Artist's leap of faith pays dividends

One of two paintings inspired by the Round The World Clipper race that set sail from Hull last year. BELOW: Rob at Myton Gallery with another of his works PICTURES: IAN CLELAND

IAN MIDGLEY meets paraglider-turned-artist Rob Sutton,
whose paintings inspired by the Round The World
Clipper yacht race have created quite a stir . . .
Rob Sutton used to get his kicks throwing himself off
cliffs. During the ’90s, there
was barely a spare weekend
when the BP engineer
couldn’t be found launching
himself from a hillside or perilous drop
to paraglide across exotic mountain
ranges or sprawling country landscapes.
From New Zealand to Spain, Turkey to
Austria, Rob h
as ridden the thermals across
many countries on several continents – often
sailing up to 30 miles with nothing but an
understanding of cumulous clouds, rising hot
air and the billowing parachute above to keep
him aloft.
Then, several years ago, Rob’s wife
Yvonne politely requested he find himself a
slightly-less dangerous hobby.
“To be fair she was right,” grins the
greying, tousle-haired 45-year-old. “We’ve
got three daughters now so it didn’t really
make sense to keep going out risking life and
limb every Saturday.
“Priorities change, don’t they?”
The substitute to replace the adrenaline
rush of leaping into the unknown came from
an unexpected – and slightly more sedate
source. For when Yvonne arrived home one
day with a box of “cheap acrylics”, Rob says
it was goodbye paragliding and hello painting.
“My wife had a photograph of the kids
and she asked me to do a sketch of it,”
remembers Rob. “I’d always been naturally
good at sketching and drawing at school. I
was always doodling and drawing at home –
copying the pictures off the front of Airfix
boxes and things like that.
“My teacher even wanted me to become
an art teacher – but after one thing or another
I ended up getting an apprenticeship and I
worked my way up to becoming an
When the family portrait turned out
unexpectedly well, Rob was encouraged to
take on more ambitious subjects. His first
large canvas attempt – a Dali-esque
landscape of surreal mazes leading through a
door to a promised land called Beyond The
System – was accepted for display at the
prestigious Open Exhibition at Hull’s Ferens
Art Gallery.
His second and third works were inspired
by the Round The World Clipper race that set
sail from Hull last year – and instantly caught
the eye of marine art lovers.
He may still be a relative novice as an
artist, but there’s no denying Rob has made
an immediate splash with his marine

"Painting the sky from the comfort of his own home  rather than floating through it
has its own rewards too. For a start, if he falls he’s only three feet from the ground"
Both paintings portray the Clipper yachts
making their stately departure from the

Humber estuary as they prepare to embark on
an epic circumnavigation of the globe.
When several work colleagues at BP
expressed an interest in having copies of the
first painting, Rob approached Myton art
gallery owner Charlie Newham, in Hull’s
Hepworth Arcade, asking if it would be
possible to reproduce it.
Such was its quality, showing the yachts
against a backdrop of fireboats firing
celebratory plumes of water high into the sky
that, quite frankly, the gallery owner didn’t
believe Rob was a novice.
“I think he was a bit taken aback,” smiles
Hull-born Rob, who now lives in Ganstead
with his wife and daughters Jess, Meg and
Cody. “He said: ‘Is this really your second
“He probably was a bit suspicious – but
he asked if I had any more I could bring in to
show him. I did, and he said ‘Would you
fancy doing some prints to see if we can sell
a few’?”
Gallery owner Charlie Newham says, for a
fledgling artist, Rob’s work is incredibly
accomplished. “To say he’s never done
anything before, they are remarkably good.
The fact he chose to start on such ambitious
subjects, on such a large canvas, where so
much could go wrong, is impressive.”
For Rob, working with an easel and paint
has now completely eclipsed his high-flying
paragliding career – but that doesn’t mean his
knowledge of the skies and the ever-changing
canopy of clouds has completely gone to

One glance at his paintings and it is
obvious this is someone who knows his
nimbostratus from his stratocumulus.
“If you look at the paintings I think the
clouds are quite prominent,” he says. “When
you’re paragliding you’re constantly reading
the clouds and looking for thermals to keep
you airborne.
“You get to know quite a lot about clouds
and I find them really intriguing to paint. I
think that’s why they feature so much in my
But painting the sky from the comfort of
his own Holderness home – rather than
floating through it – has its own rewards too,
says Rob. For a start, if he falls he’s only
three feet from the ground.
“It’s certainly less hazardous falling off a
chair than it is from 1,400ft,” he laughs.
“Painting is just something I can do at
home at the dining room table while the girls
are doing their homework. It makes it quite a
family activity – and it’s nice to be able to
spend more time with my daughters.
“Do I get the same thrill from doing this
as I did from paragliding? You know, I think
I do. It’s quite exciting to stand back and see
something you’ve created out of nothing, to
think, ‘blimey I’ve done that’.
“To be honest, I only ever did it for my
own pleasure so to think that other people
ABOVE: Rob’s first paiting, Beyond The System, was accepted for the Ferens Winter
Exhibition. BELOW: His second Clipper-inspired work
like my paintings – and are prepared to pay for them for them – was a bit of a shock to be honest.
nice A nice shock though,” Rob told me.
􀁨 Rob Sutton’s paintings, including his two Clipper-inspired pieces, are available now at the
Myton Gallery, in the Hepworth Arcade, Silver Street, Hull, priced from £100 to £150.
For more details visit the following websites: and