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Copyright is a stencil artist who came out of the streets of Bristol almost a decade ago. While he might not quite have the profile of that other Bristolian street artist, his pop-inspired portraits of good-looking girls are steadily gaining recognition both at home and abroad. He finds his inspiration in everything, from classical antiquity to Saturday morning cartoons, and fuses them together in incredibly delicate layered works. He took some time out of the studio to talk to us about his art and being on both sides of the gallery world.

Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hey, my name’s Copyright, I’m an artist from the UK. I lived in London for a long time where I painted a lot of stencils around. I now live in Bristol mostly doing gallery work in my studio. I guess you could say my work now is more urban contemporary, I still use elements of stencil work, but layered up with loads of brushwork, hand painted, and screen-printed parts.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I’ve always painted as long as I can remember, but it was in 2003 that I got really fixated on art and started painting with the name Copyright.

What’s your favourite medium to work with?

It’s almost impossible to pick one, I consider each medium and technique like a different tool in a toolbox, you often need a few to get a job done and you can’t say a screwdriver is better than a drill. Right now I’m just loving plain old acrylic paint. It works as a strong opaque layer, or you can mix it down to a washy finish, and I also use it for screenprinting. It gives prints a more paint like quality over ink.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Tough subject, I mean it’s everywhere…when the missus thinks I’m being lazy and watching cartoons and I try to tell her ‘I’m working, it’s inspiration’, it doesn’t always go down too well.

Over the past couple of year most of my paintings have been based on mythology, Greek mainly. Lately I’ve been looking at a lot of Shakespeare’s works and the paintings of the pre Raphaelites, fusing that old school stuff with a modern twist, tattoo iconography, graffiti tags, that type of shit.

What draws you to female portraiture?

When I started trying out ideas, before I was using the name Copyright, I was looking for subjects to paint, and as a young guy I decided I wanted to paint sexy women. But over time I began to realise the female form – and more importantly the facial expression – worked as a good storyteller, especially for the types of messages I wanted to paint: sorrow, loss, all the melancholy stuff, but wrapped up and disguised in a pretty face. It worked perfectly for making what on the surface looks like just a pretty picture but when you look into it you start to realise there’s other stuff going on. So over the years I’ve been able to develop stories and dialogues within the paintings, the mythology, and more recently the Shakespeare stuff, so the paintings have more depth.

Your work has a very pop feel to it, what draws you to that aesthetic?

When I started out making my first stencils, it wasn’t because it was popular or the ‘in’ thing to do, it was an easy and cheap way for me to make a clean print-like image. The quick repetitive nature of a stencil kinda gives that feel. I’ve always been into Pop art and comic book stuff, but was never able to create that look with a brush.

How did you make the transition into gallery spaces?

I was never one of these street kids who painted on the streets only then got discovered by a gallery. I started off painting on canvas, it was only when I ran out of stuff to paint on and I wanted my work to be seen, that I started putting it up on walls. I never studied art so I didn’t know how the whole gallery scene worked. After a while the galleries started approaching me for lil group shows, then eventually solo shows. I’m not getting any younger and I can’t be running around in the middle of the night all the time

How do you balance painting on the streets with your canvas work?

It used to be the case that one would influence the other, I’d do a nice wall and want to turn it into a canvas piece, or I’d paint a nice canvas and want to do a street version. Ironically, since I’ve been working as a full time artist I’ve got less and less time to do street work. But that suits me, I’m not getting any younger and I can’t be running around in the middle of the night all the time.

Do you prefer one practice to the other?

I used to get such a buzz from doing street work, something you could never get in a studio, but these days I do prefer working in the studio. It might take me several weeks to finish a painting, constantly building layers and textures, so you can watch a piece grow over time. I prefer to take my time and make something I’m proud of than be forced to rush. If I get a nice wall where I can take my time then that’s nice, but rushing pieces up quickly isn’t what my paintings are about anymore.

Can you tell us a bit about ZeroCool Gallery?

ZeroCool Gallery is something me and a couple of friends started a couple of years ago. It has no physical gallery space, just an office and a website, and we run pop up shows, mostly in London. We wanted to set something up to put on shows for our friends and artists that we really like and wanted to support, people that we thought weren’t getting the recognition they deserved. So actually we end up supporting a lot of Australian artists that are well known there, but not as known here. We represent Ben Frost, I just did a joint show with Numskull earlier this year, and we literally just put on a solo show for Meggs.  The other partner, Anthony, runs things at ZeroCool, I do all the creative stuff.

How do you find working within the art world?

Like any industry, it all depends with who you’re working with, there are a few sharks, there are a few dicks, but there’s some really nice guys who are really easy to work with and are really passionate about art.

It can be difficult, and it can be fickle, but mostly once you’ve worked out who the good guys are you, can just do your thing.

Can you walk us through a typical day for you?

– Wake up 8.30-9ish, turn on computer, check emails.
– Maybe go out for a swim.
– Tea.
– Answer emails.
– Spend a couple of hours painting.
– Lunch break, usually whatever I can find in the fridge stuffed in a pita, and a cup of tea. Watch 20 mins of shitty telly (Inspiration ;p).
– Pop out for supplies.
– Parcel stuff up that needs to be sent out and take to post office.
– More tea.
– Couple more hours painting or printing.
– Back on computer, check emails again.
– Work into the night on computer, ideas, designs, sketches. Or whatever project I’ve got on that requires computer work.
– Bed.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yeah, actually right now I’m concentrating on some new prints, they’re finished with gold and silver leaf so that’s gunna take up a couple of weeks.

Also talking about doing a lil show in Long Beach that might involve some laser etched work. I’ve done some laser skateboards before, but always intended to do some as prints or originals.

Been talking with Ben Frost for ages to get a lil joint show on together, hopefully early 2012.

Any final shout-outs?

Shouts to Ben Frost, Bev for the tea breaks, Meggs, Chrispoid and Gem.

See more of the man at cantcopyright.co.uk or zerocoolgallery.com