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MISTER is a London-based artist whose work pays homage to the sights and sensations which surround him. He takes inspiration from art history, story telling, images of strong female characters, and in exploring the boundaries of gender and cultural identity.
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In expressing color and narrative, MISTER carefully crafts and weaves together images to produce a striking visual mixed media art form.
Q&A with the Artist
Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background?
I am a London based artist working under the name of MISTER. I previously worked in art education for over thirty years and was known by the students as Mr P. This aspect of my life has been a strong influence in the creation of my persona and the artist I am today. I now work full time as an artist and exhibit and sell my work both at home and internationally. I’m pleased and excited that my work has been so well received, further endorsed by winning the 2020 Royal Arts Prize. My work is a collaboration of media and techniques, initially working through collage ideas in my sketchbook, adding layers of other source materials digitally. I often work over an image with line to enhance a drawn element, which again is infused into the work, before being printed as a giclée print on German etching paper. A limited edition is then hand finished with acrylic paint and embellished with gold leaf and diamond dust. My work is created in series and produced exclusively at Printspace in Shoreditch, East London.
What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
I take inspiration from the history of Art, story telling, images of strong female characters, and exploring the boundaries of gender and cultural identity. I find myself returning to themes that I explored with my students such as hope for the future, renewal, protection and guardianship, as well as London itself as the new Babylon.
How did you first get interested in your medium and what draws you to it specifically?
In supporting students, I found computer aided design helped transform their ideas into something more substantial. Over time I integrated this use of technology into my own working practice and, as I became more interested in the software, my own skills became more sophisticated. I am enjoying using and combining this form of creating with the more traditional approach to painting and using hand embellished techniques.
How has your style and practice changed over the years?
To begin with ideas were quickly resolved and prints were much smaller. I now work on a larger scale, with more layering and refinement to the image. Influences on the work are more varied with a greater range of source material being considered and applied. Having the time to fully engage in, and explore the possibilities with imagery and surface, is allowing me to produce more sophisticated and ambitious outcomes.
Can you walk us through your process? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it’s finished?
Initially I am inspired by found images and that of my own photographs from different locations. I love to use my sketchbook to experiment with collaging these images to form creations in their own right. I will then paint over the imagery to add surface and colour, and will draw into areas to contrast the mark making. The outcomes I am most pleased with I develop further digitally through Iayering photographs I have taken from such sources in London or on my travels that seem to resonate with the idea. I contextualise my work with research and references from institutes such as the British museum and the V&A. I sometimes print out the initial design and paint and draw over it before photographing it again to develop further on the computer. Once happy, it will be sent off to Print Space for a first proof printing. The print is then hand painted using acrylic onto the areas which I want to render for colour and texture. Finally the image is treated with gold leaf and diamond dust to lift and illuminate certain areas. This whole process can take several months, and it is hard to decide when to stop working on a piece. I am conscious of not overworking an image and losing some of the qualities at a previous stage, particularly in the digital layering process.
I usually sense when a print is finished when all the elements are balanced and they just seem to fit. My aim is to bring all the ingredients involved in each of the processes up to the same level of thoughtfulness and integrity. Once resolved I will make a limited edition of ten of that image in the series. Each image being unique, as each one would be hand painted and embellished slightly differently, as more of an artist’s proof as a group of ten.
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What series or project are you working on next?
During lockdown I have been surprisingly busy with portrait commissions, as well as developing several prints, based on London of course, with the theme of hope. It started from my walks to the V&A and noticing on the outside this damage to the surface of the stonework. I discovered that this was from the bombing during the second world war, but had been left as a memorial to a time of conflict. I have used these various marks as a new texture running across the prints. London emerged from those dark times to be a global city. A sign of hope. It is the idea of renewal and hope for the future, both for myself as an artist, but also for my home town of London as we emerge from this virus. The lockdown has given us all some time for reflection on how we should be living our lives and what is most important to us. The work is about how we emerge from all of this in a positive way and the hope that we can make changes that make a real difference.
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
To work hard and take your opportunities, you never know what is going to happen. Enter competitions and get out there and show your work, it’s good to get feedback and to make connections with other artists. Don’t wait until your art is perfect just show what you are doing and people will be interested. People like success and if you are doing lots of things people take notice. Make it happen.
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