International boxer who spends his days painting murals

An international boxer traded in the padded gloves and ring for brushes and canvas.

Rob Newbiggin was once an international boxer, turned pro in his early twenties, but now spends most of his time painting and preparing for his art degree.

The 57-year-old was originally born in California, United States, before being adopted by British parents living in Calgary, Canada.

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At just seven years old, Rob was brought to the UK by his parents where they lived in Manchester and then Blackpool, before settling in Southport where he spent most of his childhood.

Rob spent much of his childhood birding, with him drawing birds while he sat in the Churchtown Botanical Gardens, which spawned a passion for drawing.

Soon after, he realized he could sell his drawings, with his art teacher being the first person to buy one of his drawings when he was only 11 years old.

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Despite the passion that has existed from an early age, Rob wanted to leave the UK and returned to his native country where he joined the US Marines.

After only twelve months, Rob returned to the UK where he appeared to be a professional boxer, having spent his younger years training alongside school and painting.

Rob told ECHO: “I was born in America, then adopted by British parents who had emigrated to Canada. So I was an American citizen when I was born and they adopted me and they took me to England when I was seven and we lived in Manchester.

“From there we moved to Blackpool away from Manchester. I wasn’t drawing at this point but was interested. I was interested in looking at pictures a lot.

“When we got to Southport, that’s when it all started. We lived on High Park Road and I was about nine years old. I was very fond of birding, a bit of a nerd. although i got a little bad after that point i would grab a notepad and a packed lunch and go bird watching at the RSPB and YOC.

Mural of Captain Tom in Southport by Rob Newbiggin

“That’s how it all started. I started to be interested only in ornithology, nothing else. To this day, I can identify every species of British birds. No bird will pass by. in front of my eyes without knowing it. I was like a crazy possessed kid. I copied all kinds of books. I drew them at the same time.

“I first went to the Botanical Garden when I was nine and was addicted. I was sitting there with my little lunch box looking at the geese and swans and pulling out my sketchbook. and I was drawing them. I was aware that people were around me when I was nine and I didn’t mind. I am an art teacher for children now and they are so shy. When I was a child , I did not care.

Portrait of Tom Hardy and his wife Charlotte by Robert Newbiggin of Southport
Portrait of Tom Hardy and his wife Charlotte by Robert Newbiggin of Southport

“The sketches I used to get were actually really good detailed drawings. Looking at the drawings you knew what bird it was, if it was a seagull you know what I want I then sold my first painting to my school teacher at All Saints Elementary School, which is no longer there now, just around the corner of High Park Road, and I was 11. It was a picture of her cat, I just took it, and I think she’s still in her daughter’s house.

“It was also the first time that it was obvious that you could be congratulated by the money for doing it too. I never, ever, and still am not now, the money directed with my art. It was just a byproduct of doing it. Then I was asked to put color in my drawings and I went through everything. Watercolors, pencils, pencils, markers, and then finally I ended up with oil. “

The self-taught artist has spent years boxing and didn’t even try to draw a human face until he was 35.

Rob fluctuated between the UK and Florida in his 30s, becoming a Florida State-commissioned fighter.

Rob Newbiggin with his drawing by Eric Morecambe
Rob Newbiggin with his drawing by Eric Morecambe

Rob’s passion for boxing and training carried over to his work, with the now boxing trainer describing himself as an “aggressive” painter.

He also describes the relationship between running and training with his art as a “synergy”, with him spending his time training thinking about his art, and his time doing his art thinking about training, giving it a balance.

He said: “All I did when I boxed was save money to buy better paint and equipment. People always said it was a weird synergy between paint. and boxing. Boxing is aggressive and the painting is meant to be serene and leisurely but I really see it in both.

“There is a lot of art in boxing, boxing is art, and the coolest, calmest, most gracious boxers are the ones who do the best. The ones who are very aggressive and want to break your blood. head are the ones who are chosen I am very aggressive with my art now When I say aggressive I mean mentally aggressive thinking “okay, come on, I’m going to do it now as best I can”.

Boxer-turned-portrait painter Robert Newbiggin with his oil painting of Queen Elizabeth II in St George's Hall.
Boxer-turned-portrait painter Robert Newbiggin with his oil painting of Queen Elizabeth II in St George’s Hall.

“When I paint I think about the runs and the training I’m going to do later, when I do my runs I think about my painting because I’m with nature It’s a strange synergy but it works very well.”

Rob became a well-known mural artist across the country, but more particularly in the Northwest.

He painted a mural of the Queen standing proudly in St Goerge’s Hall in Liverpool city center, he painted a mural of Semina Halliwell, of Southport, who died aged 12, as well as paintings murals of Tom Hardy and his wife Charlotte as a gift from Charlotte’s family.

This is shaping up to be a big year, with the artist confirmed to be the artist to remake the Botanical Gardens mural, a mural he originally did about 14 years ago, after it was completed. or deteriorated.

As well as revisiting his old job, he is also set to do a mural of Jurgen Klopp, which he hopes to present to the Liverpool manager, and a mural of Desmond Tutu.

Rob is also hoping that he can find an agent as he develops his platform and his work.

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