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Folio illustration agency, established London 1976

In the Studio: Roger Watt

Vancouver, Canada

Roger Watt is a graphite artist who produces illustrations of extreme detail and technical competence. His style is photorealistic, but with an exaggerated contrast and clarity, which lends his images real punch.

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How would you convey your work in five words?

My passion for sixty years.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be?

A photographer . . . which I am anyway but I'd devote all my time to it.

What is your favourite drawing to date?

"Dockers' Diner:” my first exploration of the atmospheric effects of light in a diner where I used to love having breakfast before it was closed in 2012. It's now a really good French country restaurant so my feeling of loss isn't too great.

Pick three things that are most valuable to you in your studio and explain to us why you have chosen those and what story there is behind them.

1: The light which, coming from the north, provides a wonderfully soft, consistent and ideal environment for drawing.

2: The view out over Vancouver's West End from my 15th floor apartment to the 5,000 ft North Shore mountains, an inspiring and ever-changing vista which, when working under pressure, provides a reminder of how comparatively minor my problems are.

3: My simple equipment . . . my 2-6H pencils, a scalpel to sharpen them with . . . and an eraser, as there's nothing more important and satisfying than correcting a mistake I've made. As my inspirational drawing tutor at art school once told me: "There's no point in putting anything down on paper unless it's right".

Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you…

If I told you, everyone would know!

How do you feel being part of an agency represented as an artist has helped with your work to date?

Immeasurably. Not only is it a privilege to be represented by one of the most respected agencies in one of the two greatest cities for art in the world but one that has been run from day one by someone who has been a close personal friend for over forty years. Apart from the kudos, there's nothing like the pressure to produce work of the highest quality to help an artist "up his or her game".

How have you seen your style develop during the entire time you've been an artist?

While my style and technique have obviously progressed and been steadily refined over the years, it's my creative thought process and choice of subject matter that have gone through the more dramatic shifts. It’s moved from relatively static and carefully planned railway-related still life studies to my now spontaneously encountered and predominantly atmospheric urban landscapes.

What do you do when you first approach a drawing?

I hope it doesn't sound too pretentious to say that the drawing actually approaches me . . . by which I mean that all my recent and current drawings have resulted from situations which I have simply encountered. This is the way I prefer to work . . . not only because I find it stimulating and a continual source of unexpected imagery but because the spontaneity balances out my drawing process which, by its very nature, is anything but spontaneous!

Describe a typical day for you.

Whatever time I've gone to bed, I always wake up at 6.30 am and make myself a cup of tea and a couple of slices of Marmite toast which I enjoy while going through and answering my e-mails. I then shower, go out to meet my girlfriend and/or fellow artist friends at one of three favourite coffee shops and get onto my drawing board by 10.00 am. When I'm working to a deadline for a show or an illustration job, I'll draw pretty much all the way through until midnight (often until 2.00 am), breaking for lunch and dinner of course. As this might come across as a sad existence, I need to qualify it by saying that I spend a lot of "quality time" with my girlfriend, my two children and my two wonderful grandchildren . . . as well as going out drawing on English Bay.

What kind of personality does it take to be able to create photorealism art?

I think it takes the same kind of personality that every serious artist needs to create their art. We have to be passionate about what we do, committed to it, constantly challenging ourselves to move forward and not to be satisfied with anything that isn't the absolute best we can do. I am often told that I suffer from OCD and I have to agree as I am fanatical about detail. I also have to have total ownership of what I do . . . by which I mean that I will never use any reference that I haven't personally gathered . . . unless, of course, it has been supplied by a client for an illustration brief or drawing commission.

What has been your proudest moment in your career as an artist?

Almost selling out my first solo show in New York in January/February 2014 at the O K Harris Gallery in Soho. Established in 1969 by Ivan C Karp who was instrumental in launching Andy Warhol's career in the late 1960s, O K Harris was one of New York's most prestigious galleries until it closed in June 2014.

What are some key aspects you consider when choosing to create a new drawing?

I initially have to refer back to my answer to Question 8 in that, for me, the key aspect of creating a new drawing is getting myself into situations which will throw up the kind of images that appeal to me. I never really know what these are going to be but they will usually involve industrial elements . . . often metallic and often involving reflective surfaces . . . in atmospheric urban situations.

Congratulations on your solo show at the George Billis Gallery! How do you prepare for exhibitions such as those?

Thanks for the kind words! My preparations initially involve finding out how many drawings are required, assessing which existing pieces can be used, how many I'll need to create from scratch and, from that base, how long it will take me to build up the required body of work so we can agree a date for the exhibition to open. The resultant schedule will obviously need to include time for framing the images, shipping them to London or New York, getting all the promotional material together, hanging the show, breaks for holidays and things that always come up. With the dates fixed, I then do my best to schedule my output . . . allowing for the fact that some drawings will inevitably take longer than others . . . not only on account of size and complexity but also periods in which, as all artists know, we work better than others.

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