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A catalyst for change

In a world that often pushes us towards predefined paths, Rosie Harbottle’s artistic journey stands out as a testament to the power of following our creative instincts.

Talking to Rosie, it’s clear that her artistic trajectory has been a dynamic interplay of self-discovery, exploration, and embracing the unexpected. Originally from the north east, Rosie’s family moved to Devon when she was 13. Having started at Anglia Ruskin University studying graphic design, a chance visit to the illustration studios there made Rosie think again: “I saw this incredibly creative space with paintings and paint everywhere and I thought, that’s what I need to be doing. At the same time, I sadly broke up with my long-term boyfriend; both of these events were a catalyst for change and I decided to move to Plymouth University to join their illustration course. It was the best thing I could have done and I didn’t look back. The course was brilliant and Ashley, my tutor, was excellent, teaching me that consistency was the key. There are a lot of degree courses where students have to be very much self-motivated and I don’t think that would have been for me. The fact that we had to be in the studio all the time instilled a consistent work ethic in me, one that has gone on to inform my practice.”

Graduating in 2011, Rosie went to work at Paper & Cloth in Northampton: “I was creating surface pattern designs for clothing, cards and stationery; it was my dream job and an incredible opportunity. During my time there, I learned a huge amount about the commercial design industry and gained valuable computer technology skills, but I just wasn’t loving the land-locked lifestyle. I was so torn, but my heart just wasn’t in Northampton.” While Rosie had a great career, she realised that her lifestyle in Devon was so intertwined with who she was as a person, that she moved back ‘home’ to be closer to her beloved sea.

“I did actually think it was possibly career-suicide. While I was excited at a new opportunity, I had left an amazing job to be self employed at a time when there wasn’t the advantage of social media platforms to promote my work – it was a different climate to the one we see today. Luckily my family was really supportive; my dad sat me down and told me “now it’s time for you”. So, I worked, worked and worked to create a portfolio and then reached out to lots of different studios, winning as many small projects as I could which helped me to develop my practice. Then came another period of change. The pandemic hit and suddenly lots of my projects came to an unexpected standstill.”

Having an enforced pause meant that Rosie could finally dedicate some time to her own creativity: “I just started playing with oil pastels, a medium I hadn’t used since school. I began to experiment with colour just to see where it took me and, with Dartmoor on my doorstep, I was suddenly surrounded by vast expanses of nature. Prior to the pandemic I had travelled quite a lot and loved exploring far-flung places which had informed my work with lots of tropical elements. Being unable to travel meant that I really started to take in my immediate surroundings and I felt the urge to paint the natural world that I saw before me. This time also gave me a new-found appreciation for the beauty of the South West. I felt guilty that this was a horrible time for many and that mine was a really different experience. It gave me the time that I needed to pause and really explore what I wanted from my work.”

Taking inspiration from folk art, Rosie’s work has colour at its heart. In pursuit of the perfect palette, she now works predominantly in oil pastel and acrylic on canvas. Naive brushstrokes combine with decorative detail to tell untold stories of nature in both micro and macro form.


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