"If you paint in oils, this is the ultimate shop window for the best that the medium has to offer. To get a chance to exhibit alongside such artists is invaluable."

John Walsom ROI ARSMA on working en plein air, his advice for young artists entering Open Exhibitions and selling his first work for a fiver.

John Walsom ROI ARSMA Cavell Street £3,200

John is renowned for his paintings of landscapes and architectural subjects. He is a council member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and an associate member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. When he's not painting he's the guitarist in the soul band The Detectives.

You and the ROI

Why did you want to join the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?

For a long time, going to the annual ROI exhibition, I felt like a kid pressing my nose on a toy shop window -  so many beautiful, unattainable things. There’s no more profound compliment than the approval of your heroes, which is why I was so happy to have been made a member.

Why should artists want to exhibit with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?

If you paint in oils, this is the ultimate shop window for the best that the medium has to offer. To get a chance to exhibit alongside such artists is invaluable.

Why should people want to buy art from the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?

You can be confident that the paintings in this exhibition are the best works of some of the finest oil painters in the world, or have been selected by them to be worthy of sharing the same walls.

Past or present, what artist from the ROI do you most admire?

I'm in awe of all the current members.

What is your favourite work in this year’s exhibition?

Linda by Jane French is a painting I could look at for a long time, it has enormous compassion and warmth while using paint in a confident skilful way.

Jane French Linda

Your Materials

What paints make up your palette?

Mostly Winsor & Newton and Michael Harding, depending on which shop I can get to.

Do you frame your own work?

Nowadays I make most of my own frames, up to about 30 x 40 inches. I previously used Period Frames in Surbiton, who I can strongly recommend for affordable hand-finished frames.

John Walsom ROI ARSMA Commercial Road, E1 £3,200

What is your favourite art supplies store?

I'm lucky to have a studio right across the road from Pullingers Art Shop in Kingston. They've always been helpful and knowledgeable.

You, Your Work and Your Studio

What gallery did you first sell a work at?

In 1977 I had a regular pitch every Sunday on the railings of Kensington Gardens, on the Bayswater Road.  I sold my first painting there for £5, and I've still got the fiver.

Where do you produce your best work?

Most of my oils are completed en plein air, and I think I paint better under the pressure of working on the spot. 

Sometimes I do some "adjustments" later in the studio, usually to emphasize some darks which looked strong when they were wet, in the daylight, but sink in a bit as they dry, and under indoor light.  I also make bigger studio versions of some of these.

John Walsom ROI ARSMA Under the Fallen Trees £4,800

Do you have any rituals or routines when preparing and starting a painting?

Only to make sure I'm excited about the subject, otherwise, I can realise halfway through that my heart's not in it, and it's best to start another.

Where is your studio and what’s it like?

It's an office space over the shops in the middle of Kingston. It's much too small.


What advice would you give a young artist starting out?

Persevere. Don't think that not being selected is a rejection of your work, most members spent years having their first work accepted.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

Painting outdoors speeds up your pace of learning by several times. 

Discover the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2020

'Reflections from the Artist' is an ongoing series of reflection, advice from and insight into the practice of artists who exhibit at Mall Galleries. 

Discover the full series here.

Next Up...Tim Benson PROI RP NEAC

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