William Rochfort, Oil Painter Extraordinaire
What started as simple cartoons he drew as a child has now become an international reputation as a renowned realist artist with collectors in the Middle East, India and Europe. And all from his small studio in Lymington.
New Forest Escapes spoke to Will Rochfort about how the Forest allows him the space to create and why he’s never going to try and do a seascape…
I was bought up in Lymington and my family has always been here – so when I studied at Kingston University for three years I did think about staying in the city but I just wanted to come home. I love the pace of life here with the sea and country right here, and the city only a few hours away.
Even though I am surrounded by nature in the New Forest, you don’t really see it in my paintings, which are more people and interiors focused. Maybe it’s because there’s too much pressure in trying to capture it properly. It’s too beautiful out there with the forest and don’t even get me started on seascapes – I’ve tried them before but they never do them justice.
I think I’ve always been an artist – I’ve drawn since I was a kid and that developed into cartoons, then illustration and then portraiture and painting. It was when I sold my first painting at the end of my first year at Uni that I thought I might be able to do this for a living. Scarily that was 12 years ago.
I always try and make each piece I do a challenge in some way, but the biggest learning was a painting I did at the Royal Opera House in London. We had access to the empty theatre of an hour and had to do everything in that time. The result is something I still love and have returned to that subject several times over.
There are always surprises in my career and I’m lucky that my work has gone around the world, including India where one of my clients has several of my paintings based around film and cinema, which I love as I’m a movie buff. We’re now looking at doing a piece featuring elephants, which is certainly a surprise and will definitely be a challenge!
The hardest part of my job is coming up with the idea and it usually involves watching movies and doing a lot of doodling before something pops up in my head. If the idea is good enough then it’s figuring out the composition and finding the people to be in it (usually my friends and family). Ideally I like to work on one piece at a time have the next painting ready to start as soon as I’m finished because I hate that creative dead-space inbetween paintings when I’m floating around trying to figure out what to do next. I like to be constantly working.
I am my own worst critic and some paintings I do just shelve if I don’t think it’s good enough – even if I’ve spent a long time on it. Luckily my studio is the perfect place to paint and being surrounded by other artists does mean we are all supporting each other.
I became a dad 16-months-ago and I just love getting out with my son into the Forest or the beach and doing it all over again with him as I did when I was a kid. I’ve done all the new Dad fails, including the classic “taking a pram onto the Forest and thinking you won’t get stuck in the mud”. I’ve learnt my lesson and now Tobias is strapped in a backpack that won’t look out of place if you were trekking up the Himalays. It’s the only way to do it…
For more information on Will and his amazing paintings, visit his website www.willrochfort.com