Discover more about a fascinating and courageous artist in our Q&A with Raphael Fox. Read of his passion and experimentations with printing, his affinity with Andy Warhol and his appearances in several documentaries.
What or who are the main inspirations behind your work? I love the aesthetics of the hand-drawn vs. the clarity of the digital. Mix media processes to interact with my environment. Core elements, stripping things back, the ultimate message is what guides me, ‘Practise Safe Design, Use a Concept’.
I am inspired by printouts left by both newbies and veterans at my print studio, Ink Spot Press. Where I print there’s of great artists, including Penelope Kenny, Bonnie & Clyde, Jane Fox & Rhys Whootton.
How do you approach the actual making of a piece? Usually from the end-point, I will usually have a message or at least a technique I want to try out. I always experimenting with something new, trying to push the realms of printing: printing onto wood, onto book pages, in gloss, in gold, on t-shirts in clubs.
I once made a print with my own blood “Life Tonic” just to see how it would work through the screen onto paper. I discovered blood on black was the best, as it’s subtle and shiny. The whole process was pretty disgusting, from extraction to mixing the blood with screen-medium; it had a consistency like jam and smelled vile.
What’s your medium? I love experimenting within the medium of silk screen, approaching it from all angles with a design eye and from the heart. I work with a broad range including photography styles, line drawings and typography. It’s a healthy combination of machine and hand.
What are you currently working on? I’m in the midst of a collaborative screenprinting project with Jay Stewart (Pink 100) which first aired at POP, London, during the 2day conference. We created pop art style portraits of gender fluid people who have appeared in the media. I am currently printing more images and pasting them in toilets and photographing them for inclusion in a book about Pussy Riot inspired creativity. Additionally I designed and printed some tasty gold on black cotton rag for the band the Dark Horses. I made the print to commemorate the release of their album Black Music.
I’ve printed a tasty batch of ‘Frisky in Blue’ prints, on white cotton rag 100 X 70 (out of 69). I’m enjoying more canvas based prints, experimenting with 100+ year old book pages, screenprints and then encasing them in resin.
Describe your work in 5 words. Dark. Queer. Creative. Heartfelt. Gold.
Describe an average day for you. There is no average day for me. Wake up. Drink tea. Make a long list. Prep screens. Print some ships and shapes. Clean out print drawer. Update website. Pop by StencilMoose (tshirt screenprinter) and prep images for live club printing. Prep all equipment. Take a sketch & play with it using my digital drawing pad. Enter friendly drawing competition. Answer emails. Press ups. Fall asleep to film about the deep blue sea.
Since taking part in My Transsexual Summer on Channel 4 I have been in the public eye for my transition, helping to promoting awareness. A lot of my time is taken up with appearances and helping others. I’m known for my art in some circles and for being trans in others.
Does the impact of the viewer influence your work and if so how? I like to make work which works on a visual and mental level. Bob Geldof recently bought ‘Celebrate Peasants’, which tickled me.
What led you to become an artist? Being a left-hander, I am strongly right-brained. Being creative does come easily for me but it was always a toss-up between art & words (I won the English & Art award for every year of my secondary education). It feels great to make money from what I love doing. After my MA in Sequential Design & Illustration, I felt that I needed to get my hands messy, so took Jane Sampson’s Silk screen course. We clicked and I immediately began investing my time and effort into learning from the masters. Screen printing is one of those things which totally clicked for me. I am completely passionate about everything to do with it.
What’s your strongest memory of your childhood? The sun and the sand. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years and I went to an American school and lived on a massive compound which I explored every inch of. Being transgendered and for other reasons, I don’t have the best memories of my childhood. I think that’s why I’ve chosen a profession where I get to have the innocence of exploration and ability to do things my way. That doesn’t mean I’m a control freak at all, it’s the opposite. I enjoy anti-regime since that was heavily enforced as a child.
What themes do you pursue? Animal imagery. Celebration of life. Commentary on society. Creation. Humour. Love.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist? I gutted fish & washed up in old town Hastings for £2 an hour, waitered for horrible low-budget weddings, worked at the British Consulate in business development in Seattle, did medical testing (which paid for my MA), worked for the Friday-Ad (using an ancient system), and was a food/music critic.
What memorable responses have you had to your work? Watching my prints sell out at the De La War gig for Unkle was really thrilling.
What makes you angry? Disrespect of others. Lack of common sense. Space invaders.When are you happiest? When I pause to breathe and really live in the present. With a belly full of gourmet grub and the time to draw.
What superpower would you have and why? The ability to fly/transport. I always wanted to (time) travel.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to and why. Andy Warhol. Gilbert & George. Stefan Sagmeister. They are all weirdos just like me. I connect with Warhol’s inherent shyness and contradictory wish to be in the public eye.
What’s your favourite or most inspirational place? Berlin always gets my juices going. My friend has a gallery there. I hear there’s an old hospital where you can rent out space to screenprint. It would be ace to do a project out there.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? Rolf Harris once told me to read and write a lot when I met him at a party when I was 17.
In another life (if you weren’t an artist) what would you be doing? I can’t imagine not being creative.... In another life I could be helping animals, growing fields and fields of hemp, a writer or perhaps a detective.