09 September, 2011
The artwork of Paul Hughes has been catching my eye for a while now. I first noticed it when it began appearing on posters for bands, events and festivals and then as it started popping up on jewellery. I’ve been following his work closely ever since and love seeing what new design or oddity he comes up with.
Based in Melbourne’s sprawling Eastern suburbia, Paul Hughes creates Low Brow art with the support of his loving and extremely understanding wife and teenage daughter.
With an attraction to art practically from birth, Paul studied illustration and design in his twenties and has since developed his own unique brand of old school style from nothing but a paint brush, sweat and tears…and maybe a little acrylic paint.
Paul’s work features everything from hot rods and kustoms to tikis and wahines, rum-swilling monkey tattooists, shrunken heads and even the odd uncanny likeness of real people.
Paul has been involved in a number of shows both throughout Australia and overseas and has appeared in a number of magazine articles and features. His work can also be found on posters, CD covers, jewellery and clothing and is available from a number of fine establishments across the globe.
You can see Paul's art at Kustom Lane Gallery, Tiger Fish Gallery, Village Idiom, Sandra V Sassafras, Ballyhoo, The Katz Alley and Cruizin Surf Art.
I sat down with (ok, emailed) the man himself to gain an insight into his amazing talent, unique and distinctive style and his creative process.
Sheri Bomb: When did you become interested in art?
Paul Hughes: At a very early age, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. I always loved comics when I was a kid, maybe a little too much!
SB: When did you discover your talent?
PH: I really don’t consider it a talent; it’s just something I’ve always done. I used to draw cartoons for kids in primary school so that’s probably when others noticed.
SB: Do you have any professional art training or education? If so, what?
PH: When I was 24 I went to The Melbourne Institute of Art and Design and studied illustration, I learnt a lot about materials and mixing mediums and stuff about colour that I still use to this day.
SB: What was your first work of art?
PH: Probably the dive-bombers I used to draw in Sunday school, I can still remember having to sit outside until my Mum came to get me. The first piece that I sold was a Skeleton cow boy on a skeleton horse done in pen and ink, up until then I used to do everything for free.
SB: What inspires you or influences your work?
PH: I am inspired by other artists that have a good work ethic, the dudes that just don’t stop creating stuff. Also, the people that run galleries who aren’t afraid to show my kind of work. I’m definitely influenced by music, television and all the weirdness of 50’s 60’s and 70’s popular culture.
SB: What is your creative process?
PH: It usually starts with me doing a couple of thumb nail sketches (that’s just art talk for small drawings). I then select the appropriate music to drown out the hum of suburbia, then I draw the idea on the board or canvas that I’m going to work on usually erasing and redrawing bits that don’t quite work. Then comes the acrylic paint, I rarely use straight colours and tend to mix my own. This is an old school way of working and I know it’s slow but it’s the way I like to do it and it works for me.
SB: What’s integral to your work as an artist?
PH: I’d say the support of my wife and daughter; it’s not an easy way to make a living. Also the vibrancy of the whole Kustom Kulture/ Low Brow Art scene, without people digging this stuff my art wouldn’t exist.
SB: Has your artwork changed over time?
PH: Most certainly, I am constantly doing things that I have never done before. I like doing commissions for that reason, trying to turn someone else’s idea into a piece of art with my style stamped on it makes me challenge myself and change the way I do things.
SB: What art do you most identify with?
PH: Probably Low Brow, that was a name given to the art style that came out of California in the 90’s but it’s really just cartoon stuff that has been around since the 50’s. I have always loved cartooning and comic book art, it is what it is.
SB: What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
PH: Bouncing around a padded cell.
SB: What do you dislike about the art world?
PH: If we are talking about the mainstream art world then I dislike everything about it. I’ve been there and it’s not a pretty place! On the other hand the alternative Kustom Low Brow World is a different thing altogether, the only thing wrong with it is the scale of it. There aren’t enough courageous gallery owners out there prepared to give us a go.
SB: What is your dream project?
PH: Getting a bigger studio, and travelling to overseas shows rather than just sending my work over.
SB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
PH: Do what your good at!
Some great advice there! Paul paints all of my favourite things and his talent is amazing. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive in contacting him to do the feature, a combination of feeling a little ‘star-struck’ and also knowing how valuable the time and skills of such an amazing artist would be. Luckily for me Paul was extremely friendly and allowed me to get a great insight into the workings of his artistic mind – he’s also been kind enough to give a little something to you guys!
You can own your own little piece of Paul Hughes, with this Howdy Cowdy one-off kustom painting done especially for Sheri Bomb! Done with acrylic paint on an 8 x 10 “ box canvas, this special release was done specifically to give away to you guys and is complete with personalised Sheri Bomb belt buckle detail.
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