In the Studio with Richard Bavin

From working as an IT project manager to painting full-time, SoGlos goes in the studio with artist, Richard Bavin, to discuss his Nature in Art residency, the countryside and his lifelong love of trees.

Hi Richard, tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

My name is Richard Bavin, I am a landscape painter, originally from Columbus Ohio, but I have been living in the UK since I was a toddler. I currently rent an attic studio at the Print Shed in Herefordshire.

How would you describe your style and creative process to SoGlos readers?

I have a lifelong love of trees and much of my work features individual trees, woodland and orchard scenes. I go into the countryside all year round with my sketchbook and camera watching the quality and play of light and soaking in the atmosphere. An added bonus is the number of birds and animals I encounter.

What training did you do and how long have you been an artist?

I always wanted to be an artist but was strongly discouraged from going beyond O level art – a reflection of those times! I worked as an IT project manager until my wife and I had a mid-life break from careers and went to New Zealand to help run a retreat and conference centre. During this time I joined the local art society, took painting classes and began to show my work.

When we returned to the UK I did a foundation course at Hereford College of Arts followed by a Fine Art degree at University of Gloucestershire, graduating in 2008, and have painted full-time ever since.

What’s your favourite media to work with and why?

I can’t choose between oils and watercolours! I love the way that you can change your mind as you build an oil painting, and I like to use both very wet and impasto techniques depending on the subject. Equally, I relish the happy accidents and light effects which watercolour gives, and have discovered over the years that it’s possible to apply up to 17 layers of paint before it all starts to lift off again.

So why do you choose to capture nature?

Being outdoors amid birds, flowers and trees has always been where I feel most alive and paradoxically least aware of myself. I enjoy all rural landscapes, but take a special delight in woodland and orchards. I am lucky to have an abundance of both on my doorstep.

I am painfully aware that we are facing the decimation of our ash trees, and that many other native species are under threat. Although I see my work primarily as a celebration of trees and all they mean to us I sometimes feel as though I am painting eulogies instead.

What were your main influences starting out?

The first artists I looked at seriously were Monet and Cézanne. I was fascinated by Monet’s paintings of mundane subjects showing the extraordinary changes in light and colour. Cézanne’s paintings of trees also made a lasting impression, and over the years I have made copies of specific paintings to learn about structure and colour mixing.

Additionally, I came across Constable’s ‘Study of an Elm Tree’ early in my studies, and every time I see it I am moved to tears by its simple beauty and timelessness. The intense and loving gaze of the artist is reflected in the paint, and is what I strive for in my own work.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Being able to combine regular outdoor sketching days in wonderful locations with concentrated effort in the studio, mostly in solitude which I relish. This is as long as I have the joy of being with the people I love for part of each day.

What’s been your most memorable piece to date?

That is such a hard question to answer. The next painting is always going to be better, at least in my imagination! If pushed I would say my largest painting to date, called ‘Queenswood’. I made this using wet acrylic paint on raw canvas on the ground outside as part of Herefordshire’s Open Studio event last year.

We had hundreds of visitors to the Print Shed, and I encouraged anyone showing an interest to join in. People who hadn’t picked up a brush in years knelt down to make a mark and the painting developed remarkably quickly. It was sold to a local supporter of the arts and I donated my share to St Michael’s Hospice where my wife is a staff nurse.

How did you enjoy your recent residency at Nature in Art?

Nature in Art is a very special place, promoting the diverse range of art which responds in some way to our natural world. I enjoyed working in a different studio for a week and engaging with visitors. I showed recent watercolours including a sycamore just after heavy rain, and pinned up lots of my charcoal sketches so that people could see my starting point.

Tell us about any achievements you’re particularly proud of.

Funding myself through my foundation and degree over eight years, through a period of debilitating illness, achieving first class Honours, is one of the most fulfilling awards I could wish for.

I was one of six national finalists in the Edexcel Achievement Awards 2002 Lifelong Learning category and I was winner of awards at Artistree Open Exhibition 2005 and Miniworks at The Courtyard in Hereford 2007.

What’s your favourite gallery in Gloucestershire and why?

Nature in Art, because it’s aims are close to my heart and the people who work there are so enthusiastic and committed to what they do.

What pearls of wisdom would you share with up and coming artists?

Create what you want to create and then look for a market for what you have made. Once you are ready to embark on marketing you need to put in considerable time, effort and thought.

Actively seek to be a part of a community of artists. Creating art is mostly a solitary undertaking so I have found it tremendously nourishing and supportive to be part of several groups.

In the early stages of your career take every opportunity that comes along, whether it’s paid or not. I learnt so much by doing this, and the connections I made with people in the art world have led onto a number of significant career opportunities down the track.

Are there any other Gloucestershire-based artists you’d recommend readers take a look at?

It would be hard for me to choose from my cohort of Cheltenham graduates because so many have gone on to build an art practice and are making strong and engaging work. As a painter, I’ll hone in on Cathy Golden, Betty Harrison, Plum Neasmith and Jackie Palmer.

What do you do when you’re not creating art?

My second passion is walking the endlessly surprising network of footpaths we have in Britain. I have my eye on the new long-distance trail around my county of Herefordshire and perhaps the Three Choirs Way which takes in Gloucestershire after that.

Can we see your work anywhere in Gloucestershire?

Nature in Art has a selection of my greetings cards in its shop.

See Richard’s work at or, for more information about Nature in Art and its Artist in Residency series, call (01452) 731422, email or visit directly.

By Alice Lloyd

© SoGlos
Monday 06 July 2015

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