Category Archives: Sketches

Artist in residence at Levens Hall…

I’ve just arrived home from Cumbria, having set up an exhibition of nearly 40 framed pieces across three rooms at the beautiful Levens Hall, near Kendal.
Here are some of the prints… the complete set can be seen on my website.

The exhibition consists of limited edition linocuts and silk screen prints, original watercolours and a range of open edition Signed Giclée prints, printed by myself with archival inks on lovely acid-free watercolour paper. Quite an assignment. I didn’t quite realise what I was taking on when Naomi Bagot  asked me to be artist in residence at Levens Hall for the 2015 season! Richard and Naomi have just taken over the running of Richard’s family home, so it was important to me to make it special and ensure their first event was a success.

The opening night was a great event! People packed the exhibition rooms and were friendly and enthusiastic about the work. Several original watercolours and signed prints were sold and four house portraits were commissioned too!



















Rowan captures in sketches…Topiary and the challenges of trimming

The Topiary Gardens at Levens Hall

No artistic study of Levens Hall would be complete without an in-depth exploration of the incredible Topiary Gardens! Comprising over 100 different designs, the hedges, mostly different species of Box and Yew, are trained and clipped into a breath-taking array of living sculptures. Some abstract, some geometric, and some are recognisable shapes such as chess pieces and umbrellas.

A veritable army of gardeners some volunteers are recruited at Levens Hall for the season.

An army of gardeners… some volunteers… are recruited at Levens Hall for the season.

This is the oldest and largest topiary in the world and I enjoyed the chance to study some of the incredible forms and the way they interact with the old building. I couldn’t resist speculating on some of the ways the gardeners might keep the hedges looking neat and tidy… I wondered how do they really do it?!

Levens Hall – Preliminary sketches and thoughts:

Over the last few months I have been immersed in all things Levens Hall in preparation for an exciting new exhibition of my work opening at the end of this month at the Hall.

Levens Hall is a manor house, open to the public, situated in the Kent Valley in Cumbria. A major building has existed on the site from as early as 1350. The building as it stands today, is mostly Elizabethan.

I’ve been examining every inch of this wonderful old pile, not only the building itself but also the incredible famous topiary garden, the animals, wild and domestic, and even the Bagot family in residence… diverse and fascinating reference material, indeed!

In the lead up to the exhibition I’ll be uploading sketches and preparatory works showing background work, so do come back soon to see more!

First up, I thought I’d show you some of my preparatory sketches of the building itself.

I loved drawing the architectural details and eccentric character of the construction. The old bendy leaded light window panes and the Irregularity of the whole thing.

Of particular interest are the plants that grow on the building itself  they are fantastic and include varieties of clematis Virginia creepers and superb wisterias which make the whole place impossibly beautiful and colourful.

I found the weird and wonderful chimneys fascinating. There are so many of them, they are huge and look  like some thing from a fairy tale.

Here are a few sketches:


Off to Cumbria…my first visit to Levens Hall….

I’ve just been up the motorway to Cumbria to meet the new owners of Levens Hall,
the beautiful ancient Elizabethan mansion with world famous Topiary gardens.

Naomi and Richard Bagot have appointed me with the task of Artist in Residence next year so I was there to check it out and do some planning.

This really is a superb assignment. The house, gardens and park are so special and they also have herds of the rare breed Bagot goats and black deer, and rare Wyandotte hens… I’m sure they’ll all make an appearance in my work!

I’ll be creating original watercolour paintings, limited edition lino cuts and silk screen prints and a series of digital prints. Cards too for the shop.

A lot of work and a brilliant opportunity. Better sharpen up my

Here’s some of the first pencil sketches more soon…

New Gallery shows Rowan’s original watercolours

An exciting new Art Gallery has just opened near Bath,

The Green Hill Cottage Gallery.

Owner, Martyn Slade, visited me at this years Cloth Road Artists Open Studio Exhibition and asked me for some originals to hang at his new Gallery.

On a recent visit to France I found it almost impossible to move without stumbling over ancient stone farm houses and impossibly beautiful Chateaux. I duly sharpened my pencils, packed a sketchbook and a little watercolour box and went on a safari through the lesser known tracts that are the backwaters of the Poitou-Charente.

A very good excuse to get out on my bike and visit a few cafes, restaurants and the odd bar, sketchbook in hand. I hope you enjoy my drawings,too. In fact, perhaps I should say ‘Bon Appétit’ !

If you’re not in the Bath area, I’m happy to post artworks anywhere in the UK or further afield, just drop me a line.

Scroll on down to see a sketch book and some finished watercolours…


Sketch Book:



Rowan the Illustrator gets Printmaking…

Two years ago just after we moved here to the beautiful village of Norton St. Philip we were surprised to find ourselves in the middle of Cloth Road Arts Week, an event taking place over several days, where ceramicists, printers, sculptors, painters and artists of all kinds throw open the doors to their homes and studios and invite the public to view their work.

This year I decided to take part – a great excuse to go back to art college and brush up on my  silk screen know-how. But it didn’t stop there! Once I caught the learning bug, I then enrolled at a local print studio run by Sandra Porter print maker to learn all about  lino cuts from Jenny Ford. Jenny is a  hugely talented and experienced lino cut print maker. I decided to use local wildlife for the subject of my linocuts.

Woodpecker - Norton St.Philip Blackbird Owl Blackbirds

I hired space and got loads of help from Otto and Sara at the Marshfield Print Studio where I printed drawings of local landmark buildings in Norton St. Philip, like the famous George pub, the beautiful Fleur de Lys (where you’ll find great drink and grub, too!) and the local church.

George Hotel - Norton St.Philip- Alternative color scheme experiment


Fleur copy

Church -Norton St.Philip

So, with a wealth of beautiful buildings around to inspire me, I was frequently seen hanging around on street corners with a sketchpad… something I’ve been wanting to do again since leaving Art College years ago. And now, I’m pleased to present a mini exhibition of my work at the Cloth Road Arts Week showing a limited edition of lino cuts, silk screen prints and original water colour drawings. Why not come on over and have a look? Next weekend we’re open for three days from 11.00 to 18.00 on Friday 9th May until Sunday 11th May.

More details of the other artists taking part can be found on the Cloth Road Arts Week website.