Having graduated in 1996 from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Rothnie currently stays in the South side of Glasgow and teaches art to young people. From attending school in Lagos, Nigeria, to living in a house where her mother was a linguist and her father an international sports organiser, her home was always filled with people from across the globe, experiences which have imbued her with rich visual memories which emerge on the canvas. Rothnie has a broad spectrum of artistic influences, ranging from the layers and colours of graffiti and street art, to the patterns and symbols of traditional art of indigenous people across the world.
Hi Rothnie! How did your artistic journey start?
I have always drawn and been creative. I can be very easily overstimulated and find it
difficult to sleep as my mind races with ideas. I remember as a small child secretly getting up during the night to draw. If I can get some of the thoughts out into images it can help me to clear out my brain. I paint most often late at night. I won my first art competition in primary school and have loved finding new ways to create things. Over the years I have turned my hand to flower arranging, jewelry making, crocheting, sewing, and silversmithing.
I went to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in 1992 and studied Sculpture.
Unfortunately, my art practice and the commitments of a full-time job and child-rearing halted my involvement in the formal art world for a while. I eventually retrained as a teacher,
specialising in Art & Design and Catholic Religious Education and then moving on to specialising in Additional Support Needs. No longer teaching art, most of my creativity went into gardening, engaging with young people, and church activities although I still picked up new skills. I took on Lent challenges where I used my artistic skills for the church and I made new Priests’ vestments, including making the metal fastenings, learned Icon writing, created devotional paintings for chapels, and renovated statues.
How did you arrive at the theme of your exhibition?
My work had become more and more abstract, and I wanted to get back to more
representational drawing and practice my observation skills. I have always loved faces and
sketching them, as I feel the expressions of people are like windows to their personalities. I
have many family and friends abroad and sometimes drawing them makes me feel like I am
spending time with them. I came across the 100 Face Challenge online and began my
mission, making lots of quick sketches of faces I liked. As I drew them, I wanted to develop
some of them into larger pieces with more scope to give an insight into their personalities
and stories. The People in my exhibition are a selection from my 100 faces.
Are there specific advantages or challenges associated with working in your chosen
mediums? Have you experimented with other mediums or techniques?
I think that I had specialised in Sculpture at college because I loved the tactile experience of
physically touching my work but through the use of a multimedia approach, I now enjoy all the different sensory experiences of the different materials as I dab, scratch, and smear, tear stick and layer them. As I experiment, I learn more about the different ways I can apply the materials and their limitations. At first, I was frustrated by the lack of opacity in some
materials then discovered new ways to enjoy layering these more transparent substances. I
have had to abandon others when I realise that they fade over time. I experienced anger
over trying to glue without wrinkling paper and the joy of making repeated marks that can
become a meditation in itself and I can get lost in the physical sensation, soothing like
stimming clicking the nib against the canvas or paper repeatedly. I don’t limit myself to any
particular materials and at the heart of everything I do is a sense of playing and discovery.
How has your practice changed over time?
After a period of ill health and with my children moving out, I discovered the love of painting. I finally had some space and time to indulge myself and suffering from a condition that causes a lot of pain I needed an escape that could be done at my own pace in my own
space. I had moved back into the role of an art specialist in school and it started as a way of
demonstrating certain skills and methods to my pupils but soon became a type of personal
When Covid hit suddenly I had TIME, time to just experiment and indulge in art. No longer
able to fill my time with people I discovered a sort of freedom to just create. Walking around the quiet streets I drank in all the sights that I would normally whisk past in my car. With all the stories on the news, I began thinking deeply about the world and my place in it. I created paintings processing these sights and thoughts. A friend sent me a link to a local
competition to create images about the pandemic to be turned into posters for an outdoor
exhibition in Queens Park, I was lucky enough to be the artist selected. The feedback was
fantastic and encouraged me to keep painting and drawing. Alas, working out of the
backroom in my flat, sculpture has taken a back seat for now. My work is ever-evolving as I
experiment and play.
Who influences you? Which other artists work do you love?
I have many inspirations, I love looking around and absorbing my surroundings. I am a
maximalist and a chromophile and enjoy looking at things with multiple colours and layers
from graffiti over torn posters on top of textured walls to interiors full of nick-nacks, books,
and fabrics. I love folk art, embroidered fabrics, and the detailed naivety of Outsider Art. I am hugely influenced by the works of indigenous artists, the bold strong forms in African Art, and the symbols and patterns of Australian Aboriginal art.
At art college, I was entranced by the section of the library filled with fabulous children’s
books and their fun and whimsical illustrations that enhanced the fantasy of the stories.
As for artists, Matisse’s strong bold shapes and colours have always captured my heart
and I love the idea of lying in bed cutting shapes and drawing on the wall with a stick like he
did when he became infirm, now I have unleashed my creative brain I cannot imagine
stopping. Basquiat’s art with its gestural symbols, colours, and combination of writing with
depictions of fleeting thoughts speak to how I like to scribble into my works my inner
dialogues … suffice to say I draw influences from many many different sources.
Find out more about Rothnie’s work at her socials:
People runs at Six Foot Gallery until Thursday January 25th.