An Interview with Richard O’Neill

Born in Bradford and now based in North Yorkshire, Richard O’Neill is a digital artist specialising in hand drawn, contemporary landscapes.He is inspired by classic twentieth century travel art and the beautiful scenery of his home county of Yorkshire and beyond.


“I like vibrant colours, strong contrast and simple compositions. It’s quite contemporary, but with a strong mid-20th century influence.”

 

What does art mean to you?

Freedom, self expression.

 

When did you first become interested in art and why?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting as far back as I can remember. I think there’s probably a few reasons: It is one of those activities which require total attention and the outside world just melts away. It’s an activity which has a specific start and end point. There’s also always room to improve your technique. And nobody tells you what to draw or how to draw it.

 

What Inspires you?

I’m inspired by mid-20th century travel art, but over time I think a few other influences have crept in as well. I like the bright, bold Pop Art style of work so there’s an element of that in there. I also live in North Yorkshire, a beautiful part of the world. So there’s no shortage of inspiration for places to draw!

 

What journey do you take to produce your work?

That very much depends on the project. Commissions can sometimes mean a site visit to take reference photos and a discussion with the client about the kind of picture they would like. Other times it can be working from reference photos. If it’s self-initiated work I have a huge digital scrapbook of potential ideas most of which I’ll probably never get around to doing! Once the research is finished and the actual drawing has started then I try to be quite tunnel-visioned and not get tempted to start other projects. When I first began I used to have multiple pictures on the go at the same time. Which is great for combating fatigue, but inevitably means jobs take at least twice as long to finish!

 

How do you set yourself up on a morning before working?

A nice cup of Assam tea, a slice of toast with Frank Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade. And total silence.

 

How has your work developed?

That’s a good question. I’ve been producing the kind of work I currently do for six years now and it’s definitely changed – hopefully for the better! I think I’ve become more experimental in terms of subject matter, pushing at some of the boundaries of what “travel art” can be. I’d like to go a bit further in this area as well, but as a commercial artist I always have to predominantly focus on work that will actually sell – so my own pet projects take a back seat. Though I’ve got a bit more sophisticated in my techniques I still largely work in the same way I did when I started. But I think a certain level of consistency is important, so that’s probably not a bad thing.

 

How would you describe the artist’s role within society?

I think the artist can have many roles in society, but your personality is always going to dictate the kind of artist you are. I enjoy producing work that hopefully people like and want to buy.

 

What are your plans for 2017?

To continue to improve in my work and gain greater exposure. There’s also a few top secret plans I am hoping will see fruition!