03 Oct 2022

Illustrator and artist Ross Stewart explores organic landscapes in new show

Kilkenny creative Ross Stewart combines art and animation careers to achieve personal and professional balance

Ross Stewart

Country lane through farmland, winter by Ross Stewart, one of the works at the artist's open studio in Thomastown

Artist and illustrator Ross Stewart has a new series of organic and evocative landscapes currently on show as part of Thomastown Creative Arts Festival. Ross' painting style is semi-abstract, based on drawn studies but developed organically focusing on mood and atmosphere rather than purely representational form.

His highly textured mixed media paintings suggest wide open expanses of bog or moor, solitary trees or natural forms with vivid intricate details submerged under glazes of earthy colours. The effect is dreamy, calming and meditative. Ross has exhibited across both Ireland and the UK during his career and his work is held in both public and private collections.

Ross combines his passion for painting with a career as an animator with Cartoon Saloon where he co-directed Wolfwalkers with Tomm Moore in 2020 and also worked on The Secret Of Kells, ParaNorman and Song of the Sea.

Ross elaborates: “This exhibition is a collection of recent work alongside various pieces selected from my studio, made over the last 15 years. After taking a break from painting to focus on making the feature film Wolfwalkers, the newer work has been a journey to find my style of painting again and redefine it. I hope that by showing them side by side, the change and progress after the break can be seen - the similarities and differences.

“All of these artworks are part of a continuation of my explorations of composition and linear abstractions of landscape and natural elements. I am interested in taking elements of landscape studies and reducing down to simple shapes, whilst keeping a level of atmosphere and mood of the original study.

“I work in animation and am always struggling with keeping traditional media approaches to an ultimately digital end-product. This ties in perfectly with my painting which is predominantly as organic as possible – probably as a reaction against the constraints of animation. The creative process involved was spontaneous and very intuitive – In my work I tend to let the environment set the mood of my painting. I react to the place, the atmosphere, the mood and create from that.”

For Ross, combining the expressive fluidity of his personal art with the discipline of his animation allows him to escape into a parallel yet complimentary form of expression:


“I have always tried to balance the two artforms, animation and painting. Animation by its very nature is structured and team based - it has to be for the production of a movie or TV series. It is not individualistic. There are artistic directions which everyone must follow so that the show or film looks consistent; drawn by the same hand. This can be a huge learning opportunity for any artist and is sure to make anyone in the animation industry highly skilled and adaptable. It is also a fantastic work environment to be surrounded by so many talented people, all working towards the same end goal.

“But I have always found that I need the space to allow my own art to flow, without any constraints and in an open, unfettered creative environment. I love going into my studio and deciding there and then what I will work on and without any production staff telling me what deadlines must be met. It is hugely therapeutic to get lost in the process of creation without boundaries and any end goals and I recommend it to anyone who is tempted. I have tried to balance animation and painting so that I enjoy the two equally; the best times with the week being split between the animation studio and my painting studio. Due to the production schedule of animated films though, I have at times had to give up paintings for a couple of years, most recently for our film Wolfwalkers.

“Especially as a director a lot of time is spent in meetings or reviews looking at others artwork and not creating any art yourself! Those times are tough as the need to put paint to canvas goes unfulfilled. After a break like that it is hard to get straight back into it - I find those times it's best to try to find the fun in the process and expect most artworks to end up in the bin.

“It is similar to a child making art just for the fun of it and I find that as adults, we put too much pressure on ourselves - that we must be serious about our art, our job and what we create must be worthy of hanging on a wall; if we do not, it would be a waste of precious time. But I've found that by not having that pressure, I have been happy to explore the process of creation and that eventually artwork will evolve that can be framed - that need not be the purpose of art though.

“Between the structured artform of animation and the free, messy jumble of painting I can find a nice equilibrium and I hope to continue balancing the two.”

Ross Stewart's open studio exhibition runs at Seomra4 Artist Studios, Marshes St, Thomastown until August 15 from 10-6pm daily. Explore more at

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