“The minute I finish a painting I'm already thinking of the next one”
Will Blood has long been popular and highly collected as a contemporary artist and It's easy to see why, his stylised, instantly recognisable depictions of cartoon characters play with nostalgia and the immediacy of pop-art in a way that feels fresh and impactful on every viewing.
Over years of creating he's developed his style from black-and-white work to resin sculptures and the brightly coloured iconography that he's best known for today. He's constantly creating, upon arriving to his studio we found him in the process of finishing off a series of 14 originals he'd spent the last few weeks completing.
Helm gallery's Will managed to grab him during some of his very limited free time to discuss his background, techniques, and view some of the most striking artwork you'll find in Brighton.
W: How did you start?
WB: I started drawing t-shirts and music packaging – vinyl, CD's whatever for bands, different ways of drawing skulls and snakes... all the same cliché shit! So yeah that became a job I could do while I was touring, you know sort of as a sideline to being in a band and stuff. People started paying me and that developed organically, I slowly realised I just didn't like being in bands anymore. It's a tough slog man.
W: What made you choose art over music?
WB: I enjoyed the 'doing', I enjoyed recording, going into the studio and all the creative aspects of going into the studio I just didn't enjoy the touring and compromising with the other people in the band... Because I thought I was right! You have just gotta call it one day.
W: Pretty much all of your work features classic cartoons, what made you choose the characters that you depict?
WB: I guess I enjoy the contrast of the two aspects of my work you know, the bright, fun, smiling cartoons and the skeletal anatomy underneath. With regards to characters I like the older characters – Felix the cat, Garfield. Having sort of studied them and seeing how illustrators work and you start seeing the stylisation, the line-work, you really start to appreciate it.
I was a bit of an odd kid, I didn't really watch cartoons so maybe that's why I draw them now. They weren't really allowed in my house like The Simpsons for instance wasn't allowed... I used to read the Beano but yeah when I was a kid I didn't used to have an affinity with cartoons.
W: What made you choose the colours that you go with? You used to do black-and-white didn't you?
WB: Yeah everything was black and white for years and years, I never really knew what I was doing with it and I always knew where I stood with black and white I guess. I just started mucking about with colour one day, it was very organic there was no real reason other than I was drawn to these blues and pinks and then the hues off of that. I guess I think of them as opposites, I suppose that was the subconscious thought process behind that...
W: What's been your favourite project to date?
WB: I don't know.. With regards to work the minute I finish a painting I'm already thinking of the next one, the second it's done I'll have the canvas ready and have chosen the colour for the next painting.
There have been jobs I've done that are really fun though, I did one with Vans where I had to draw on shoes and I basically got paid to draw and drink beer all day! Other than that I did a solo show last year in London, hired the space myself, my girlfriend helped me out, it was two floors, downstairs I had all the paintings from my kids book, upstairs was a selection of my new work that I'd spent a few months doing, that was one of the moments that I felt most proud.
W: Do you still have any other creative pursuits?
WB: I had a bit of a mid-life crisis a few years ago and bought a cello... I'm writing music again at the moment for fun...
W: If you were gonna give any advice to any up and coming creatives what would it be?
WB: I don't think there's much of a secret other than don't stop, be prolific and try and enjoy it, try and enjoy every aspect. Just enjoy it and work hard. Without trying to be too cliché theres tricks of the trade that you learn along the way that you can do but primarily you've just gotta work your arse off! That and expect nothing for 10 years.
W: Are there any up and coming artists that you're really into?
WB: One of my favourite artists is a guy called James Jean... Who else do I like? Let me have a gander on my instagram... Michael Reeder, he's not a newcomer particularly but he's another artist that I buy a lot of work of. It's really cool, he does a lot of pieces with concrete.
W: What techniques do you use in your work?
WB: Poscas, I use these for my work, acrylic markers... Spray paint, Poscas, Molotow markers, bit of acrylic paint... 95% of my work follows the same procedure, which is something I think I'm gonna start changing up now that I've got these 14 pieces that I've been working on out of the way, gonna try and get a bit weirder!
W: You do a lot of resin work don't you?
WB: We've been buying the equipment as we go. Nat makes them in-house... They're a tough one as they're so time-consuming, we've only got a small pressure port, four or five at a time, if you get a batch go wrong it's a 24-hour cure time and it's fucking expensive I've ended up binning hundreds so It's not a great hit-rate!
We've working on two new lollies, remember those Mickey Mouse lollies? One like that with a kind of Mickey skull in it for a stick, that and a smiley one.
W: How would you describe your work to anyone not familiar with it?
WB: In a very simplistic way it's exposing the skeletal structures of cartoon characters in bright colours.
For me I've always thought there's more going on, not that i've always been able to vocalise it, exposing various childhood traumas. I wanna explore that more and get deeper down into those contrasts and ultimately what it means to be alive with all its glorious peaks and troughs. I guess my pieces play on that dichotomy between life and death and every aspect is contrasting to its previous layer. From the simple bold lines that catch your eye at first to the pointillist textures of bone, the sweet smiling nostalgia to the ever present promise of death.
Will Blood will be showing new work at our debut show 'Made you look' – Subscribe to our mailing list below for further details.