Saturday, November 19, 2011

How I got here...

I have noticed that I've been getting a lot more questions recently concerning techniques, influences and personal details so I'm hoping that this will provide a single place to answer some of those questions. I hope it doesn't come across as too self indulgent. My life and work are inextricably tied together and I cannot explain one without doing so with the other.

I don't remember too much about my childhood. I remember I liked animals and dinosaurs and space ships. My mum had bought me 9lbs of plasticine for my 9th birthday which I made good use of in my turning my GI Joe into various Dr Who monsters. I hated school, was very quiet and withdrawn - drawing and sculpting was my only safe place. In the mid-70s whilst baby sitting I saw Barbarella on the tv. I always joke that is where I thought puberty first struck and basically never left. 
Me 1980, in Tangier
In 1979 I saw Alien which was important because it solidified any ideas I had about the career I wanted to follow, somehow I just wanted to be involved in that. I left school at 15 with virtually no grades, I didn't even pass my art exam. Moved to N. Africa for a short while with my family, after a year came back to the UK somewhat enlightened. I worked in a record store and then got a job as a dj in a local nightclub - a job of which I held for 10 years.

On Feb 1st 1989 I started dating my future wife Sas. Things were a little rocky at first. We broke up twice and on the 2nd occasion she moved to London. I distinctly remember feeling irritated that somehow this girl had got under my skin - I was a dj after all and certainly not prepared for all that settling down rubbish. I tried to get on with my life but frankly it just wasn't the same without her. Then one day when I was in the office at work I received a call from Sas asking me if I'd like to be her room mate at her apartment in London. I then had a moment of extreme clarity and I suddenly realized how much I loved this girl and in turn how much she loved me. I, unlike her, understood just how much of an asshole I was so I'd better jump at the chance of something this good as it would never come again. 

We got married on August 12th 1993. The wedding cost $500. We had just a few good friends, no family and one drunk off the street for good luck. 

Best thing I ever did

We had been approved for our green cards and moved the U.S. It's easy to criticize America, there are so many things wrong as there are with any country but equally there are so many things right with it. It was the land of opportunity for us and still is and we are forever grateful that this beautiful country opened it's arms for us. 

The first few years were very tough. We had no solid direction in which to go, no real plan. We worked in a print shop for 2 years which left me miserable. We then started our business Hotbox Inc making couture rubber clothing. We made our own sheet rubber, multi-colored/patterned and textured.

Here's a small sampling of what we did...

Nobody else was doing that. No one. We had an article in Skin Two and Marquee magazines but due to lack of funds we couldn't take the business anywhere. We did work with a Penthouse photographer and did the sets and costumes for a sci-fi porn movie which was sadly never released. At some point I'll put up some pics. They're a jaw dropper!

I've forgotten how many times we had no money for power/gas and sometimes even food. But our grim determination to try and make something of ourselves in this country kept pushing us forward. We often joke, but it's as true then as it is now - there is no Plan B, no turning back, this is everything we've got and we're betting it all. 

At this time you could only get sheet rubber in solid colors

Water clear rubber - never seen it? That's because only we can do it!

We then got a job at a commercial art studio and it was at this point that we became aware of a new art movement "Lowbrow" through the pages of Juxtapoz. Sas in particular was taken by the work of Mark Ryden and she felt she wanted to try painting, something which she had never tried before and had no knowledge of technique. She bought a couple of books from Amazon and gave it a go and it was obvious right away that she had some talent. 
It was impossible at that time for both of us to be fine artists so we agreed that Sas would do her painting and try to build up a career for herself and I would take up commercial work to bring in the money - building for restaurants, nightclubs and stores etc while she honed her skills. In 1999 Sas painted her first big eye painting "Jam Sandwich". By 2004 she had a show at Copro gallery where she showed off several really great pieces including "We are the People" and "Home Again, Home Again" 

Here's a few of Sas' Iconic paintings, self taught. She inspires me everyday.

Mark Ryden and Marion Peck came to the show and called her a "Mozart". I was so proud of her, of what she had accomplished in such a short amount of time with no training whatsoever, just her sheer force of will. 

During these years I was experimenting with fiberglass. I had already made a large fiberglass figure "Suki" an outright anime style girl and sold to a customer on the west coast who turned out to be the founder and future CEO of Nike - Mark Parker.

I continued to make figures in between commercial work and started to get the technical process to a manageable level. I designed what I consider the first piece in my style "Moist as a Snackcake" in 2004 - the first one to include silicone in the design. The response to her was very favorable so I decided to hone in on the fetishy/sci-fi elements and lose some of the obvious anime look which was so prevalent in my earlier work.

In 2005 we moved to Tampa. Sas was picked up by Opera Gallery in NY thanks to an introduction by the awesome Ron English.They took me on "riding on her coattails" so to speak, so I was able to stop doing all commercial work and concentrate on fine art. 

Basically I start a new piece in foam and wood, coating it in clay, making a mold and then reproducing it in fiberglass which is then sanded, details added, primed and painted. The faces are sculpted separately and I make a separate set of interlocking molds from which I make the silicone parts. The eyes are cast domes which I then turn on a lathe and polish. I make teeth from dental acrylic or larger ones from epoxy. The large faces are painted with automotive paints thinned down a great deal, usually 7-10 colors in all and then applied in a splatter pattern. An average face usually has about 20 layers of paint. It's time consuming stuff. 
The whole process is very labor intensive - dirty, smelly, dusty and dangerous. There is no easy way out. One of my irritations is that somehow people think it pops out easy peasy. It can take months to do a single piece. I have an assistant, a kid from Puerto Rico who helps me sand, bondo and clean up after me. He's awesome. 

Through all of this, the many ups and downs, Sas and I have managed to stay very happily married. We take pride in each others accomplishments. Some artistic couples like to be viewed as separate entities but for us we like people to think of us as one. We are each others flip side and each others destiny. I remember on my wedding day thinking to myself I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make this woman happy, that is my true calling in life and I still feel this way. Love is easy to find, lust even more so but I would argue that respect and trust are the first things needed for a long lasting relationship. If Sas told me she had seen a dinosaur outside the front door I would not question it! We never take each other for granted. Ever. We always say please and thank you to each other. I say thanks for cleaning my socks and batman knickers and she says thanks for picking up the dog food and taking out the garbage. 
I make no apologies for the way I am and neither does she and that's where the love comes in - because you love everything about a person even the faults and if you can get passed that you will find happiness. I am who I am, I've always been fascinated by women and look at them whenever an opportunity presents itself.

For some women this is too much to bare, I understand that but perhaps the real reason is that your man has not made you feel secure. She knows I love her and always will. My eyes may wander but my heart is set in stone and is hers forever. This level of freedom I have, to not hide and just to be myself is one of the reasons I am so happy, but I know I'm allowed to do so because she knows to the absolute degree that I am hers. 
This kind of relationship can only work as a two-sided thing. Trust and respect must be established first. I love hanging out with the guys but at the end of the day Sas is always the one to tell my news to, good or bad and I really believe that will never change. I think it's very important not to judge your relationship against others; what works for one will not always work for all, you have to find your own way. Compromise is always involved - dedication and hard work. But if you are as determined as we were to make it work then the rewards far out way the effort.

That's it for now. I am happy to answer any questions or hear any comments. Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Oh, and I have 47 versions of the tune "Brazil".

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Hi and welcome to my blog, the aim of which is to not only to inform you of upcoming shows etc but to give more details on my work process, the workings of my head, my day to day irritations and anything that makes my front trouser bottom smile.

As many of you know I am somewhat prone to ranting, mostly on the subject of stupidity and ignorance which I will continue to do here in greater depth so prepare yourselves. Subtly in not my middle name but I'm pretty good at honesty which somewhat makes up for it. 

I will be posting videos and pictures of construction process, things that inspire me and other things we'd be much better off without.

Hope it won't be too boring.