Rozanne Bell

“I read a wonderful post on Facebook recently that said ‘the Africa I know is at the heart of sky-high mountains and tropical jungle, of golden sand dunes and lush green grassland’. That’s where my colours come from.”

Rozanne’s Edinburgh-born father and Yorkshire-born mother had moved to Zimbabwe before she was born in 1962. She lived there for the first 40 years of her life until, in 2002, the political situation under President Robert Mugabe saw her flee the country with her five young children, taking only what they stood up in.

“I took the children to school one day, and never got to go home again. I lost everything, including – for me the biggest tragedy – all my art materials and books. But please don’t think I’m sorry for myself – that’s not me at all! It’s just the way things were.”

Rozanne and her children pitched up back in the UK, followed later by her husband and parents, and she settled at Sturminster Newton in Dorset, setting up a studio in nearby Shillingstone.

Despite having had a successful career as an artist in Zimbabwe, she was forced to start again completely from scratch, seeking out frames for her paintings at car boot sales and selling her work round local pubs.

“So that was my two years of crying into my paints!” she says. “Then someone spotted my work, liked it, and got me into a local gallery. My big break was with my pictures of harbours, which I started painting after visiting Padstow and Rock in Cornwall.

“I like to use lots of different media – I have a real love of calligraphy, for example. And my paintings are created using layers and layers of paint, sometimes four or more.”

Rozanne is keen that each and every work she creates is unique and isn’t reproduced. “I’m ever conscious of those who like and buy my work,” she says. “I haven’t succumbed to the temptations of limited editions or mass market prints. Each picture I paint is an original with no one painting being the same as another.”

“I am also passionate that my work remains affordable. I would rather sell ten paintings to ten nice people at a good price, than one at a fortune to a celebrity. I'm not interested in the ego of art! It bores me to death.”

She may be known for her vivid animals, many, most obviously her dramatic elephants, inspired by her African youth; for flamboyant birds, for those harbours, for flowers and for street scenes, all of which lend themselves perfectly to her glorious palette of colours and to her trademark detailed metallic embellishments, but she might one day turn her attention to a subject less renowned for its colourful appearance – her mother’s home county of Yorkshire.

“I just love Yorkshire – I’m actually a little obsessed with it,” she says. “I love York, of course, where my mother was born – I believe one of her relatives was Lord Mayor at one time. Her family home is now the laundry of St Olave’s Grammar School! And we used to visit Driffield and Filey when I was a little girl.

“I would definitely like to do some paintings of York one of these days.”

The famous city of grey stone walls isn’t going to know what’s hit it…

Growing up under the blazing African sun surrounded by the continent’s vibrant colours has had a lifelong effect on Rozanne Bell.

The artist’s canvases are alive with saturated, vivid colours. “I could no more paint a bleak, dull picture than I could fly to the moon,” she says now. “Anyone with an African upbringing will tell you the same: African art is so bright. I used to come over here on holidays, go to galleries, and be amazed at the lack of colour.