Well, we made it to 2021! And we’re starting the year off with a monthly maker from Alex Fletcher, an artist, painter and one of our residents based at Make Hamilton. We couldn’t meet at the studio like we usually would, but it was good to catch up with Alex nonetheless. I caught Alex on the phone while he was working on some paintings. We chatted about how Alex got back into his art and the inspiration behind his pieces and Liverpool prints. Have a read to find out more and see how you can get your hands on some of his brilliant work!
Hi Alex, Can you start by telling us a bit about your craft?
I am an artist, but I would consider myself more of a painter. I make portraits, currently working with themes of the Wirral and Merseyside, local sports teams and landmarks. However, my work used to be more political with a focus on brand association. That’s what I love to do.
But at the moment, I’m just trying to get my work out there and focus on the more commercial side of it.
My past work has been centred around the working-class background and mixing higher art forms like oil paintings with working-class themes. I would use branding like Lacoste tracksuits to make abstract paintings or stretch clothing that is often deemed “scallyish” over canvases to form an art piece. The work I’m doing now is to facilitate me working on the things I’m passionate about.
What sparked your passion for art?
I wasn’t going to study art at GCSE, but my teacher suggested I do art because I got a B on it. So it might not have happened if she never recommended it! People sometimes see art as an easy subject, but trying to always think of new creative ideas can be difficult. Particularly if you’re stuck in a rut or lost for ideas. I definitely got stuck in a rut with my work around the themes of the working-class background. I did my masters in Glasgow School of Art, and after that, I didn’t pick up a paintbrush for about 2 years, because I felt like I had exhausted that mentality. Studying at university can sometimes take the fun out of it a bit, especially with the deadlines, it can feel like a bit of a job. So I lost that sight of excitement for doing it.
Before uni, I did an art foundation course at Liverpool Community College and then studied art at Sheffield Hallam University. I think the time after university can be quite stressful because you’re thrown into the real world and don’t really know what to do with yourself.
what got you back into it?
After my Master’s degree, I worked in a retail job, and that can consume you a bit. I wanted to get back into painting, so I started doing some portraits here and there. During the first lockdown, one of my friends asked if I could do a piece for him. I was so close to saying no because I had never done any football paintings or Liverpool stuff before. But it was probably the best thing that’s ever happened.
My friend wanted to put the design I did on t-shirts, and I thought why not make prints of them too. Everything sort of fell into place and I realised that there was a market for this and people actually want to buy it. I pretty much just jumped straight into the deep end of it all.
The prints and t-shirts make great gifts, I’m definitely gonna grab one for fathers day!
Yeah, I think it’s a bit more personal than something just from the Liverpool store, because they’re hand signed and limited edition.
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What has been one of your favourite projects or pieces of art you’ve worked on?
Not so much a project, but a theme that has run through my work is almost a negative portrait. I rarely paint faces and facial recognition. There is a theory that if a figure in a painting is turned away from you, you’re more inclined to see that space as your own. So I have always done portraits of people’s backs or the clothing they wear. For example, the Klopp painting that I did, people know it’s Jurgen Klopp because it’s the style he’s in and the clothes he wears. There’s more intimacy there, the body language says a lot more than their facial expression could. So that’s probably one of the main projects that I’ve continuously done throughout my art practice.
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But, one of my favourite pieces was using Lacoste clothing and making them into abstract pieces. Taking designs from lower socioeconomic things in society and putting them into a high art form and celebrating them. I’d love to show them in London and have them appreciated as high art forms but with the brands in the background that are often negatively stereotyped.
What would your advice be for anyone who wants to work for themselves?
Just go for it, if you never try you’ll never know. (I sound a bit like a Coldplay song, don’t I?) But I had all this skillset here that I thought I had wasted. I didn’t think I would make a living off it, but it has definitely worked out. You need to just set some time aside and jump two feet into it. I put it off for years, I had friends and family asking me why I wasn’t selling my work, and I felt it wasn’t good enough. I still think that now to be honest, then someone will buy one from somewhere like Canada! It’s not necessarily my go-to to paint football players, but it’s definitely a business, and I enjoy it.
I’d say maybe even reassess what you are currently doing and see if you can put it into a commercial setting, just to get you started. I didn’t think it would get to the point where I’m selling my own art, so you’ve just got to go for it. It might even steer off in another direction, you never know.
What are you working on next?
I’ve got two commissions at the moment. Someone messaged me on Instagram and asked me to paint a portrait of their boyfriend. He is a cricket player so that ties in nicely with my theme.
I’ve got a self-portrait commission from a fellow Make resident, and that is going to be really interesting. The painting will have a bit of a royal vibe to it, but, instead of a dress, she wants to be wearing an Adidas tracksuit, with some other interesting twists. So that should be a really fun one. I’m excited to be working on that, it will be similar to the work I used to do on my masters course.
What is your process of working on portraits?
I work purely from an image. So I will get the subject in the setting and take a photograph. I add anything else needs to be added to the image in Photoshop and see how it looks to paint it.
My football paintings are from found imagery, but they can take quite a while to find. There are tonnes of photographs of the Liverpool team out there, but finding an image that suits my style can be difficult. My paintings can sometimes take me about 2 to 3 months, I don’t work on them solidly. I try to take breaks to not get too stuck on them. Working on multiple projects works really well for me. Recently, I’ve been using a technique where I put tape on the canvas and paint around it. Then I pull it off to reveal the finished piece. The videos that you take of them are so satisfying! (take a look below for some satisfying videos)
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What’s it like having a studio at Make, is it your first?
I’ve had studios in the past, but they have always been through university or education. This is my first studio outside of that. I put it off for years, but I’ve definitely seen the benefits of being at Make. I’ve only been at Make for about 5 five months, and the people I’ve met and networks that I’ve created will last for a long time. I was working from my bedroom before Make, and that can be quite demotivating. Speaking to other residents gives you a bit of motivation or can even spark an idea for your own work. For me, it’s that community feel, listening to your peers which will benefit your own practice and business.
Where can people find your products and services?