One to Watch - Interview with Brian Roe

Each week, we showcase an established or emerging artist, who is garnering attention for their work. This week we caught up with Brighton based Digital artist and Photographer, Brian Roe.

Brian is a well-known and popular Photographer and Digital Artist within the Brighton artist community. He specialises in adding his own interpretation of the ethereal and beauty into photography through his digital artistry. But in addition to his stunning photography and art, he has led quite the rock and roll life as we find out below... 

Pixel Gallery – Most people know you for your beautiful photography. What they might not be aware of is your 40 plus years of immersion in the world of music, art and technology, and the different twists and turns that have brought you here today.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your life journey to date?

Brian Roe Well, to summarise for your readers I would describe myself as a classical trained artist turned teenage punk Rockstar who gave up the hedonist life on the road in the early days of interactive technology and the internet to explore the possibilities of digital art. It’s my passion and decades later I am still excited about learning and producing art.

Pixel Gallery – The use of technology to create and share digital art is something we strongly support here at Pixel Gallery and we definitely what to find out more about this, but first you mentioned you were a teenage punk Rockstar, we’d love to hear more about this part of your life!

Brian Roe I was the drummer for the British punk rock band The Varukers. I joined the band as a teenager straight from school and spent my  teenage years making music until I left the band. We produced many great records during that time and reached Number 5 in the charts for our 1983 single "Die For Your Government" and our first album ‘Bloodsuckers” is still selling to this day.

(Brian (second from the left) with the band)

After ‘The Varukers’, I continued making records and touring with lots of different bands including the firsts incarnation Kula Shaker with Crispin Mills. My last big tour at this time was a long UK tour with the band X-Ray Specs I think the many years as a touring musician in rock bands and the accompanying shenanigans felt caught up with me. It was fun while it lasted but my liver is much happier with me now!

Pixel Gallery – You mentioned earlier you went to Art college?

Brian Roe Yes, I was touring with bands which generally only took up a few months of the year. I have always been creative and as well as being a drummer, I took the opportunity when I wasn’t touring to study photography as part of a YTS scheme in the 80s where I learnt all fundamentals of photography. Things like ‘Dark room’ magic, developing photographs and printing.

I also learnt about colour grading and studio work. I still remember one of my first assignments was to set up the correct lighting for photographing antiques for a brochure that had been commissioned by a large antiques dealer. After the YTS scheme I went on to art college where I studied Classical Art and History of Art.

A big influence on my creative education was a guy I met called Joe Tetie. Joe was a fellow drummer and he mentored me from the age of 17 – 19 years old. He was also an expert in ceramics and from him I learnt about composition and ceramics. His teaching methods were more about the philosophy of design than simply how to create something out of clay. He taught me about the fundamentals of great art. Things like texture, form mass, how the eye is contained and about the golden ratio. Thanks to Joe I learnt about the different techniques and artistic periods, from Leonard di Vinci all the way to modern artists. Today my work is at the cutting of design technology based on a solid foundation of a classical artistic education.

Pixel Gallery – You also studied Art history and theory of art, as well as your expertise in using digital tools with your photography. How would define what art is based on all this knowledge?

Brian Roe Art is the manifestation of the spiritual and emotional thoughts and feelings.

After my time as a musician ended, I spent some years as a digital nomad, working in places like Bali, India and Sri Lanka. I worked with and learned from many of the best creatives and technical minds who had formed a community of digital nomads in those places. I also immersed myself in the culture and spirituality of these places and this is something I expressed through my work.

Pixel Gallery – Our environment plays a big role in shaping our day-to-day experiences, how has your current location and previous places you’ve lived in and visited, shaped your art?

Brian Roe Well, as young punk rockers we were always more environmentally aware than our parents. The places I have seen have shaped me by making me more environmental aware and more knowledgeable about animal rights.

I am a vegetarian as a result and my awareness about animal welfare also led to a greater understanding about the environment.

I have been very lucky to do a lot of travelling around the world and seen the beauty of the world. Unfortunately, I have also seen that beauty ruined by supermarket plastic bags washing upon the beach.

Sustainability is very important to me as a result and for me photography brings the beauty from the natural world into people’s living room and highlights what we stand to lose through irresponsible industry and plastics if we don’t take action now.

Pixel Gallery – How would you describe your art to someone who has never seen it?

Brian Roe I would describe my photography as ‘enhanced realism’. I use my skills and all the tools we’re fortunate to have as modern artists to convey the feelings evoked by the scene in front of me.

(Donut Dragonfly Murmurations by Brian Roe)

I like to give myself a wow factor from my finished piece and I want to share this with the viewer. It’s like a bus man’s holiday for me to be honest, I enjoy playing with my own photos for my own enjoyment and then I want to share it. I want to share the power I am getting from a scene and hopefully evoke similar feelings from the viewer.

Pixel Gallery – In your view how has technology shaped the way artists express themselves over the past 20 years? And what exciting developments do you see on the horizon?

Brian Roe I really believe technology has revolutionised how artists express themselves. Put it this way, technology has enabled all photographers and artists to become surrealist painters

By opening a world up that did not exist before… art in the past was something you did with your head and your hands…today you can manipulate reality, you are limited only by your imagination.

Salvador Dalí in my opinion was the first ‘Photoshop’ artist…If Dali had had Photoshop, I think he would still have created masterpieces like ‘The Persistence of Memory’ and ‘Le Sommeil (Sleep)’ and all his other works he would simply have used Photoshop to create them.

(The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí)

Dali would have loved to have Photoshop and all the other digital tools today’s artists have access to. In essence technology has made all photographers into potential Salvador Dalís. There has never been a more exciting time to be creative, to express your ideas and connect emotionally with an audience.

Pixel Gallery – The Covid pandemic and lockdown has been very tough for everyone and many artists in particular have found the past year very challenging workwise. What advice would you give to a young person thinking of pursuing the life of an artist but hesitant because of recent events?

Brian Roe I actually think the lockdown has made things easier for artists and anyone who wants to create art. Lockdown has given people much more opportunity to be creative by giving them back their time. Hours spent commuting can now be devoted to being creative if that’s the choice you make.

I really believe that as long as you have the passion to want to express yourself artistically then this is as good a time as any to do so!

Lockdown has given people time to learn from places like YouTube and research different styles, technics, etc…

Passion is the key; a new young artist needs to be passionate about their work. Take a deep interest in your work and combine it with passion, everything will flow from this.

Pixel Gallery – Do you have a favourite artist? And do you have a favourite work of theirs?

Brian Roe Yes, Leonard di Vinci – and my favourite work by him are his sketches which are currently part of the Royal Collection.

Pixel Gallery – That’s an interesting choice, most people might have chosen ‘The Mona Lisa’ or the ‘Last Supper’, why are his sketches your favourite works by him?

Brian Roe There is so much more going on in his sketches and they are so revealing about the subject. He looks into how things work mechanically, and he was the first artist to do this.

He wasn’t just a great sculptor and painter; he studied the concept of why something is pleasurable to look at and he created the mathematical reason for why people get the pleasure out of looking at things. Leonard di Vinci was even more impressive than we think, and all of this is appreciable in his sketches.

Pixel Gallery – Do you have a daily routine when it comes to how you work?

Brian Roe Yes, I do. I actually learnt this routine from a wise Hari Krishna elder I met at George Harrison’s house many years ago during my time as a musician and he got this info out of the Bhagavad Gita which is the Hindu bible.

I wake early around 5am or 6am and start my day with a strong cup of Lavazza coffee.

Early mornings are the most creative parts of the day and I spend the first 3 or 4 hours on my work because it’s quiet and I can focus 100%.

I usually have a photograph I have been working on from the day before and generally find that a good night’s sleep will inspire some new ideas for the day ahead.

For the next few hours after this I do non-creative things like admin, shopping, etc. And then around 5pm, I’ll be back to being creative for the next 3 or 4 hours, either working on my latest work or out taking photos.

Pixel Gallery – If you could be born as anyone, in another time period in history and anywhere in the world, where would it be, who would you be and why?

Brian Roe –  I would be Captain Cook, in the early 1800s. He was on a mission to explore somewhere new and all he had was his ship, his crew, a map, and telescope. He created the first maps of the Solomon islands amongst others and furthered our understanding of the global community.

I would love to do the equivalent of what Captain Cook did with my camera and motorbike, ride out again after the lockdown and take beautiful photos while exploring new places.

Pixel Gallery – What is one thing people are always surprised to find out about you?

Brian Roe –  Ah, no one’s ever asked me this question before… well,  people who don’t know me are usually surprised that I was a drummer for a famous punk band and that I, along with my contemporaries created the ‘D beat’ style of hardcore punk drumming or that I was the drummer with the original Kula Shaker when the band when they started…they were called the Kays at the time - The name of the first album.

Pixel Gallery – And final question from us, what one book would you recommend everyone reads?

Brian Roe –  ‘Awaken the Giant within’ by Tony Robbins because it helped me understand what makes people tick especially myself and helped change my life for the better by helping me find structure and purpose at a time when I needed it. It acted like a like a graphic equaliser in a way, the musicians out there will know what I mean!

Pixel Gallery – Thank you so much for sharing your time and experiences with us. We really appreciated it.

Brian Roe - Thank you, it's been a pleasure. 

You can find out more about Brian at www.brianroe.co.uk and his prints are available to buy from Pixel Gallery.

Have a lovely day!

Pixel Gallery

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