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Lee Ellis Interview

‘I hate most of my work to be honest, that’s why it doesn’t last very long! ‘

Lee Ellis

We caught up with Bristol based artist Lee Ellis to get the lowdown from him about how he does what he does. We happen to think he’s rather special and are excited to have his work in the gallery.

We’ve seen Lee in action painitng for us at Rump in Decmeber and its fascinating to watch. He has a totally free, organic – almost accidental process of working. we wanted to find out a bit more so we went to meet him.

Lee has a series of new paintings on a wrestler theme shown here. Please click on the jpeg image you love to purchase the painting.

Q) Why do you think Bristol is so attractive to graff artists?

A) I think its because there is such a vibrant scene going on here. Its renowned for creativity and has been for a long time.

Q) What gets you going first thing in the morning?

A)To be honest not much. I am one of these people that gets up and has so much energy, but I am terrible at night once it gets dark I get really tired.

Q) How old were you when you painted your first ‘real’ piece? Where and what was it?

A) Painting on canvas I was twenty, painting in general it was since I was a kid its hard to pinpoint an age. It was an A0 sized canvas, I have never been shy when it comes to size, I painted Edward Scissorhands because I liked Tim Burton’s stuff at the time. It didn’t really look like him though, it was done with really cheap acrylic so he looked like he had a plastic face.

Q) Do you still have it?

A) No, what I do is when I get bored with something I just leave it somewhere. That happened about a year ago. I was moving house so I just left it in an archway by College Green, I don’t know whether someone took it or it got chucked away.

Q) You like to paint large scale street pieces. Tell us why you do that/ what you enjoy about it?

A) Because I can’t get a canvas size big enough to fit in my house. I just like painting so I don’t mind what size really, not too small though because there is a lot of freedom when you are painting something really big. There is more enthusiasm, more vibrant brushstrokes, you can just go crazy. I also like talking to people and when you are doing it outside, people come up and talk to you.

Q) Do you have a favourite piece of your own work?

A) No, I hate most of my work to be honest, that’s why it doesn’t last very long! I don’t know… I just do it and then think ‘ok, I have to get rid of this’. Most pieces have at least five layers of different paintings on them, because I don’t like them.

Q) How long does it take for a piece of work to be ‘finished’, when are you completely happy with it?

A) As I said, I am not ever completely happy with it. Sometimes I will spend ten minutes on something, sometimes I will spend days. I don’t know, sometimes my brain says leave it alone, get rid of it and then I could spend hours and hours going over the same thing.

Q) How would you describe your style?

A) That’s a tough one actually, I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s just weird, slightly odd!

Q) Does your style stay the same or has it developed?

A)It has developed a lot actually, I have always drawn weird faces and cartoon characters. I went through a stage where I was stencilling a lot because it was easy, but I feel its kind of cheating to be honest. I found that really limiting so I moved onto painting characters and then I moved onto these strange faces, getting less cartoony or trying to anyway.

Q) How often do you paint?

A) I try to everday, even if its just a little bit before work.

Q) How do you feel painting on canvas compared to cardboard?

A)They are both very different. You can get a nice texture with canvas, you can get the nice dimples on the canvas. With cardboard you can rip it up. There is a lot of freedom with both and I do like to mix them up together.

Q) Have you ever collaborated with other artists?

A) No, not really. I did a piece as you come into Stokes Croft, someone did the stencils in the background and I did the huge hands. I have been planning to do another piece with a friend, but I find it quite difficult to collaborate. I don’t like planning, I like turning up on the day and doing it but that doesn’t work when you are meant to be collaborating!

Q) Who inspires you to paint?

A) I would say everyone. I like seeing people day to day, some people look weird and I have to paint them and some people don’t look weird and I still have to paint them! Other artists like Francis Bacon, Picasso, Guy Denning. People who create wonderful and weird things.

Q) How old are you?

A) I am 25, 26 in three months!

Q) What do you think of the legal walls in Bristol?

A) They are great, because I am not ballsy enough to do anything illegal, except litter with my cardboard pieces. I am not really a graff artist, I just like to paint so they are helpful to me. I don’t think making them legal is going to make a huge difference, people are going to paint them legal or not!

Q) Who are your top ten artists in the UK?

A) Adam Neate, Guy Denning, a guy called Danny O’Connor – he is really good. I like a lot of old art like Art Deco, communist posters for the hard, angled lines. I work in graphic design so I am always going to be inspired by work like that, especially advertising.

Q) Where do you get your paint from?

A) Depends what paint. I get my spray paint from Bristol Fine Art or from Dutty on Stokes Croft. If its acrylic then Stationary World.

Q) What is your daily routine?

A)Its fairly dull to be honest! Get up at 7:30, have breakfast, faff around the house before going to work and then work all day. I am meant to finish at 5:30 but sometime I finish at 11. I paint whenever I can, I have painted at work before. I needed to paint and they had the room so I just did it.

Q) How do you connect with your audience?

A) I am not really trying to connect with anyone in particular I just want to get rid of the work out of my house! I would much rather my work went to a good home than a bin, I havent really had an audience in mind I just paint and if someone likes it that’s amazing and if they don’tÉwho cares!

Q) Why do you focus so intently on one subject matter? How long until it is out of your ‘system’?

A) I have always liked faces and the body, the figure is interesting, it shows so much. Landscapes bore the crap out of me, I am not going to lie! Faces have so much to tell, so many stories, I find that more interesting. The mexican wrestlers are out of my system after this show because if I don’t sell them I am going to destroy them or leave them somewhere! I already know what I want to do nextÉ I donÕt know how long that will last for, maybe a week, maybe a year who knows.

Q) Are you seeking fame?

A) NO! But I would like a bit of money! If I can get the money without anyone knowing who I am that would be great. I just want to make a living through art.

Q) What does the future hold for you?

A) I don’t know, I just take each day as it comes and see how it goes.

Interview by Minnie Harding for 1LOVEART

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