Paul Curtis Liverpool artist, the name that has been on people’s lips since the huge success of the fast becoming iconic “For all Liverpool’s Liver Birds” inventive street art located on Jamaica Street. A man of many talents not just murals, Paul’s CV is a force to be reckoned with in the artistic game. We caught up with this talented creative man, who we like to class as our very own scouse “Banksy” and discussed how it all began, what inspired his masterpieces and what to expect for 2018.
How it first started out and how the love of art began
I only recently became a professional artist and in some ways it was an accident. I am actually a geologist. I spent 15 years (11 years in Aberdeen and 4 in London) in the North Sea oil and gas industry before the major oil crash in 2014. Despite going into geology, I was always interested in art. I knew I was okay at painting and sketching and did it to GCSE level at school. I wanted to keep doing it, but 1990’s career advice pretty much said the are no jobs for artists so I went down the science route.
After the oil crash, I was made redundant, so I spent a year travelling in the hope that there would be a recovery during that time, but there wasn’t. I moved back to Liverpool but I found it difficult to get any work (geologists aren’t sort after here and a lot of people are not sure what it is we actually do). My sister (who was expecting) knew I was twiddling my thumbs but she also knew I was half decent at drawing. She asked me to paint the baby’s nursery. It was my very first mural – I did a Bambi design. After sharing a few photos, people were suggesting I should do it as a job. I didn’t know how to go about that, so to begin with, I did a couple of murals in my flat so as to have at least a skeleton portfolio.
Last summer I was thinking I might be fooling myself. I decided that I would do one mural that may get my work known and lead to work. I also thought I want to do something that is part of the city, so that if I did pack it all in, at least I could point to something and say “I did that.” “For all Liverpool’s Liver Birds” was really the last throw of the dice to be honest.
Inspiration behind “For All Liverpool’s Liver Birds”
“For All Liverpool’s Liver Birds” as mentioned above, was make or break for me. Initially I was going to paint a woman’s face on a different wall in the Baltic. I asked for permission from the council, but every wall I wanted was either restricted or due demolition. I then went along the businesses on Jamaica Street asking if I could paint on their walls. A lot of owners didn’t want me to, but Deelyn (of Deelyn Jewellery) not only said yes, but was very positive about it. The wall was perfect, but there is the threat that it may come down. Given the uncertainty and the fact that the original face mural could take a week, I decided to do something that was much simpler. I knew if I did something interactive that it would be more effective in advertising my work. The wings idea is not original (that said, nor is painting a face!), I am sure they’ve been painted for 100s if not 1000s of years. I knew if I did just white angel wings, it would not be very original. I was thinking of how to make it more original and how to link it to the city. I quickly dismissed the red and blue idea! I live in the shadow of the Liver Building, and it was during a jog down the Pier Head that the obvious idea hit me! I expected it to gain interest slowly, but within 2 days it had gone crazy and was even in the national press (Independent and Guardian). I don’t think I was prepared! It was lovely though, people sent me their photos and were full of encouragement. I decided to remain an artist!
Inspiration behind “Evolution of Man”
“Evolution of Man” was the next mural I did following the wings. Liverpool Life Science UTC called me and they wanted something scientific but a little interactive. I put together a few ideas but the EoM is the one they liked. The idea is that the stages of the evolution links are evolving as they head towards the door of the college, with the UTC student themselves ahead of them (continuing to evolve). Geology involves a lot of evolutionary studies, so maybe that come out in my subconscious!
Inspiration of “The Baltic Market Beatles”
“The Baltic Market Beatles” at the Baltic Market took along time to agree upon. Initially, the lads from Independent Liverpool said they wanted just something colourful. We went through several designs (and changes of walls), and it was only late in the process that they mentioned the Beatles. The image is obviously based on The Yellow Submarine film, but we went with the Sergeant Pepper’s uniforms as it was the 50th anniversary of the album. Its bold and colourful, so I hope it ticked the project objective!
Inspiration of “City of Colour”
“The Liverpool Landmarks Mural” (actually called City of Colour) was commissioned by Liverpool Shopping Park. The aim was to cover a large section of hoarding with something other than generic vinyls. It is huge, 40 metres long! The outline was simple, fill the space with something colourful that includes links to Liverpool and Edge Lane. I only had a few days to design it and given that the space was long and thin, the waterfront sprung to mind. I quickly realised that the scale wouldn’t work, but I kept the idea of doing the landmarks. I chose a mix of old and new buildings and interlocked them together. As well as some obvious choices I chose some that I personally like (such as the One Stop Shop Building on Dale Street). We have such beautiful architecture here and I think some gems go unnoticed because we are spoilt. The first panels are the nod to Edge Lane; the Rocket Train (the only non building on it), the Botanical Gardens glass house (the only building that no longer exists – I did this as a Meccano model (another Edge Lane link)) and the Littlewoods Building. The rest are various buildings around Liverpool (mostly central). I kept 5 main colours in mind for the buildings. They are all bright (most buildings are grey and white so would not fit the brief) and colourful and I hope it brightens up the car park. My only disappointment is that the hoarding will be pulled down in about a year. I hope they save the paintings in some way, but who knows.
Other talents behind Paul Curtis
My main business is now the murals, be it external or internal, business or domestic. I would say its now 80-90% of my work. I also take on commissions to do canvas and sketches (mainly portraits or pets).
I create my own artwork which I sell. I am very influenced by the 1930s and 1940s when left to create my own pieces, a little bit Jack Vettriano I suppose.
I have just started to sell prints of my work – this is something I have neglected a bit up to now, but I am seeing there is a bit of demand for it.
In addition to my artwork, I offer design services for branding and advertising media etc and also website building. This was once a larger part of my work, but I seem to do less of it now that the art commissions keep coming in!
What we can expect for 2018?
There are a few irons in the fire, I can’t go into specifics as it ruins the surprise! but I expect to be doing more work with Everton FC and I have plans for a large piece in Dingle coming up. There are plenty of smaller less public works coming up too. I am also planning to be more active in my own work. I have never done an art fair, so I will be looking to get organised to do them and see if it is a good idea.
Right now I am rebuilding my website. I have a clearer idea of what route I am taking now, so I need to reflect this.
I also have a mural design that I want to paint off my own back, but I need to find the right wall. I would love to hear if anyone around Bold Street would be happy for me to paint it there (externally).
Visit Paul’s website www.paulcurtisartwork.com to view his work.