A chat with Mr Penfold
Strong smooth lines, bright colours, friendly faced characters and cartoon shapes are easily defining characters of Mr Penfold's work. The Cambridge born and raised artist had a chat to us recently about his cheerful characters and the evolution of his work. If you're like us and cant get enough of his stuff, you can expect him back in the country this May for a show in Brisbane.
First up, can you give us a brief rundown about how you got into the art scene?
I guess it started when I was working in a skate shop at age 15. I used to make my own stickers and go out putting them up around Cambridge. It was around that time that Myspace hit the UK. At first it was a wicked way of networking and talking to other artists around the world.
Tell us a bit about your piece, 'Masked Up And Ready'.
With this print I wanted to try and do something that used the full potential of the medium. I thought about doing a digital design for the print, but it all felt too mechanical, that's when I thought about the water colour paintings. I've always wanted to do a print of a water colour piece, but to screen print it it would be some serious layers or I would have to sacrifice the feel of the piece. I'm so happy with the outcome of this print, It looks and feels just like the original.
Where did the name Mr Penfold come from?
Penfold was a nickname growing up. When I started painting I went through loads of names, but I came back to Penfold as I liked the look of the word and the way it could be broken down into 2 words. The 'Mr' has kinda dropped off now. We used to have a crew called 'Darkside Farmers' and we all had names that sounded like real names. A few of the crew were writing old teachers names, that's where the 'Mr' came from.
You work across a bunch of mediums; walls, canvas, screen print, stickers. Do you have a preferable medium?
Not really, no. I enjoy the aesthetics of each medium for different reasons. I'm never trying to achieve the same thing. I do get tired of doing the same thing for long periods though. If I've been stuck in the studio painting for a few weeks I need to get out and paint something big and loose outside!
Your paintings are instantly recognisable by the trademark 'J' nose. How did that come about?
The shape of the nose has developed over the the last 4-5 years really. I used to draw old dudes that drank in the pub I was working in and one day I drew something similar to what you see now. I really got into drawing the shape, It's a hard shape to draw and I still struggle, I think that's why I still draw it so often. If it became easy I'd get board of it!
The characters you paint always seem bright and cheerful. Are they depictions of people you know?
Na, not any more. I've never been into narrative or story telling really. The characters have always been more of an abstract form to me.
I've noticed the evolution of your work is now incorporating more abstract pieces with shapes and isolated elements from your characters. How do you see your work evolving beyond this?
I don't really know to be honest! I'm really enjoying where my work's going. It's so nice to be able to paint something with no rules. The problem I got with the characters is the fact that there is a certain amount of rules, it has to have eyes, nose, mouth etc. The fun thing with the work I'm painting is that I get to make up the rules. It's all based around shapes that have come out of my characters, and I do still put faces into them, but it's a lot more free.
How did you enjoy your trip to Australia last year?
Yeah It was wicked! It was so nice to escape the English winter weather and get my sun on. The scene over in Sydney is awesome. Lots of people to paint with and lots of walls to paint on.
Favourite music to work to?
Anything that's not shit. I listen to all sorts, anything from D'n'B and HipHop to Jazz and folk music.
You're born and raised in Cambridge, UK. Can you tell us a bit about the local art scene?
It's a bit of a funny one here. There are a huge amount of very successful and talented artists living and working in Cambridge, but no one shows here. I guess it's because we are only 45mins from London. Hopefully things will change here. I've got some exciting plans for this city!
Who's work are you stoked on at the moment?
I've only just discovered this dude 'Erin Garcia.' His work is rad!
What's your opinion on collecting art?
For me it's a habit. I've always bought art. I grew up surrounded by art in my parents house so I can't live without it.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring artists?
Paint as much as you can and take risks. Practice is the key.
Is there anything you're currently working on or in the pipeline for 2014 that you can tell us about?
I've got a few things planned for next year. I've just started working on a group of paintings for a show in Brisbane in May. Looking forward to coming back over!
Check out more Mr Penfold here.