Marine painting became a the norm for a while. But, as you may see, my true art love is about horses. We had a few on the farm so I could always find a willing subject to study.

Nowadays I paint every day since being a Covid-19 prisoner and can produce one a day in watercolours. No oils at this time as, no room to stack them…

I have also been a member of the City Art Guild for 40 years. I do not teach but only help if asked.

* * *

S: Who is your favourite artist and why?

R: Too many to list… Salvator Dali, Vermeer, Hogarth, Turner, Constable, Stubbs. Great skill and a a story is to be found in their art. 

S: Are you influenced by a particular style?

R: It’s about the art, not about the style. I like to paint in a realistic style but I am still influenced by many styles. What I like to see is skill,  not just coloured forms that often given nice flowery names. You can say I am old school in my style and I often paint in way the Masters painted. 

S: Do you think there is art that’s purely decorative?

R: NO. Art needs a story that the viewer connects to. Decorative is close to wallpaper, the feel-good factor is not enough, you need to evoke a reaction,  be it love, hate, anger, fear. If you are able to evoke a reaction from the viewer, then you have produced real art. 

There’s one painting most would not have on their wall – ‘The execution of Charles The First’, but its about love and hate, both portrayed in the same painting.

S: Are you collecting something?

R: Money lol 

Model trains, American Cabooses HO scale. 

S: Do you think you are born or made an artist?

R: No, no one is born anything. You have a little hidden germ that gets tickled by things.

No one knows where or what it is but it grows in you. If you work at it, you’ll  be good, just don’t give up. So many in this world do nothing for the fear of failure, we all can do something if we try. It matters not whether it’s about baking cakes, or creating paintings. 

S: Have you ever created a piece of artwork that you were afraid to show? 

R: Yes, boobs on the school teacher. Got me the Cain… 

S: Do you have a current work in progress?

R: I’m currently studying Alphonse Mucha’s poster style. 

S: The first thing that gave you reassurance in your art?

R: I take little notice of comments from people that say nice things about anything I have painted, be they kind words that I am grateful for, till I ask why they like the painting.

S: What do people say about your paintings?

R: A few like my art, most will admire but fail to understand the passion I put into my art. It’s not about the like or dislike, it’s about love power, fear, anger – many thing most people miss. I paint to get a reaction, I wish I had the courage of some of the greats, then I would be a true artist, not a pretty picture painter. By the way I do paint pretty pictures when I’m running out of cash.

S: What would you advise an artist that has lost their way?

R: Go join an Art Group, sit with others, then you’ll get you mojo back. We bounce off others, we all have down days, ask yourself are you painting to please others or are you painting because it sounds like a good hobby or do you really want to say something. If the latter, then don’t give up but do talk to other artists and you’ll find it happens in time.

S: Describe your work process?

R: Go easy, paint from the heart, paint till you fall off your chair. If realism, paint what you see, not what you think you remember. By this your memory need training (look for ten minutes paint for two). If you do it the other way round, you are painting from you memory. Draw upside down – that way you draw what you see. Try it – take a photo, turn it over, then draw you will be surprised how much better it is. 

S: How do you respond to criticism?

R: From fools – none. From people with a brain – then yes, no problem. 

S: Tell me about an artwork of yours with an interesting story…

R: One of my painting  was about the Emperor Caracalla. He was an evil man. There’s a head study in Rome. But it’s the look on his face, you get the feeling he’s looking at you and you do not matter. It’s as if he’s so arrogant that you are of no importance. I sold it to a man and his wife says it gives her the creeps. ‘I feel he’s looking at me’ – she said – ‘and it frightens me’.  Wow, it worked! That’s what it was all about! 

S: Which is your favourite place and why? 

R: Sitting by the sea, fishing. 

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