Artist Bob Osborne: My Colourful World

Artist Bob Osborne (AKA Rebel Not Taken) blends the ‘vulgar and the sublime’, taking inspiration from fairgrounds, seaside humour and other aspects of his eclectic childhood.

Here, he tells us about the role of colour in his life and in his work…

My first colour memory

My earliest colour memories were of greys and rusts.

Growing up in 1950’s London does seem a bit monochrome in retrospect and my family were rag and bone men and scrap metal dealers so those hues permeate my childhood memories in an almost Proustian way.

Then the Swinging Sixties arrived and Pop Art burst upon the scene. I vividly recall wearing my Lord Kitchener’s Red Army jacket down Portobello Road in 1968.

‘Crossing Boundaries’ by Bob Osborne

My favourite colour

It’s always been blue – it is such a sensual and cool colour.

I spent many years living in the Greek Islands and Cornwall where the seas range from a palate of peacock blue to cerulean.

I used Klein Blue pigment a lot in my early collages and constructions and it has always been a leit-motif in my work.

My car is Matisse blue and I have several French labourers’ jackets in various shades of Gauloises blue.

One of Bob’s French labourers’ jackets

How colour makes me feel

I prefer cool colours and have become a big fan of greys as decorative colours. I have recently painted some of my bedrooms with Charleston Grey, which is very subtle and calm.

I have worked a lot with bleached driftwood which can look very mysterious as well as having a Zen like quality which I love.

I often use grey for my painted frames and it works well as a backdrop and counterpoint for more vivid tones.

Sometimes it is also good to throw caution to the wind and I love Fauvist combinations such as red and purple and orange and green.

My least favourite colours

I tend to use yellows and greens sparingly – I think they need to be used judiciously in art or decoration as they can be discordant.

I am a fan of ochre especially in combination with blues and black, but avoid the more citric and creamy yellows and still have nightmares about an ex-neighbour’s avocado bathroom suite.

One colour combination I see every day that sparks joy is the blue English Hedonists plaque on my studio wall which is roughly painted with Moroccan ochre pigment.

‘Washed up on a beach in Newlyn’

Colour ‘rules’ are made to be broken

There are really no rules about combining colours. I think it is more a case of people having good or bad taste. Colour can be such a momentous emotion.

I recently went to a funeral of a friend of mine who was a writer and his Mexican wife told me that I should wear something bright and cheerful.

I took this literally and wore a bold African silk shirt blasting out every colour under the sun. Unfortunately it didn’t translate well to a Somerset church in February with everyone else wearing black.




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