I first came across Philips work on the Ink Butter Blog and was interested to find out what it was that inspired him to paint women with tattoos. As soon as I saw that he was just down the road in Bristol I decided to get in touch and go to see his studio and how he spent his days.
Interview – Ben Lakin
Photography – Philip Munoz
When did you start painting and how did you become an artist?
I remember doing my first watercolours around aged 7 and my first acrylic paintings at school aged 14. I think the first time you practice with a new medium and get results, it’s a real breakthrough in one’s creative development. My Dad could draw really well, and the idea of becoming an artist was always presented to me in a positive light, so in the back of mind, I always felt it was an option. Having said that, I studied a degree in biochemistry before returning to the idea of practising art in a serious way.
Tell me about your work. What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I produce oil paintings of the contemporary and glamorous that are best described as hyper-realistic. My work tends to focus on portraits of women, but I am also working on a series of “still-lifes” based on high street shop window displays. Compared to my work even a couple of years ago, I am ever more fixated on exploring the identity of urban glamour, and more and more I am drawn to the world of tattoos and body art.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I am drawn to the vibrant and youthful, care-free characters I see every day outside the doors of my studio. I am lucky to reside in a beautifully eclectic area of Bristol city where fashion and identity are of foremost importance, and provide constant inspiration and fuel my desire to paint.
What other artists do you follow the work of?
I am a fan of a fairly disparate range of artists and I am sure they all influence me on some level, but in all honesty I try and avoid being directly influenced by anyone. The trick is to assimilate ideas and techniques, while maintaining your own unique identity.
With so many artists struggling to sell their work, how do you sell yours and is this your sole job?
I am represented by the Albemarle Gallery in London. Sales have gone pretty well recently so I am starting to feel a certain security in what I am doing, but you have to keep the standard up and not rely on your past glories. Since being at Jamaica Street Studios in Bristol, I have built up a framing business alongside my painting so if all goes to pot I can go back to the day job!
Why this area of Bristol?
The studios are in Stokes Croft, a very up and coming area of Bristol, which is now full of art studios. It was a little different a few years ago, but as a place to work and socialise it is perfect for what I do. In fact, it’s almost certainly why I do what I do.
Has tattooing been something that has tempted you as a profession?
Tempted, yes. But not seriously. The permanence of the process and the conviction required is very alluring as a voyeur but I would too much responsibility to be the one directly involved in the artistry. With my painting you can buy it if you like it, but there’s no immediate pressure for me to perform when making it!
Is there anyone you would love to paint?
I’m always seeing people I think could make a great portrait. I try not to fantasise about who would make the ideal model, as I know I’d only end up disappointed and things are never as they seem in this superficial world! I don’t like to plan things too much and tend to rely on a bit of luck and good will as to who ends up being the focus of one of my paintings.
What materials do you tend to work with?
I produce an underpainting in acrylic, based on a pencil drawing. Most of the surface that makes up the finished painting will be oil paint although recently I been experimenting with using enamel paint to mix up the textures a little.
Can you tell us a little about the environment that you like to work in? Do you work with other painters?
There are about 35 artists in our studios, many of which are painters and illustrators. We each have our own studio but a lot of the space in the building is communal so we are always exchanging ideas and giving each other critiques. On the whole, a very productive environment to work in. However, as my work is so labour intensive I do need to lock myself away to paint for several hours at a time. It’s an obsession that needs an obsessive working practice! What was the best advice given to you as an artist? I can’t remember if I was ever told it directly, but I would tell anyone to really focus on what they’re passionate and good at. You can never fail at something that you love doing!