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Ian Rawling

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Elvis Pressley, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, James Bond…they’re all there. Both in 2D form and 3D sculptured presentation if that floats your boat more. Ian Rawling for those of you asking (and thousands do, let us assure you). The acclaimed contemporary figurative artist who’s taking the profession by storm c/o his quirky, spiritually uplifting, almost monotone chinless wonder characters that come with a hint of Beryl Cook, a whiff of Les Dawson and a liberal sprinkling of Victoria Wood to our mind. The resolutely northern TV comedians, not namesake artists you haven’t heard of. According to the hugely popular artist himself, we learn that he’s been drawing, painting and (his words before you ask), “generally mucking about with art” for as long as he cares to remember. Which apparently isn’t actually that long, so he must have jotted it down on a piece of paper or in a diary, perhaps, to jog his memory at a later date (i.e., now).

Rawling cut his artistic teeth within the public realm by creating artwork on the pavements of Chester and Sheffield whilst a student, so as to help him pay his way through uni, although nowadays he doesn’t have to paint the town(s) red (or any other colours for that matter) to grab more than the passing attentions of the contemporary art-loving world and his wife, courtesy of finding his finest illustrative hours plastered across hundreds of greetings cards which you’ve more than likely seen at a card shop near you in recent years. Pretty much all fronting Rawling’s favoured big-boned, facial feature-less yet infinitely friendly characters which have become something of a recurring theme in Rawling’s original compositions.

They’re all sourced naturally and locally (which is always a good selling pint these days) and initially take the form of sketches in Rawling’s little book of sketches which the practising artist keeps close at hand whenever and wherever he travels. In fact, he’s just as likely to have it stashed away somewhere about his person while on the beach, as he is on the train. Primed and ready to capture the likeness (albeit with a future-prescribed twist) of you or us. Should any of us inspire him enough. Those accidental muses who do, end up being painted into the very canvas furniture of Rawling’s trademark compositions, where his one mantra is to convey the simple pleasures in life. Such as a bike ride through the woods or eating chips on the beach. The sort of every day scene which is more often than not washed away and forgotten with the following day’s rain.

Rawling’s larger-than-life characters are visually captured in what he admits himself is a seemingly restricted colour palette, which relies on the subtlest of shading with the softest, creamiest of pastels to help him cement a bold and sunny disposition to those whom live within the frame. Rawling’s is never happier than when he knows that his work has brought a smile to the faces of those that observe his pieces. Which is a nice place to be and a long tram ride away from the pretentious and/or self-doubting Thomas, Richards and Harrys who insist that their paintings should read as follows; blah de blah de blah. So, and anyway, just how did Rawling get from doing a Dick van Dyke to the paving slabs of the UK’s provincial northern cities to having his work emblazoned across birthday cards and seeing his compositions hang from private and collector’s cherished wall spaces? What we refer to as, ‘the bio’.

Born in Norfolk and in the same year as England’s football team last lifted the World Cup (clue; 1966), Rawling’s best subject at school was…yes, you guessed it…art. Which he threw committed as much time to at school and at home as he physically could do. Rawling loved exploring and indulging his creative side, and it didn’t just begin and end with his almost obsessional drawing and sketching, as he was also fond of building and making things to impress his nearest and dearest with. It shocked absolutely nobody when Rawling declared that he was off to Sheffield Art College to study art and design on departing secondary school, which he successfully graduated from. And, as mentioned at the top, Rawling supplemented his meagre student bank balance with not a bar job nor a pizza delivery one, but with his unique pavement art. Which in the event proved very lucrative, apparently.

Rawling put down roots in the Steel City of Sheffield with his partner and two sons, and embarked on a career as a designer and illustrator type, which was more than fruitful. But over a period of time, it dawned on Rawling that something was amiss. And that ultimately his artwork meant more to him than merely a steadfastly commercial means to an end. So after some conjecture and subsequent fist-punching (we don’t know, we’re making this up) Rawling plumped to go it alone so to speak, and work for himself. His bold, highly stylized images had an immediate impact on the contemporary art market, which reassured Rawling that he’d made the right decision to wave goodbye to security and say hello to ‘OMG! What have I done?!’

Being an inveterate people-watcher, Rawling absorbs influences everywhere he goes, speaking of a particular penchant for that most noble of British institutions; queuing. Rawling sees people queuing as a literal hotbed of inspiration, as characters from all walks of life tend to be well represented in the quintessential British queue. Repetition and of course, artistic license/exaggeration play a pivotal role in the illustrative birth and nurturing of Rawling’s primary characters, and his artistic inspirations are testament to his understanding of his materials, mediums and moreover, Rawling’s fitting muses. Cartoon genius, Gary Larson and the 1950s American artist, Norman Rockwell are named and blamed, while he makes no bones of graphically chanelling the off-the-wall wit and wisdom of the Monty Python team into his seismic studies. Rawling concludes; “I have always enjoyed bending the rules, and for me humour and imagination are the key elements of a rewarding composition”.