Bobs 2 greatest inspirations for his art work where spirituality and Nature. However his Garden art became more prevalent in his later years.
He was In his 30’s when he started to study the teachings of Buddha and in particular the diamond sutra. This influence was evident in His early covers that he did for the Mayflower editions of many of Michael Moorcocks books. As the years passed and his study into spirituality expanded his spiritual influences also broadened, His art work started to be influenced by the likes of Sufi masters, Taoism, Hinduism, and his favourite Poet Rabindranath Tagore.
The storm within him that had been raging for so many of his younger alcoholic years started to die down with age and sobriety, leaving calmer waters for his fertile imagination. He was 50 when he bought his first house, which was in The Snowdonia national park in Wales. He built a large extension which became his studio and for the first time not only did he have his own space but he had his own garden. This garden was to become another major influence on his artwork and the birth place of his garden art.
The first years in his new home, in between illustrations,He spent as much time as he could in his garden, planting flowering shrubs of all different hews, ornamental trees and plants of all different sizes and shapes. He fed the birds and squirrels and kept some koi carp in a pond he made. All this work he put into his garden, the long walks he went on in snowdonia national park, all this time in nature helped to ground him, and soften his spirit. It had the same effect on his artwork, he started to focus his artistic gaze more towards the beauty he found around him and less on the struggle within his mind
He would pick the best blooms from his garden to paint, the birds and squirrels that came to feed daily, also featured in many of his paintings. His studio had an amazing view over the Conwy Valley which inspired him to start painting landscapes
Although He was a solitary man who kept to himself, he made a good friends with a local chap called Giovanni who owned a garden art centre in the next village along from Bobs. Their mutual love of garden art and nature was what bonded them.
One day Giovanni Told Bob about an idea he had hatched, an idea to build a large maze on the front field of his property. Bob helped by designing the layout of the maze, Then Giovanni planted it with English Yew hedge plants. It grew into what is now Conwy Valley Maze, the wolds largest maze at over 2 acres and contains different themed gardens including a butterfly garden, rose garden with over 200 roses, Tropical garden and a Japanese garden, it also houses many magnificent statues.
The pair also worked on other projects together, commissions that Giovanni had won. including a large sculpture for a children’s hospice, based on Bobs Harmless World Series of paintings and another large sculpture for the RSPB. Bob designed the sculptures and made small cardboard cutout mock-ups, then Giovanni cut them out of sheet metal with a plasma cutter, Bob then painted them and Giovanni welded them together and installed them. They worked well together and bob enjoyed the enthusiasm Giovanni always had for the projects as well as having the opportunity to work with someone else on art projects.
I spent a few years in Dubai working as a garden designer, and Bob would happily help me by drawing up wonderful illustrations of my designs, from my plans and computer renderings. I would include them in my presentations to the clients alongside the computer drawings and animations. Some how the hand drawn illustrations where able to create that sense of wonder and mystery of the design, that computer graphics never could.
I remember as a kid watching him paint an orange that looked like a photo and asking him “ why do they ask you to paint such a realistic orange when they could simply take a photo of it’ he answered me “because the fact that it’s hand drawn gives it more mystery and wonder than a simple photo, and that’s what sells”
One of the last projects that Bob helped Giovanni with was the setting up of an art gallery, Giovanni created the Gallery space on his land and Bob was going to help curate it and also show some of his own work at the gallery, sadly Bob died before it was finished.
When I went to wales after Bobs death to pack up his home, I left part of Bobs collection of artworks with Giovanni, so that he could show them in the gallery when it’s finished. Work is now almost completed and soon Bobs first exhibition in almost 55 years will be held at the new Gallery.