Contemporary artist, Preston Paperboy explains his evolving style and shares how art has been a therapy
Preston Paperboy is emerging as one of London’s premier contemporary artists, Paperboy’s unique style blends the pragmatic structure of photorealism with the colourful vitality of abstract expressionism. Using a broad array of mixed media, Paperboy has separated himself from other artists by creating complex, textured portraits with vibrant colour schemes.
We’re delighted to be featuring Paperboy’s work in Curatorial Volume.1, Leaders in Contemporary Art. We took the opportunity to take a deep dive into his creative practice and find out about his plans for the future.
Hi Paperboy! Thanks for talking with us today. For those who haven’t had a chance to browse Curatorial Volume.1 yet, could you introduce yourself and your creative practice?
Hey! My name is Preston Paperboy, I am an artist from London, England. My creative practice is very much a journey that begins with sketch making and finer oil painting and ends with abstract chaos.
We’re very excited to be featuring your work in Curatorial Volume.1, Leaders in Contemporary Art. Could you tell us about the work you are showcasing within the publication?
We have a couple of my favourite pieces from last year in this volume. 2018 was a time where I painted a lot of icons, whether they were historical figures or next gen pioneers. I chose to show these 3 pieces [Winston Churchill, Virgil Abloh & Post Malone] as they demonstrate a number of elements within my creative practice, things that I have taken forward and refined or expanded on.
You’ve portrayed a variety of subjects including Winston Churchill, Virgil Abloh, Barack Obama and Martin Luther King in your work. Is there a unifying aspect of these characters that inspired you to focus on them? Or if not, what about these personalities motivated your decision to feature them?
I feel that when I am passionate or inspired by something or someone it will feature in my work. When I was painting these people, I was trialing visual message techniques. For example, MLK is a faded portrait, with Martyr etched beside him – bold, but not loud. His portrait takes up a small amount of the canvas, there is a lot of empty space; a reduced focus: – I wanted to draw the viewer in, become submerged before looking away, long enough to make an impact, plant a seed and evoke questions, this is what I hope for anyway. – I see things on the news, I read stories about what sort of societies we live in today and reflect or argue that in my work. Society plays a crucial part in my work and at that time I feel a lot of these icons brought direct context to my conversation.
Can you walk us through the process you went through to create your work ‘Victory’.
Victory was created for a group show in the heart of London. It was summer 2018 and there was a big buzz around the FIFA World Cup, football really grips this country and when there is an international tournament it really brings us all together. What better way to put across that feeling of patriotism then one of the figureheads of this Country’s history – Winston Churchill. Churchill is draped in a classic England shirt – the same one we wore when we famously beat Germany 5-1, now you see the underlying connections between history and current culture? You will also notice the tattooed arm and backwards ‘V’ gesture, a nod to England’s hooligan culture.
Your work has strong anti consumerism messaging, often depicting recognisable brands and logos accompanied with text such as “buy more stay poor”. If I have been correct in identifying this, why is this an important message for you to tackle?
Without doubt, society and culture play huge roles in what I do on the canvas. Consumerism is one I refer to a lot, I like holding a mirror up to myself and others like me. We are all victims of consumerism; I’m not going to do anything about it. But, f**k it, I will acknowledge it for what it is. (*TIPS HAT*) Half the time, the messages on the canvas is a conversation I am having with myself.
You mention in your artist biography that your past battle with depression has been the catalyst for you to pursue your artistic path, and your pursuit of art has been a therapy. Please can you share how art helped you navigate this period, and do you have any advice for people in a similar situation who are considering using art as therapy also?
Absolutely, my battle with mental health was very sudden and completely out of nowhere. Looking back, I think the way it came out of nowhere made it harder for me to register what was going on. I stripped back on everything, I had shut family and friends out, stopped leaving the house and it felt like it was just me. Luckily for me ever since I was young I have loved creating. I have always had a sketchbook in my room for as long as I can remember. It was never something I took seriously though. Until it was just me, my mind and a pen. It was the perfect way to shut out the world & distract myself, this evolved into music, paint and canvas. This really became a therapeutic practice for me, but it doesn’t need to be art. I do believe it needs to be a hobby that sets your soul on fire, something you can do wherever - whenever.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t plain sailing at all. It’s always easier looking back and telling the story. There were many, many times where I couldn’t bring myself to sit up, let alone paint. Thankfully I had people around me who knew I was going through something. These people helped encourage me… and that’s the most important part of this story, if anyone is reading – it is fundamental that if you are ever in this situation that you talk to people. Tell someone you’re going through it, even if you can’t explain what ‘it’ is, never face it alone
Moving forward to your current works, can you tell us about a project are you working on at the moment?
Recently, I have been working at balancing a mix of minimal abstraction and fine tuning my detailed reduced focus, particularly with the eyes in my piece.
How would you describe the evolution of your signature style, and can you explain the core values of your work?
I don’t think the evolution really began until the start of this year, it has been a very experimental 6 months and I feel like I’ve detached myself completely from my early works to refine the core values of my work. Once I found my place in these experiments I came back to incorporate (in small doses), elements seen in my first works; When you paint from within, I think we all have our own style and no matter what we do, some of these ‘signatures’ will never leave us. Even down to the smallest details, like how we mix colour, use tools and layer; this is what defines us as artists. The core values of my work remain the same. I have always been attracted to eyes and the stories they tell. Previously, when painting icons – the viewer knew who they were, knew their story. I have moved onto painting from life and painting real people who hold real stories behind the eye. The signature individual eye, juxtaposed with the mixture of empty space, abstract chaos of tailor picked words, I want my art to be a visual Haiku.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career so far, and could you tell us how you have overcome it?
Every day is a challenge, especially with technology today. People will sell you a dream one minute and then forget you exist the next. I try my best to do me, enjoy the silence and trust the process.
What do you think is an essential resource that every artist should know about?
Art Museums/Galleries. Go and visit these places, you won’t experience anything close to physically being there and consuming.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Just to keep creating work that I love. I am hoping to have my first solo show and get more works out to the US for shows and art fairs. Most importantly to become a father!
Thank you for your time today Paperboy! I’m looking forward to sharing your interview with our community.
THANK YOU! X