Not many contemporary artists can say that painting murals of Ronald McDonald and co in provincial Maccie D’s inspired them to become the recognised, award-winning artist that they are today. However Robert Ford is one such individual. Whether he really painted the iconic, fast food-McLovin’ clown is anyone’s guess. But what is as good as gospel is that Rob was let loose on themed restaurant walls with his own brand of contemporary art, which in itself paved the eventual way to him being elevated to Robert Ford, critically acclaimed contemporary landscape artist.
The mural-meister showed early promise of interior-based artistic expressions by routinely scrawling on rugs, carpets, toilet roll holders and various other domestically situated props; which of course went down a storm with his parents at the time. That said, they would like to make it perfectly clear that they always supported and encouraged their deviant son’s artistry, especially when it was conducted a safe distance away from the family home. Rob was also a bit of a childhood liability at nursery and primary school too it would seem, as he’d always wish to hang around much longer than every other tweenie scholar should he have not finished the junior painting he was working away on at that precise moment. At the end of the school day/session, as Rob’s maturity developed along with the lengthening of his shorts to trousers, he found great solace – and huge interest – in and around the art room at his secondary school located in Felsted in the shire of Essex
In Rob’s own words “It was something that I felt confident with and had great enthusiasm for”. On completion of his statutory education, Rob developed something of an equally keen interest in art history, which in turn signposted his way to the attendance of higher education at the Colchester Institute. The revered works of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Delacroix were Rob’s primary inspirations, although later at college he discovered the alternative joys of Abstract, Surrealist, Expressionist, and Pop Art, and fell in love with such pioneers of the respective art movements as Rothko, Cezanne, Hitchens, Constable, and Dali.
Gaining his qualification in Fine Art, Rob dreamed of securing the type of meaningful employment that would allow his fledgling creative skills to flourish and evolve. Instead he found work as a removals person, parcel delivery, waiting on staff, gardener, and general administrative employee before fate took a massively relieving and timely turn. Having perpetuated his love of art in his own time whilst holding down the aforementioned positions, Rob had also offered to school other like-minded and potential artists at a local primary school. And it was here that his creative path crossed that of another. One proprietor of a small, local business going by the name of ‘Round the Corner’.
Specialising in the provision of themed restaurants, Rob made it his business to hound the MD until such time as he was afforded the opportunity to create a large-scale mural for them. It was shortly after they gave him this chance that Rob was offered the job on a full-time basis, which he continued to do thereafter. This meant that he could finally realise his ambition of making a respectable living as a painter. He was thrilled.
Once Rob got into the run of things, he continued to plug away behind the scenes in a bid to win his own audience based on his personal artwork, which comprised of landscapes and seascapes along with the occasional portrait and still life. This in itself helped him forge an extra-curricular reputation and saw the onset of working relationships with local art galleries and exhibition venues which agreed to showcase his burgeoning and impressive back catalogue of work.
In 2000 Rob was chosen as one of a select band of contemporary landscape artists to attend a Plain Air workshop in Southern Poland, where he fine-tuned his style of art in the company of like-minded and talented fellow artisans. He returned home and received even more commissions; which he somehow balanced with his primary bread-winning vocation.
In terms of his influences, Ford speaks of the great outdoors that he has at his immediate beck and call, living in East Anglia where he does today. Despite there being a distinct and telling absence of the mountains and landscaped landmarks, rushing streams and wooded glens, that he enjoyed on annual childhood holidays to North Wales, this polar opposition vista offered plenty of alternative compositional horizons. And it wasn’t long before Rob realised that it’s not necessarily what you see as an artist, but rather how you see. To this end, and in Ford’s own words “A line of trees preceded by an open field can be the most haunting of landscapes, when for just a moment, maybe from the corner of your eye, the light throws deep shadows and there is possibly a small spark of something eternal and ultimately peaceful and then almost as quickly as you noticed it, the sky moved and the memory of that is all that you have”. Who can argue with that?