Jun 7 2011 By Siba Matti
Artist Ross Ashmore is on a determined mission to paint every single station within the London Underground network – almost 300 in total. He shared his creative vision and journey to date with Gazette reporter SIBA MATTI.
WATCHING a steam engine hurtling past the bottom of his garden is one of artist Ross Ashmore's most vivid childhood memories.
Little did he know, as a boy, that almost 50 years later, this vision would provide the inspiration for an ambitious three-year project, to paint every station on the now iconic London Underground map.
Ross, who grew up in Amersham and now lives in Rickmansworth, has so far covered every destination in Zone 1 – 63 paintings in total with Blackfriars closed – including High Street Kensington, Temple and Charing Cross.
The 54-year-old works in a studio at his home in Valley Road, where the sounds of his brush strokes tickling the canvas are punctuated by trains rattling past.
"I know some people hate the Tube but I have always enjoyed catching the trains, they are always part of my day and I love it," Ross explained.
"I love the archaeology of going underground, there is such a rich history behind it which I think we often take for granted.
"This project is my way of saying 'look at this!'.
Ross, a married father-of-three, originally studied fine art in Bristol before working as an illustrator for magazines including Radio Times.
But before long his career was diverted onto a more lucrative track – commercial art – much to the disdain of his late father, Basil, a former contributor to the Gazette's sister paper, the Buckinghamshire Examiner, about 20 years ago.
"I couldn't make any money out of fine art so I set up a advertising design firm, which my father was very disapproving of," remembers Ross.
"Not long ago, I decided to take a leap of faith and return to my fine art roots, which is what my dad believed in me doing. I think he would be very proud of me now."
Ross, who began his project by painting Paddington Station, adopts a special 'in-pasto' technique using industrial oil paint by the litre.
"It is a very expensive process especially as I use so much paint per canvass, so I think a lot of artists would be horrified," Ross admits.
"Every painting is done spontaneously in a very textured, expressionist style.
"When you look at them from a distance, the image is clear, but close-up, they look very abstract."
Art lovers from across the UK and as far as Hong Kong have already snapped up Ross's Zone 1 designs.
"Each station has its own identity with a particular meaning for the passengers who use it," he says.
"People usually want to buy what stations they know and are familiar with, and often have a great of affection for.
"I think people would appreciate the Tube so much more if they weren't crammed in like sardines."
Ross, also a keen sculptor, exhibited a life-size figure of an angel on Eton Pier, next to the bridge opposite Windsor Castle, as part of last year's annual Eton Trail.
His Zone 1 Tube works also formed part of a display at the prestigious Untitled Artists Fair at the Chelsea Old Town Hall in Kings Road, London, last weekend.
He will now focus on producing designs for Zone 2 Tube stops, before gradually putting brush to canvas for destinations closer to home.
"People often hear about the likes of Van Gogh, Hirst and Emin but don't realise there is a whole community of artists out there, ordinary people who are not in the least bit precious," Ross added.
"My work is all about being accessible to ordinary people, just like myself.
"My advice for aspiring artists is to get out there and meet people, visit as many exhibitions as possible, join an art group or go to a life drawing class.
"The trouble with artists is they can be insecure and very sensitive by nature, which can be to their detriment.
"Don't be scared, let go of your inhibitions and shout about your work, don't hide it away, and most importantly, just keep at it."
For further information, email Ross at email@example.com
Ross has generously come up with a superb prize exclusively for Gazette readers. You have the chance to win a pastel rendering of a Tube station of your choice by answering the following question: In which British city did Ross study fine art? Send your answer, on a postcard to: Tube art competition, Uxbridge Gazette, 28, Bakers Road, Uxbridge UB8 2QH or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing date: Friday, June 17. The first correct entry drawn after the closing date wins. Usual Trinity Mirror rules apply.