Arts & Culture

Buchanan Art – reaching out Across britain

Robert Buchanan is known to many in Folkestone as the artist creating biro, pencil and graphite wildlife drawings.  He was curator and manager of the Folkestone Art Gallery from 2022 to 2024 and now has created Buchanan Art.  With his contacts from the Art Gallery, Rob is collecting a database of talent to bring art in all its forms from Folkestone to anywhere in Britain. He spoke to Folkelife about his life as an artist and his latest venture.

rediscovering drawing

“I’ve been a ski instructor for 14 years, but that came to and end in February 2020 when I snapped my Achilles.  Shipped home and unable to walk, the pandemic put a stop to any ski-ing work a few weeks later, so my life was at a turning point.  I was sitting at home at my parents’ house and got them to get down my old sketch books from the loft.  I’d always loved drawing and I really was bored and needed something to do.  There was a newspaper on the side with a picture of Boris Johnson – of all people! – which I copied.  I posted this on my socials and got a really good response.  People started asking me to draw pictures of friends, family and pets.  It was then that I realised this could be a way of making some money.

“By the time we were getting through that first year of the pandemic I’d set up a stall at the Harbour Arm market.  I love meeting people and talking to them about my art.  That’s a great set up there to be able to do that.  People walk by and you can engage them in conversation.  Over the years that’s grown and I’ve been able to create more drawings of wildlife, which is what I really like to draw.  What was clear was that Folkestone, even though it’s full of so many creative people, didn’t have a gallery space to exhibit large artworks.  Enter Folkestone Art Gallery.”

Robert Buchanan
Buchanan Art Green Lady
Buchanan Art Thompson
Buchanan Art Christmas
Buchanan Art Looking at painting
Buchanan Art

folkestone art gallery

“Running the gallery for 2 years was fast and furious.  It’s ok to say that I was very new to this kind of work, and I’ve learned a lot!  I felt like I’d put myself on an intensive course of learning about the art world and business within that.  But I was surrounded by some incredibly talented people here in Folkestone and we put on some fantastic exhibitions over those 2 years.  Maybe, if I’m honest, too many exhibitions, but I didn’t want to waste my time!  It’s always better to do too much than too little though.  We also sold a lot of art too which is important.”

buchanan art

Now though, I want to try something new.  My partner Zoe and I worked really hard with the gallery, and have a list of fantastic local artists who we want to continue working with.  The plan this time is to bring Folkestone’s artists to the world!  Or Britain at least.  

“Over the past 10 years or so Folkestone has really grown in how many artists live and work here.  And there’s too many for one town.  There’s no way an artist can make a living just by relying on the rest of the town to buy their work.  We need to get out and show everyone what we can do.  And that’s what our next venture is.  Zoe and I are going to work on making connections outside of Folkestone to create art for businesses and organisations using the incredibly talented artists on our database.”

the clifton hotel

“One of our first examples is a local hotel – The Clifton – up on The Leas.  These guys are renovating the hotel and want around 130 pieces of original art to decorate the space.  It’s all too easy to get ‘off the shelf’ generic artwork, and anyone who stays at the hotel would notice that.  So they’ve decided to make their artwork be not only specific to Folkestone, but to be created by Folkestone artists too.  We’ve got 4 artists working on that project. 

Because of the wealth of talent we’ve met over the past 2 years, we can offer a huge range of work.  There are painters, but there are also sculptors, ceramicists, 3D artists, you name it. 

“I’ve never lived in a town where there’s been such a creative community, and I think we have so much to offer.  There was a time when people were flocking to Folkestone to work here because it was a space for artists to work.  Now it’s turning around and people here are developing reputations nationally and internationally.  People will come to Folkestone to find artists to work for them.  It’s our trade.”

personal growth

“This business is also about personal growth too.  Whilst running the gallery I didn’t get much time for my own art.  Now we can grow this business at our own pace, and have time to develop our own work too.  Zoe runs Peaches Print with her business partner.  They design fabrics.  It’s an industry that’s changing with the increase in people wearing vintage clothing.  I think, as an artist, you are always adapting to new ways of working and developing industries.  It keeps us thinking and creating new ideas, and hopefully keeps us busy.”

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