ArtsQ – Jack Melville

Having worked at some of the top ten agencies in London and won prestigious awards from around the world at each of the agencies. Although creatively focused I also have a thorough commercial understanding. I was a hands-on art creative director and have helped train numerous teams at various levels, inspiring creatives, other agency colleagues and clients alike, hopefully stretching clients’ thinking and giving positive insight. I have a passionate desire to enable any project I work on to grow and flourish, as through experience, I understand commercial outcomes are so important as well as great creative executions. Working full time as an artist I continue this work ethic and draw every day for at least 8 hours.

Awards & Achievements

Over the period spanning my career I have won the Eurobest Grand Prix, Cannes Advertising Film Gold award, British Television Silver and Bronze, D&AD’s, New York Festivals, Clios, M&P Award, Drum Award, London International awards and Art Director of Europe from the Art Director’s Club.

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01. What were your early Artistic influences?

‘When as a boy of seven attempting to put paint on paper I was so excited, so desperate to convey my appreciation of the world around me.

It’s still the same today, even fifty years later. My brushes have now evolved from the matchsticks that I chewed into little brush-like ends, but that same child-like excitement still makes me shiver when I see a shimmering light dancing through some trees.

My ability to draw was discovered by one of my Primary School teachers, who gave me a new pencil and encouraged me to sketch.

To let you in on my first influences I have to take you back to early child hood and some of your readers may not recall the references. Cartoon and comic books were my very early inspirations and helped me to learn how to draw.

My first recollection was of The ‘Deputy Dawg’ British TV debut which came on BBC TV in1963. The cartoons are between four and six minutes long, and were packaged three at a time and shown as a half-hour programme. The show was produced by and was the professional animation debut of Ralph Bakshi.

The character of Deputy Dawg (a dog) is a deputy sheriff in the State of Florida.

The other main characters are the ‘varmints’ Muskie Muskrat, Moley Mole, Possible ‘Possum’, Ty Coon, Vincent van Gopher, Pig Newton, and Dawg’s boss the Sheriff, as well as Mrs. Deputy.

It was two dimensional and in black and white. I drew the figures constantly so that I could draw them from memory. Once I had memorised them I would invite my friends to a drawing competition. I was quite competitive at an early age!!!

Another great influence was Krazy Kat an American newspaper comic strip by cartoonist George Herriman.

Krazy Kat’s mixture of offbeat surrealism, innocent playfulness and poetic, idiosyncratic language has made it a favourite of comics aficionados and art critics for more than 80 years.

The strip focuses on the curious relationship between a guileless, carefree, simple-minded cat named Krazy of indeterminate gender (referred to as both “he” and “she”) and a grumpy mouse named Ignatz. Krazy nurses an unrequited love for the mouse. However, Ignatz despises Krazy and constantly schemes to throw bricks at Krazy’s head, which Krazy interprets as a sign of affection, uttering grateful replies such as “Li’l dollink, allus f’etful”, or “Lil Angel”. At the end of most strips Ignatz is locked in the county jail.

Despite the slapstick simplicity of the general premise, the detailed characterization, combined with Herriman’s visual and verbal creativity, made Krazy Kat one of the first comics to be widely praised by intellectuals and treated as “serious” art. I loved the surreal simplicity.

Comic book art featured in all through my early drawing and The Spirit is right up there. The Spirit is a fictional masked crime fighter created by the telented cartoonist Will Eisner.

The Spirit chronicles the adventures of a masked vigilante who fights crime with the blessing of the City’s Police Commissioner Dolan, an old friend. The stories range through a wide variety of styles, from straightforward crime drama and noir to light-hearted adventure, from mystery and horror to comedy and love stories, often with hybrid elements that twisted genre and reader expectations.

02. What have been the inspirations in your working themes and style?

Moving from teens to adulthood I began looking at ‘proper’ artists and styles.

Charles Thomas “Chuck” Close is an American painter and photographer whom I greatly admire. He achieved his fame as a photorealist, through his massive-scale portraits. Close is known for using creative and intricate patterns to portray a concise human portrait.

Most of his early works are very large portraits based on photographs (Photorealism or Hyperrealism technique) of family and friends, often other artists. Chuck suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness) and has suggested that this condition is what first inspired him to do portraits.

As he explained in a 2009 interview, he made a choice in 1967 to make art hard for himself and force a personal artistic breakthrough by abandoning the paintbrush.
“I threw away my tools”, Close said. “I chose to do things I had no facility with. The choice not to do something is in a funny way more positive than the choice to do something. If you impose a limit to not do something you’ve done before, it will push you to where you’ve never gone before.”

Although his later paintings differ in method from his earlier canvases, the preliminary process still remains the same. To create his grid work copies of photos, Close puts a grid on the photo and then on the actual canvas and copies cell by cell. Typically, each square within the grid is filled with roughly executed regions of colour (usually consisting of painted rings on a contrasting background) which give the cell a perceived ‘average’ hue which makes sense from a distance. His first tools for this included an airbrush, rags, razor blade, and an eraser mounted on a power drill. His first picture with this method was Big Self Portrait, a black and white enlargement of his face to a 107.5 by 83.5 inches (273 cm × 212 cm) canvas, made in over four months. He made seven more black and white portraits during this period. He has been quoted as saying that he used such diluted paint in the airbrush that all eight of the paintings were made with only a single tube of mars black acrylic!

Later work has branched into non-rectangular grids, topographic map style regions of similar colours, CMYK colour grid work, and using larger grids to make the cell by cell nature of his work obvious even in small reproductions. The Big Self Portrait is so finely done that even a full page reproduction in an art book is still indistinguishable from a regular photograph.

03. What other current Artists do you find appealing?

John Mackie’s love of painting using bright colours began at a very early age.

It was whilst studying at the Glasgow School of Art that he was first introduced to the works of Monet, Renoir and Pissarro. In particular the influence of Monet can be seen in his own painting style and his is an obvious love of impressionist work.

Whether using oil or pastel he employs a fabulously rich palette, with works full of colour and really strong tones, and a rather fine eye for composition and structure. His work exudes quality, with his finished pieces simply transporting you to his chosen location, capture the heat of a French meadow, the hustle and bustle of a continental market square or a balmy evening in the romantic cities of Venice or Paris.

Another artist would be Guy Denning. He says he had been interested in art since he was a small child and is a self-taught painter.

Denning’s early work included an interest in the work of Franz Kline and was characterised by powerful, expressive brushstrokes in mainly abstract paintings. More recently he has combined earlier influences with an increasingly figurative style of painting. The human figure features strongly in his latest work and he uses this subject matter to convey powerful emotions, often with political overtones. The Icarus series of works is an example of this approach. Structurally his work is very dynamic showing a concern for strong draughtsmanship with a spontaneous application of colour. He does not work to set motifs, but makes paintings and drawings from observation and photographic reference.

04. What sort of art and themes do you gravitate to generally?

Most of my work is portraiture and produced in pencil or crayon. I like pencil as a medium because of the tonal qualities and density that can be achieved from a 6B pencil. I have been focussed on music and film icons at the moment as I have a close friendship with ex Dr Feelgood/Blockheads guitarist Wilko Johnson. I have produced a number of studies of him as I find his face beguiling. I was commissioned to produce his portrait after Wilko was diagnoised with terminal cancer. That was two years ago and he is just about to go on his Still Alive Tour. Possible Dorian Grey syndrome creeping in there.

Because of Feelgood originating from the Delta estuary area and myself living currently on the river, plus a rich cornucopia of musical talent available, I have been inspired to attempt to catch the energy and grit of the music through the drawings. Many of my paintings are rendered in black and white, or with dark greys and dark blues.

05. What about the different mediums and techniques that you use or employ?

I am not going to ramble on about the techniques of painting – I’d just like to say that I feel privileged to be able to make a living as a professional artist and I will always strive to paint with feeling, passion and honesty.

Throughout my career, I have worked on portraiture through the mediums of such varied drawing and painting techniques as ink, graphite, pastel, watercolour, conté crayon, finger painting. I simply build images by applying one careful stroke after another in multi-colours or grayscale pound shop painting by numbers style.

06. Do you use modern technology? If so how?

No! I try not to be a dinosaur but when it comes to drawing, I am a bit of a purist.

07. Have you met or worked with anyone interesting on your artistic journey?

I have had a varied career from design through advertising art director to artist and have met some intensely interesting people on my journey.

During the years I met an incredible amount of interesting people. Some who I could just about spend the day with, others who I would happily share a great deal of time. People like David Attenborough, Ian Dury, Wilko and Geldoff.

08. Anything that you really dislike, and why?

I had an early encounter with a Jackson Pollock painting: I went to the Sunderland Art Gallery and Museum with my Uncle Jack for the first time when I was 12. I saw this Jackson Pollock drip painting with aluminum paint, tar, gravel and all that stuff. I was absolutely outraged, disturbed. It was so far removed from what I thought art was. However, within 2 or 3 days, I was dripping paint all over my old paintings. In a way I’ve been chasing that experience ever since.

09. Tell us what you are up to at the moment, and where can we view your work?

At the moment I am busy producing a series of drawings with a fashion theme for an Ibiza one man show in July 2015. My work can be seen in London where I have a residency at The Sheaf in Borough Market, Southwark Street.

Other work can be viewed at Legends, The Railway Hotel and Chalkwell Park in Southend, Essex.

10. Your thoughts for the future and things that excite you beyond Art?

What will happen in the art world by 2050? I predict that all the smashed plates on Julian Schnabel’s paints will fall off on exactly the same day.

Seriously, I believe artists will be exploring and affecting all aspects of our daily environments in the most original ways possible. We are already seeing that artists today are moving beyond the four walls of established institutions and are directly engaging and inspiring a range of new audiences.

Inventive ways which will explore the effects of new technologies on art, art making and culture.

Yet despite the focus on new media we will never abandon our passionate commitment to painting and sculpture.

There is always something new in painting and sculpture. In a world changing at warp speed, we will see greater complexity in the types of work produced.

Art is going to reach so many more people and will not be perceived as something “exotic” or marginalized-but rather as a normal mode of existence along with other pursuits.

Art is constantly changing and evolving. Jackson Pollock’s seemingly spontaneity yet formalised abstraction changed art forever. Robert Rauschenberg moved us from Abstract Expressionism to Pop and then into new hybrid forms. Andy Warhol explored every medium of the day and completely transformed our perceptions of commercial imagery.

In the future the art world will be more liberated to make use of all the media around us – because artists have this passionate curiosity and ceaseless desire for new ideas. We are in the midst of seismic cultural change!

Contact: Jack Melville

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