Artist, illustrator, and designer now based in Oxfordshire working in a variety of media from spray paint to digital. We’ve always been a massive fan of Phill Blake and his luscious lipped women. His work has graced many a street in Digbeth and donned various walls in various clubs and bars across the city.
His latest direction takes a refreshing twist of Arts and Crafts and on the Art Nouveau movement reminiscent of works by Alphonse Mucha where the female form is entwined with nature. He is also going back to basics with traditional print and pattern work that takes inspiration from the work of William Morris.
Do you find your environment has an impact on your work?
Yes it has an impact on everything, we adapt to our environment, or we adapt the environment to us, I prefer the first, since moving to the countryside my work has changed, like my studio has got loads smaller so I’ve adapted to that, I’m surrounded now by nature so it can’t help but creep in to the work because its what I see around me, I’ve gone from being on an estate surrounded by flats and now I am surrounded by wildlife! It’s really quiet where I live so no distractions whereas before there was full on distractions and out here there are no other options but to get on with more work its a lot greener than grey!
Small canvases or painting bricks and mortar, which do you prefer?
It’s seasonal, I’m happiest outdoors on bricks and mortar when the temperature is right. I love to paint walls but I don’t like the cold. I like to use lots of different mediums so small canvases are good. I also like to paint on wood. I like to work mixed media on paper. Anything!
Big canvases are what I like to paint best but I can’t really do that because of space and storage, I’ve only got a small studio space and it’s inside my house so I can’t use spray paint, plus larger canvases are harder to shift.
How did you get into painting portraits? And what attributes do you look for when selecting the subjects to paint?
I wouldn’t really say it is portraiture, I look to use characters in my work as a representation of nature as a whole rather than capturing an individual person, which traditional portraiture does. I ‘ve always had an emphasis on character-based stuff in all of my work, when I started to paint on the street I wanted to bring that into it. Also painting with artist N4T4 who paints lots of beautiful women, lots of people like it, it appeals to everyone, not alienating people and not criminal connotations. At the time it differentiated us from other artists who were painting male characters or just massive lettering pieces. It is a male dominated scene so it is good to portray a powerful positive female image in a masculine culture.
It can be very difficult for me to select subjects for me to paint, when I look back through my old paintings all the shit ones are where I have not put enough scrutiny into my initial editing of reference materials and I always look back and think they are terrible paintings.
Usually if I see images, I get them from everywhere, magazines, insta, the internet, books, I’ll put into a folder on my computer an then I’ll narrow it down and get rid of most of them, other times I just see things and know straight away it will work, sometimes I just see an image and it will spark something in my mind! sometimes I just have an idea and then I go looking for reference to support the idea, I would really like to shoot my own models but I don’t have the time or the resources to do that at the moment. If I’m looking for attributes I look for what I consider to be extreme beauty like nature’s being perfectly manifested in a visual representation if that makes sense.
We have seen shows run in Bristol and London but are yet to see you exhibit work on this scale in Birmingham? What do you put that down to?
I would love to do a show in Brum but have never been asked. My exhibitions have come from me being approached, plus Bristol and London have ok representation for street artists and illustrators and more low brow art than what I can see happening in Birmingham, There is art and street art and Graffiti happening in Birmingham but no one is taking advantage of showcasing the crossover between it all in a gallery or exhibition setting. In other words no one is putting on shows in Birmingham anymore.
Where do you look for inspiration?
The woods, the internet, books, people watching, other artists, music in general, i look within my own mind and memories. Anywhere but the TV!
We have recently seen a collaboration with BabMag favourites Plume for their Tabula Rasa exhibition, how important is it for artists to collaborate with others?
It is quite important because it means you have some limitations and boundaries and that makes you think creatively with how you are going to work with that person, you’re also going to come out with something that neither of you would have alone so it is like a third mind kind of thing steering you in a different direction, it’s also good to just communicate with other artists and creative people especially if you spend most of the time alone working in your own bubble. I really enjoyed doing the Plume colab because it was digital photography which led me to do digital painting for a fine art purpose rather than just for illustration or design and now I’ve gone on to do further fine art works in digital media.
What are your plans for 2016? Any upcoming shows or projects that you can shine some light on?
I don’t plan things I just let things emerge, every time i plan things they never work out anyway, I like seeing what the universe has got in store for me! But I hope to improve as an artist.