In Conversation with: Jack Blackburn
BB in conversation with one of our artists, Jack Blackburn, who is continuing his work practice without the benefit of a formal art school education.
How would you describe your work practise?
I’ve dabbled in many types of art in my life but settled on being a no fucking around, stand in front of an easel, with a palette and a paintbrush, painter of people. I even wear a smock and a beret!
How did you get started and how did you learn the skills you have now?
It’s actually illegal for someone my age from my kind of background to talk about how they got started in art without saying the words “Punk Rock”. Painting portraits specifically, I learnt everything I know from a book called How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, from looking at paintings in books and in galleries, (I mean getting a real close look at them trying to work out how the fuck they painted the eye), and from trial and error. That is, from painting hundreds of paintings trying to learn how to do it.
It must have been a big moment to show your work publicly for the first time. Can you tell us where it was, describe what it was like for you?
I’m not sure. I did graffiti for a while I suppose that was public. I do remember I used to put up stuff in raves back in the early 90s. I would totally cover a railway arch with my work which at the time was these massive psychedelic paintings. During the day as we were setting up everyone would say “Wow they look great!” but then when night time came and the disco lights came on you couldn’t fucking see them at all because I wasn’t smart enough to use U.V. paint. It was hilarious.
How has your work developed over time?
When I was young everything I did was black and white; photocopy art I suppose you would call it. Then I painted huge colourful abstract paintings for years. What I do now, painting people, I’ve been at it for about twenty years, and in that time they have metamorphosed into heavier and uglier paintings. You know, in a good way!
Do you have any artists that have influenced your work?
There are so many artists that I look at, but not really on that level of what paint brushes they use, or how they under paint, or whatever. I read once that Otto Dix – who is a huge influence on me – would add lots of coats of varnish as he was painting, and I do that sometimes.
Have you ever regretted not having formal art training or considered the possibility of investigating the options?
No, not for a single moment. I’ve always enjoyed finding things out by myself and I was never going to thrive in a educational type environment. I never did get that C.S.E. in woodwork! I wouldn’t be painting what I am today if I hadn’t gone my own way, and I love what I’m painting today!
In terms of your journey so far what has been your most difficult experience?
The hardest thing is to keep going without any sort of recognition whatsoever. But you know, fuck it! The reward is in the work!
What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m painting a sort of bar scene with two coves who I want to look a bit like rich hipster pricks, but you know, fun guys as well!
You can see some of Jack’s work on Instagram