The Whitehouse Cox Journal was recently lucky enough to interview illustrator, Rowan Clifford, who is passionate about the simple pleasures in life and of course, portraiture.
What sparked your passion for illustration?
In all honesty, I don’t think anything sparked a passion for illustration. It happened to be something I was better than others at and, being a naturally lazy individual, offered the path of least resistance.
That said, when I do do a piece of artwork I’m particularly proud of, it does give a feeling of deep contentment, for which I’m grateful.
You had the pleasure of illustrating for Penguin Books, which book was your favourite to illustrate?
Favourite Penguin book(s), are Puffin books by Jeremy Strong. Although they’re simple and not even done in my own style, I can inject some of my own humour pictorially to the storyline. It’s lovely hearing kids reaction to the insanity of them.
Where do you find the simple pleasures in life?
Definitely my dogs. Two big, and one medium-sized, Lurchers, Agnes, Audrey and Cecil.
When growing up, who did you look up to and why?
I guess my father. He was a fairly taciturn man who wasn’t given over to demonstrative shows of affection, but he’d show his love by making my sister and myself wonderful wooden toys, all of which I still have and hold dear. I’d marvel at his ability.
If you were abandoned on a desert island, what item could you not live without?
That’s a tough one, nothing immediately springs to mind. Maybe tea making facility.
You have a clear passion and talent for portraiture, who has been your favourite subject and why?
That would be of my darling Hilda. She sadly died 3 months ago, way before her time and has left an unfillable hole. My elderly uncle has it hanging in his bedroom, ‘guarding him’.
Where do you tend to look for inspiration?
Meeting all my monthly financial outgoings has long been my source of inspiration.
If you had to create in one medium for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Oil paints. For some reason, I’ve always shied away from them, but the few times I’ve used them I loved the way you can push the paint around, correct mistakes like you can never do with watercolours.
During your artistic career, has there been any difficult challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Overcoming difficulties. Every once in awhile the Muses are very definitely not with you. What might’ve taken you literally minutes to draw the day before, can now take hours, and even then it can still be unsatisfactory.
I’ve learnt to just walk away and not fight it. Put the dogs on their leads and disappear off up the woods. It’s good thinking time, and whatever was causing the blockage as often as not will have passed.
When did you first discover Whitehouse Cox and what attracted you to the brand?
I first came across Whitehouse Cox as a brand some 30 years ago, in John Lewis. I bought a simple folio-style bag for a French girl I was dating at the time. It was bound to have been an apology purchase. She still has and uses it. Patinated with age and use, and looking all the better for it (the bag, not the girl). But, like the girl at the time, the bag was chic and understated. Like other pieces I’ve bought over the years, they’ve all stood the test of time, style-wise and in the quality of manufacture.
Which is your favourite Whitehouse Cox item and why?
Easy, a brown belt. I used the same brown English bridle leather belt with a brass buckle, to hold up my trousers on an almost daily basis for 22 years!
Eventually, it did give out, but I’ve kept the buckle which I’ll get Whitehouse Cox to ‘re-string’.
Again, it typified the brand. It just had a quiet classiness about it. The fact it lasted as long as it did was a testament to the quality of the materials used and the workmanship.
We would love to know what we can expect to see from you in the future, have you got any exciting projects lined up?
More portraits. I’m slowly starting to do some self-promotion to let people see my work. And I’m in the process of illustrating another of my own books which hopefully will be in the shops before too long. The working title is ‘The biggest pussy’, though I’m sure my publishers will baulk at that and insist on the addition of ‘cat’.
Thank you Rowan for this delightful interview, we look forward to seeing more of your wonderful portraits and illustrations.