Born Albert Road, Morley, Leeds
1973-76 Batley School of Art
1976-84 Designer, Architectural Interiors
1984-2002 Architectural Perspective Artist
1988 Cert Ed, HollyBank, Yorkshire. Moved to Barnes, S W London. Senior Associate, Joseph and Partners Architects. MA. The Illustration and Rendering of Architectural Spaces, University of London
1992 MA, University of East London
2002 Moved to Eastbourne, East Sussex
New English Art Club (NEAC)
Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)
Fellow of Chartered Society of Designers (FCSD)
PRIZES AND AWARDS
2019 The Dry Red Press Award
2014, 2017 The Davison Award for Oil Painting, RBA
2016 Frinton Frames Award, RBA
2012 The Howard de Walden Art Prize (First)
2007 Daler-Rowney Prize
2006 President’s Choice, RBA
2019 Trent Art
2017 Signet Contemporary Art
2015 Royal Automobile Club
2013 Brian Sinfield Gallery
2008-09 Walker Art Gallery
2007 Whittington Fine Art
2007 W. H. Patterson Gallery
2006 Fairfax Gallery, Chelsea
2002-05 New Grafton Gallery
2019 Adrian Hill Fine Art
2018 The Russell Gallery
2017 Thompson’s Gallery
2014 Panter & Hall
2014 Llewellyn Alexander Gallery
REGULAR EXHIBITOR AT:
RA Summer Exhibition
NEAC Annual Exhibition
RBA Annual Exhibition
Towner Art Gallery
Pannett Art Gallery and Museum
2020 (Nov edition) The Artist, The power of the nocturne (p42-45)
2019 Mother and Daughter – South Downs. 2019. NEAC winner of Dry Red Press Award.
2019 (Nov edition) The Artist, The Power of the Sketchbook (p50-53)
2019 (Sept edition) Sussex Life, Culture (p61-63)
2016 (Oct-Nov edition) International Artist, The Power of the Sketchbook
2014 Royal Academy illustrated catalogue (p87)
2014 (Feb-Mar edition) International Artist, an Architectural Perspective (p96-102)
2014 (Jan edition) The Artist, Masterclass (p12-15)
2005 (Jan edition) The Artist, In Conversation (p46-47)
28 Sept 2017 London Live, interview
ABOUT ROBERT E. WELLS
Robert E. Wells is a Yorkshire-born artist, known for his cityscape paintings as well as rural landscapes and figurative works. A member of the New English Art Club and the Royal Society of British Artists, he regularly exhibits his work in solo shows and the RA Summer Exhibition.
QUESTIONABLE CAREER ADVICE
From an early age, as the only boy and youngest of four children, Wells instinctively knew he wanted to be an artist. His school careers advisors, however, were quick to pour scorn on this idea, insisting that his lack of academic prowess meant that an apprenticeship as an electrician, plumber or builder would be a better fit.
Thankfully, he did not heed this advice. He enrolled at the local art college where one of his lecturers encouraged him to learn 3D drawing techniques in case they would be useful at some point in his career.
THE ARCHITECTURAL ILLUSTRATOR YEARS
After college, he worked long hours as a junior designer at an architectural practice, whilst playing in a band at night. This exhausting schedule soon made him realise that he needed to decide between design and music. A job offer to work as an interior designer in Kuwait helped make the decision.
Upon his return to the UK, he found work with a succession of design-based employers, which eventually led to him setting up as a specialist freelance architectural illustrator.
As he became more established, he started getting more and more work in London, with clients including HOK and RTKL. At first, he commuted on a weekly basis from Leeds, treating every visit as a sketching exercise – walking for miles around the capital recording anything and everything of interest. “It all seemed so vibrant and totally compelling,” he recalls.
He finally moved to London in 1998, settling in Barnes, after being offered the position of Senior Associate at Joseph and Partners – one of London’s oldest architectural practices. In order to keep him out of mischief, they funded a part-time MA in The Illustration and Rendering of Architectural Spaces which he completed in little over a year.
Further employment came as Senior Visualiser at Harrods in Knightsbridge, and it was around this time that Wells began working on small oils, as well as his usual sketchbooks. He had already enjoyed some success at the RA Summer Exhibition, but it was in 2002 that he really started to find his feet as a full-time artist.
THE JOY OF RED DOTS
The New Grafton Gallery in Barnes contacted Wells about exhibiting in their Christmas show. He supplied around six paintings, all of views around London, and sat back for an agonising wait . . .
“The surprise and relief at seeing a red dot appear next to one painting after another was so exciting and is still a highlight of my working life as an artist.”
By 2006, there were sufficient paintings and enough client interest for a solo show at the Fairfax Gallery in Chelsea. This was a great success, with over thirty works sold in the opening week. Wells found being an artist, no longer trapped by the tight restraints of illustration, quite liberating. After that success came more calls for solo work, but along with demand came a worry that something was not right:
As demand for some of his more popular paintings grew, so the demands of some galleries increased, resulting in less and less room for creative development and exploration. In the space of six years as an artist, Wells felt almost as constrained as when he was working from a designer’s brief.
THE UPSIDE OF A DOWNTURN
There followed an economic crash and the art market contracted. This allowed the artist time to step back and look at work retrospectively. He realised that in order to meet deadlines and supply increasing demand, his painting style had lost subtlety, feeling it looked rushed and clumsy. This was a turning point for the artist who now feels the downturn in the market could not have come at a better time. Free from the pressure of deadlines, client briefs and gallery demands, Wells was able – once again – to paint and sketch for the sheer pleasure of it all.
By now, Wells was a family man, with a wife and two young children, and he had traded-in the hustle and bustle of London for a quieter life by the sea in East Sussex. The buildings and busy cityscapes that once filled his sketchbooks were pushed aside by scenes of family life: trips to the shops, playing in the snow, beach holidays in Italy, along with moments of solitude painting rural landscapes in the South Downs. And yet the artwork is still clearly identifiable as Wells thanks to the freedom of brush strokes, use of tone and colour, and his individual approach to composition – always seeking out unusual views, encouraging us all to look at life from a different angle.
Biography © Barry O’Donovan