Wasn't going to write an intro for Ron English because if you're here at Fecal Face you should already be well aware of this iconic artist. If you need to know, read his bio below.
Thanks to Daniel Rolnik (danielrolnik[at]@gmail.com) for conducting this great interview for Fecal Face.
One of the most prolific and recognizable artists alive today, Ron English has bombed the global landscape with unforgettable images, on the street, in museums, in movies, books and television. English coined the term POPaganda to describe his signature mash-up of high and low cultural touchstones, from superhero mythology to totems of art history, populated with his vast and constantly growing arsenal of original characters, including MC Supersized, the obese fast-food mascot featured in the hit movie “Supersize Me,” and Abraham Obama, the fusion of America’s 16th and 44th Presidents, an image widely discussed in the media as directly impacting the 2008 election. Other characters carousing through English’s art, in paintings, billboards, and sculpture include three-eyed rabbits, udderly delicious cowgirls and grinning skulls, blending stunning visuals with the bitingly humorous undertones of America’s Premier Pop Iconoclast.
Trial and error. I had a gig painting landscapes a long time ago at one of those production houses where they taught me a lot of techniques. I also worked for a few different artists, so I had to learn how to mimic their styles.
I did some paintings for Rohhny Decone, Larry Rivers, Marcus Darvy. When I first moved to New York in the 80’s I was a ghost painter. Yeah, it’s a good job to work and you get paid.
Oh yeah. It’s funny because I always get what I wish for, but it’s kind of like the old genie in a bottle thing – I wish that I could have people see all my paintings and the paintings I would make [for those artists] would end up in museums, it’s true. I always forgot to ask “could I sign them” but it’s not really your thing. It’s like if you go on tour with the Rolling Stones and you’re the bass player, you’re not really in the band and you don’t think you’re in the band –maybe after 30 years or so you think you’re in the band like Ron Wood [guitar]. It’s funny because it’s someone else’s art, they’ve built their own language, and if you went to art school there’s a certain amount of that stuff that you can just do. Their art was more about their concepts and I did it because I wanted to learn a lot of techniques.
Well Mark was probably the ultimate situation because initially there were only 3 other painters working with me, but later there were like 40. Guys were coming in from Russia and Poland, people who were trained as master painters and knew all the technique. And even from day one Clark Decarro was a classically trained painter from Canada, so he showed me how to make glazes, but it’s interesting to do something with someone sitting right next to you and where you can say “Why is this not working” and they’ll be respond by saying “here’s what you’re doing wrong”. They’re all there with you and I think that’s the best learning environment - when you can’t overcome something and there’s someone to show you how to do it right there. There are always bumps in the road, eventually you can figure it out on your own, you can read books, there are a lot of things you can do. If you want to get somewhere you’re going to get there, but it’s always nice to have a set of directions.
I have two assistants. One assistant comes in one day a week and stretches the canvasses and the other guy pretty much does everything - like all those weird houses with the comics all over them that are in the paintings. He puts together the houses and then puts the comic book collages on them and then he’ll set up the shot. When we were at Art Basil last week painting a big mural he took lined up and shook all the spray paint.
I mean all that time it takes to do that stuff slows us down and the fact that they are doing all that for us is just amazing.
Sometimes they put too much pressure in the cans, so you turn them upside down and relieve some of the pressure. If you turn them upside down it just sprays, it doesn’t release the paint. And, as soon as you’re done spray painting you turn the can upside down so paint wont dry in the tip and ruin it. It’s also good if you want to do fine lines to make the pressure [in the can] super low. You never quit learning, you just don’t.
One of my friends learned a lot of his techniques from reading books, but I’m just not much of a reader.