For the love of dogs and colour

Although Ian Mowforth and I have a mutual friend in common, I first came across Ian’s work at “The Dog Show” in Brighton, an exhibition organised by Joanna Osborne & Sally Muir featuring art for dog lovers. I was drawn to his very strong black & white, Lino cut print, dog portraits and was totally unaware of his big, bold and colourful paintings; until, encouraged by our mutual friend, I researched him online and saw that this was an artist clearly in love with colour.

An Interview with the artist Ian Mowforth

Ian Mowforth in his Wimbledon studio

Besides being a dog lover I am also very passionate about colour, so my trip to down to the Wimbledon Art Studios, to interview Ian for this blog did not disappoint.  On walking into his studio space I was immediately excited by the large colourful canvases hung on the wall.  Ian’s paintings of dogs are so full of vitality and energy that you feel the dogs are going to jump right out of the canvas.  These dog portraits, skilfully painted, are definitely not of the twee dog painting genre but then Ian is an accomplished artist, who has been painting & drawing for over 30 years.  A fine art graduate of Wimbledon School of Art, Ian also has an MA in Fine Art Printmaking from Brighton University as well as being a qualified art teacher.  In 2017 he exhibited a Lino cut in the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition where he sold 74 copies. The RA also published a greetings card with his image of Princess. It sold over 4,000 copies in the first 6 months. 

“Princess” – Ian Mowforth’s Lino Cut Print from the 2017 RA Summer Exhibition

Ian doesn’t exclusively paint dogs, and is in fact currently exhibiting his landscape paintings at the Graham Hunter Gallery, in Marylebone, which equally demonstrate his passion for colour.  Although, clearly a man who has great affinity and a rapport with dogs (he affectionately refers to each painting by the name of the dog rather than breed), it is a bit of a surprise to learn that Ian doesn’t currently own a dog and is in fact allergic to many of our four legged friends!  So I asked him how did this obsession with painting dogs begin?  He recounts that about 6 or 7 years ago, he painted a picture of a friend’s dog for her birthday; it was so successful that he realised this was something he had a talent for and so continued to focus on dogs as a subject matter.  Learning in the process that the type of brush you use should be sympathetic to the fur of the dog; no good using a hog hair brush when the fur you want to portray is soft and silky or conversely using a sable brush for a coarse haired terrier!

Shots from Ian’s studio inside and out

As the eyes of the red setter in a canvas, propped against the wall of his studio, stare quizzically at me, I wonder if the eyes are the key to the success of Ian’s dog portraits.  Ian explains that the eyes are very important and that he always paints in the eyes first; but that the background colours he selects are also key to the success of the painting.  He paints in an acrylic base but then builds the painting up in oils.  Ian loves using oil paint for the way in which he can expressively move it across the canvas and finds it gives him the depth of colour his work demands. His drawer of oil paints is a sight to behold. an artwork in itself!

A snapshot of Ian’s paint drawer!

In contrast to his colourful paintings are Ian’s monochrome Lino Prints, mentioned earlier.  These beautiful dog studies, demonstrate his skilled draughtsmanship and like his paintings, also show great texture and expressive mark making.  

For his commissioned portraits paintings, Ian works from photographs that he prefers to take himself; this often involves taking the dog out of the studio for a walk, as he wants the dog to look as happy and as relaxed as possible.  From the myriad of images taken, Ian will whittle it down to about 10 and in consultation with the client, chooses the best image to work from.  The client then decides on whether to have the painting on a panel or canvas, as well determine as the size of the finished piece.  Ian’s one metre square canvases can cost approximately £4,000, so it is important that the client is involved in the process from an early stage.  Ian also keeps the client up to date on the progress of the painting, sending them photos of the various stages of the drawing and painting process.  

Ian is a prolific artist, creating over 100 images per year of which about only 20% to 30% are dog portrait commissions.  His work is in demand and he often has a waiting list for his portraits; although this may all change soon as he is leaving his teaching post this summer and hopes to devote more time to his artwork; as well as having some tentative plans of offering one to one tuition and creative workshops.  

For more information and examples of Ian’s work please visit his website http://www.ianmowforth.com/

Ian can also be found on Instagram

Author: Bev

Freelance creative director within the greeting card industry. Passionate about art, design and dogs!

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