North West artist Rob Hefferan and his stunning life-like paintings
- Credit: Rob Hefferan
Artist Rob Hefferan creates these incredibly realistic and opulent paintings in his spare bedroom in Clayton-le-Woods, as Paul Mackenzie reports
Rob Hefferan has come a long way from drawing dinosaurs in the bedroom of his childhood home in Warrington. His inspiration is more pre-Raphaelite than pre-historic these days but skills he honed as a boy have stood him in good stead.
‘When other kids were out playing football, I was inside drawing,’ said Rob, now based in Clayton-le-Woods.
‘I started with dinosaurs and then spaceships from the programme Space 1999. I’ve always been quite obsessive with what I do and I still am. The work now is very hard to do and it’s a very long process – each one takes about 150-200 hours, depending on the subject matter.’
It’s easy to see why they take so long – at first glance they look more like photographs.
In immense detail, he captures ultra-realistic opulent scenes of beautiful models lounging luxuriously in romantic and often sexually charged poses.
Every tiny feature is included; every line on the flawless skin, every crease in the elegant dresses, every reflection of light on the ornate décor – nothing is overlooked.
The 44-year-old artist, who spent years perfecting his style, was a pupil at St Gregory’s School in Warrington, before a spell at art college at Padgate and then a degree in graphic design and illustration at Manchester University. From there, despite knowing he wanted to be a fine artist, he went into commercial art and worked on advertising campaigns for some of the world’s biggest firms.
And Rob, who also illustrated the Take That Greatest Hits CD cover, said: ‘My idea, because I knew how hard it was to break into fine art, was to become a commercial artist and get some money behind me and then make the break into fine art. It’s a big step, it’s the equivalent of a musician getting a record deal.
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‘Even at college I knew deep down I wanted to do fine art. When I left college I gave myself a year to get a portfolio together and started knocking on doors of advertising agencies.
‘By day I was working on commercial stuff and at night time I was chipping away perfecting my style. It took from leaving college in 1990 until 2003 for me to be happy with what I was producing.
‘I was making a decent living from the commercial art but I’m not in it just for the money, I want to create great pieces of art so I left a very established career for a more precarious one, you never know when the next commission will come in.’
His paintings, many of which feature elegant brides in sumptuous gowns, are available through galleries around the UK for tens of thousands of pounds. Rob directs photoshoots with a team of models, photographers and stylists then selects images which he re-creates on canvas in the spare room of his home in Clayton-le-Woods.
Rob’s fiancée Wendy Satchwell is a successful abstract artist with a studio in Worden Park, Leyland, who has her own loyal fan base which includes entrepreneur and Alan Sugar’s right hand woman on the Apprentice, Karren Brady.
‘I used to share a studio but I ended up talking all the time and my work really needs maximum concentration,’ Rob said. ‘I hated being on my own at first but I couldn’t work any other way now. I try to concentrate on a section of the painting each day so it doesn’t become too overwhelming. I am a workaholic, but it’s not like a proper job – I’m not digging holes in the road or anything, it’s something I love to do.’
His work now hangs in collections all over the world – he has particularly strong following sin Australia and America and he is currently working on two new collections, one of which may raise a few eyebrows.
‘The first, which should be ready in the spring, will be a continuation of the romantic type of work I have become known for but the second will be very different and more edgy,’ he said. ‘I like to stir things up a bit. It won’t be indecent at all, it will be tasteful but more adult. They shouldn’t make Lancashire Life readers blush, just perhaps think a little differently about my work.’