Russell Haines is an artist who discovered a talent portraiture later on in life. He suffered a brain stem stroke at the age of 44, and after he couldn't return to work, he turned to the therapy of painting.
His aptitude for capturing the likeness of his subjects has led him to painting the past and present stars of the Gloucester Rugby team, for an exhibition Wow! Rugby, supported by Arts Council. 'Sinbad' James Simpson-Daniel, Pete Glanville and Adam Balding are among the Kingsholm stars who have been the subject of charcoal drawings and colourful oil paintings by Russell at his gallery, That White Room, in Clifton Road.
The exhibition is touring across the UK, and you can currently see the larger than life portraits at The City Museum in Gloucester, until 31st October 2015.
We had a chat with Russell to find out more about his striking portraiture and what art supplies he uses to create them.
Can you tell us a bit about the Rugby Exhibition – how did this body of work emerge? And are you a Rugby fan?
The exhibition came about as I had painted an ex-Gloucester rugby player Andy Deacon a couple of years ago, and he suggested then that I do some other players for the World Cup. It seemed a long way off then but it has come around really quickly! I then approached Gloucester Museum and Art Gallery and they were keen to feature it as part of their summer exhibition Wow Rugby. I decided to put in an Arts Council grant application which I received to help put on the exhibition, and now it has grown into about 120 portraits shown across 4 different venues in the city.
I wasn't a huge rugby fan, but I must admit meeting and chatting to the players has since sparked my interest.
What materials have you used to create the portraits and why?
I have produced some large charcoal and pastel drawings and then oil paintings. My style is a sort of figurative expressionism and the large scale suits the way I work.
The drawings are big and messy and charcoal is perfect for them. I have been using Derwent XL charcoal which is far more robust than anything I have used before and perfect for creating thick lines, and I buy rolls of Fabriano paper which also can be treated roughly.
I only paint with oil, again as I think it suits the way I paint. I use Pebeo oil paint for my under painting which is fantastic value and then Michael Harding over the top. I have bought all of the drawing materials and most of the paint from Cass Art Bristol who have been very helpful!
We're glad to hear it! What’s it like working on such a large scale?
The scale is the fun part! It gives me the freedom to make big marks on the paper and to really feel like I'm getting involved in the drawing process. I do most of my work early in the morning with the music turned up really loud - I'm lucky that my studio is not in a residential area! But this allows me to try and feel what I'm drawing. It's therapy for me, I suppose. I don't correct anything I do and it's done in one sitting normally, so it's either kept or binned.
What top tips would you give to someone wanting to try portraiture?
Just do it firstly. But train yourself to look properly. You're never going to draw a likeness of someone if you don't look at them properly. It sounds simple but often people don't see what is in front of them, they don't trust their eyes.
Did you train as an artist?
I'm self taught and started painting late in life after having a brain stem stroke at the age of 44. It began as therapy to try and help me cope with depression because of what had happened, not being able to work and the various problems that created...My life is completely different now to how it was before and it's the old cliche of I found what makes me happy and now I don't want to do anything else.
Finally, what inspires you to draw people?
I think the only thing to draw is people! For everything else just take a photo! People are fascinating and so are their faces.
Visit Cass Art Bristol to stock up on the art materials that Russell uses to make his portraits.
The portraits from Wow Rugby! will be touring different galleries on these dates:
Gloucester Museum 5th - 30th November 2015
Eastgate Shopping Centre 5th - 30th October 2014
The Quays Outlet , Gloucester 10th July - 30th November 2015
Gloucester Guildhall 2nd September - 30th September 2015
Visit Russell Haines's website here to find out more about his portraiture.