I find it hard to characterise myself or my artwork. If pushed I'd say I was a painter but perhaps a more accurate description would be half creative, half mad inventor.
I've never fitted into a 'normal' category, whatever that may mean. I've certainly never had a 'normal' job.
For much of my early adult years, I was a TV news soundman covering some of the biggest wars of my generation; Rwanda, Bosnia; Somalia to name but a few. It was an incredible time in my life, to be there when the world changed but it came at a high personal price. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was still a fairly new label when the debilitating illness took over my life. I battled with my own daily war and art became and continues to be my way to cope with the PTSD and make sense of the world.
I've always had a love of art and of being creative. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sketch. I would do these incredibly detailed pen and ink drawings of the houses and churches in the streets where I lived as a kid. I even have a vague recollection of thinking that I'd like to be artist when I grew up but I never believed that was a serious option for a working-class lad from the North East.
That love of drawing followed me into my adult life. My Winsor and Newton sketch set was always the first thing into my warzone kit, (that and a bottle of Angostura Bitters for the obligatory pink gin that we managed to pull together no matter where we were!).
I’ve got a drawing of every TV from every hotel I stayed in during my news years; every airport lounge, whatever I could see from my hotel window when sniper fire kept us trapped inside for days. The drawings document that period in my life far better than photographs in many ways.
My creative process, much like the rest of my life, doesn’t follow traditional rules. I’m experimental. Partly because I’m self-taught but also because my bit out of this whole art gig is the process of creating; the experimenting; the pushing mediums and materials to their absolute limits just to see what happens.
People sometimes assume that the explosive techniques I create; throwing paint, setting fire to paint; using high pressured air guns, are a literal manifestation of my warzone experiences. But actually for me it’s simply about seeing how far I can push something; walking the very thin line between creating something beautiful or destroying it.
When I’m responding to the chaos of such an immediate process it focuses my mind. It gives me respite from the turmoil in my own brain. It allows me to turn that chaos into a beautiful creative process.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have things that I want to express or initiate through my work. It’s wonderful when someone buys one of my paintings and it adds value to their life and their surroundings. That standing in front of my artwork makes them feel happy or free. That it makes them feel.
My inspirations invariably come from my environment. That’s why there are a lot of landscapes, skies and flowers. And an awful lot of light. I’m quite a simple soul really. I like a very simple image because the image isn’t the key, it's what happens when I’m creating it. If I can keep the image simple then I have more room to push and risk. In that risk, lovely things happen.
I very rarely create a literal representation of something. I’m trying to create a sense of what something feels like. How you feel on a summer's day. What it feels like to be in a relationship. What it feels like to be frightened, to be happy, to be confused or in love.
I once overheard a gallery owner tell a client that, ‘a lot of people want to create but Royden has to do it’. I think that’s very true.
My brain is chaotic when I’m not creating and when I am it’s better. Painting is how I survive. It’s how I cope with normal life. I still have so much I want to achieve with my work, techniques I want to master, materials and processes I want to push to near breaking point.
It's that drive to push the boundaries of what is possible that gets me into the studio every morning.