Rhys Wootton (UK)

Rhys Wootton (UK)

In some way, Rhys' shiny colors remind me of Brad Klausen work. To my opinion, this is already an excellent point for him. But, as Brad's art usually deals with the Seattle 90s music, Rhys is more de desert/stoner rock fan and this is a second excellent point for him :) If you add to those fact, that he runs Octopus Gallery in Brighton, specialsing in screen printed art prints & gig poster, you don't even have to know that I really like his style to be already reading the interview below ;)

Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question:  what are we listening to when we come to visit you? 

At the moment I've gotten into the Smiths, after years of really disliking them I've recently changed my mind - I like the honesty in the lyrics, how they explain the nuances in life that we all experience but don't want to admit. When Morrisey's voice starts to grate my nerves I'll revert to some Stoner Rock like Colour Haze or if I'm feeling dirty then the Melvins. I've started listening to the radio more, BBC 6 Music is pretty good.

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do? 

My name is Rhys Wootton (rhyswootton.com), I live in Brighton, UK and I'm a poster artist, illustrator and printmaker. I co-founded an arts collective called BRAGcollective.com in 2006 that got the posters on a roll when I was in my final year of art school.

When did you start drawing?

Like most artists when I was really young, my mother was an art teacher so growing up I was actively exposed to art. Drawing has always plays a pivotal role in my creative process.

 Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?

I never got on very well with academic subjects and I used to get into trouble scrawling heavy metal band art in lessons - art and history were the only subject I was good at. I went to art school in Brighton to study illustration, this is when I started to learn printmaking to make posters. My early schoolbooks played a big part in my poster origin, if I look back all the covers where beginning formats for my posters now. At school I was obsessed with White Zombie and love all the art Rob Zombie creates, so I started doing my own. Being a trash metal teenager I would design my own band merch for Sepultra, Pantera  - the Old school metal bands (although NU metal is more my era, it never really stuck to me) I was going to be a fine artist before I did illustration - drawing epic posters way more fun and I'm glad I changed course.

 Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ? 

At the moment I'm working full time as an artist, but I normally prefer having some sort of part-time job to get me out the house - doing art full time can make me a little unhinged, I think its from being in my own head too much. I make a sort of living - the UK poster scene is young so it can be a rough ride to make a decent living, especially as my niche is the Stoner Rock scene, so I see it more as a labor of love. Until now I've been employed at local design & print studios to have another source of income. Last year I ran my own gallery in Brighton called Octopusgallery.co.uk, it was a mad year that was really fun, I never planned on running my own gallery - the opportunity just landed on me and I stated with a tiny budget and asked a few favours. This was great as I got to meet loads of really cool people and have awesome parties, all revolved around the love of poster art.  

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

I never went down this route but its something I'd really like to branch into. I've been pretty focused on doing posters, the times I have done editorial its been a refreshing challenge as the foundations for working are very different.

Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?

Chuck Sperry and Ron Donovan from Firehouse posters are my biggest influence, they got me started on the whole poster thing - in 2006 I did a workshop with them that blew my mind! and then stayed at their studio in San Francisco which gave me years of fuel to ride out the hard times.  They're incredible characters with a great outlook and they resurfaced my passion for music related art. Their posters and print skills are unbelievable, they're masters of screen-printing. Roger Dean was a big influence when I was about 15, my Mother bought me a book of his work that planted the seeds. I really love concept art so artists for companies like Weta Workshop give me lots of inspiration.

What are the principal steps in your work ?

I have two ways to make artwork, it depends on how much time I have and how challenging it's to realise my idea, on my website I have two process videos showing how I work. One way is to just draw it all by hand, usually straight from my mind or with the aid of a few reference photos for inspiration - the other is to use photo montage as the foundation for the image that I draw from. Thinking of the initial concept usually comes from listening to the music and waiting for an image to appear in my head. Once the initial idea is set in my mind I spend a while roughing out thumb nails to choose the angle of shot, I really love perspective and making scenes look epic. Then I trace on my light-table a more detailed study (I use a discarded shower door for my light table), ink up and then digitally colour, finally I screen-print my own work. 

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

Its a bit of both, each has great attributes to use. I start with hand drawing to computer to screen-print - its a full circle cycle, being finished by hand is important to me, I like art to be tangible and exist in the world, not just floating around digitally. The computer has allowed me to do things I couldn't by hand, but drawing by hand I have more control than with a tablet.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

I'm never too sure about this - it can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks to do the design. I really like deadlines because it gives me a space to work within and I make better art if I don't have too much time to obsess about the details. Just enough time to make something I'm happy with is ideal. Some of my favourite posters I have designed in a night and printed the next day, they retain a level of subconscious energy - my posters have become time intensive and its something I'm rethinking. 

You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are you up for it ?

I always do artwork how I want to, that's what makes me happy and any client who approaches me for work do so because they like what they see. Its important to me to feel I have put myself into the work, I get very involved, sometimes too much and I have to pull back and see it as a job. I will allow clients to art direct me if they really feel strongly about an idea, this can be hit or miss - it really depends on the initial idea and how much control the client expects to have. I prefer to be left to do my thing.

 For which band have you already worked for?

I work for mainly bands in the post-rock and stoner rock scene, its what I really love and I was mates with a promoter in Brighton who used to put on all the bands I love, so it naturally started here. Bands I've done are Queens of the Stone Age, Acid King, Acid Mothers Temple, Pelican, Rise Above Records, Cathedral, Atomic Bitchwax, Karma To Burn to name a few - that type of scene. Most of the bands I work for are pretty underground in the wider world, I like this because I have more freedom to interpret their music.

For which band would you love to work?

Kyuss would be my top as they're my favourite all time band, Tv on the Radio would be awesome, something fun like Alice Cooper, Pearl Jam would be amazing. I'd like to start making posters for different music scenes, I'm a big fan groups like the Cinematic Orchestra and maybe some hip hop like MF Doom or De La Soul would be an interesting change.  

Do you choose the artists yourself? 

Being friends with promoters I tend to do posters for bands that I like that are on their bills - I'l sometimes get in contact direct if its a really special gig.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster?

Its different for each poster, I suppose the part if find difficult is waiting to hear if the client likes the concept - most of the time they do, its just waiting to hear that. It used to be the printing stage that would dictate what I could do in the design - earlier in my career I was using print set ups that made it much harder, over the years I've been tweaking my methods and using better print studios that's allowing me to be more adventurous with the mechanics in the design. I'm looking forward to pushing these ideas further.

Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?

Yeah I see myself as part of the burgeoning UK poster scene, we're a small group that is expanding every year. When I started it really felt like there was only a few of us and now I see more artists emerging. Artists in the Poster Roast, BRAG, Dan Mumford, God Machine, Drew Millward, Switch Open to name a few - we're all roughly from a similar era with some being in the industry longer than me. I tend to be an outsider in any scene, I've always been a lone wolf - working with BRAG is great as it feels good to be apart of something.

A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?
You can view my portfolio at www.rhyswootton.com and BRAG artists at www.bragcollective.com. I'm focusing on producing a new line of work in the background that I want to exhibit later in the year but its not ready yet - this art is purely personal and is helping me explore new methods to work and different ideas. I'm just keeping my head down for the time being to focus on making my own work, when its ready I'll start looking to exhibit it.

The best praise you received lately?

I have some posters in the V&A Museum in London in their print collection, this was a great recognition that the scene is getting noticed. At the Desert Fest in London earlier this year I had loads of people come up to me saying they really like my work and have bought my posters - this was great to hear as working alone I sometimes feel disconnected to the audience that sees my artwork. At gigs I love selling the poster because I get to meet people and see their reaction first hand.

What can we wish you for the future? 

If I'm really honest I don't have an idea of future plans anymore - this isn't a bad thing, when I'm busy working good things just seem to appear without needing to seek them. I've had somethings happen to me this year that has given me a whole new outlook, some of these things were good and others really bad - all of it has shown me not to make plans too far ahead and I prefer not knowing where I'll end up. So now I just make plans for 3 months, it keeps me focused in the present. I've taken up Boxing, mountain biking and running which I'm really loving. I've never been big into sport but hunched over a desk for long periods, chain smoking and drinking loads of coffee throughout the night started causing problems, so getting into exercise is inspiring new directions for my artwork.

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