Australian artist Warren J Fox swapped London for Brighton and from his seaside studio he is now crafting images ranging in style from photorealistic pencil or ink illustrations to colourful graphic compositions like his new print ‘Freedom’. Warren was kind enough to put down his pencil for a few minutes to answer our probing questions about his life and work.
How would you describe your work?
I'd describe my art as idea driven. When a concept lands, it's hard not to sketch it out and craft it up. What I'm creating down in Brighton is different to London so location, I guess, has an influence. A single piece could be an exercise in refining skills with attention to detail through to one that becomes a part of a collection. I'm drawn to the freeing up my artistic style with colour but my graphic background, at the minute, is definitely playing a part in my art.
What was the thinking behind your new print ‘Freedom’ which depicts the ruins of Brighton's West Pier?
Past images illustrate the magic of this pier. I wasn't living here when it burnt down but the frame work is still standing strong. To me, it still has soul; free for local bird life to call it home; free for them to take flight, whenever they feel. The idea came to me early one morning when walking to the studio.
Where did you grow up? Were you a creative child?
I grew up in the South East suburbs of Melbourne, Australia and was always creative. With a longing for art classes in school, drawing with cousins, by myself, or illustrating for friends fed the creative fires.
Do you see any similarities between Melbourne and Brighton?
I lived by the bay in Melbourne when older, so the Brighton seaside vibe brings me home. There's a lot of art and creativity here, albeit a little cooler on the weather front.
What made you become an artist?
I wanted to be an artist after high school. Trying to be supportive, Dad said "No, you'll never make money from it" so I became a graphic designer/artist in advertising. The passion for it 'on hold' I guess but it was always burning in the background. 20 years on and the visions grow, not only for my collections, but bringing myself and others to their own artistic expressions.
Music appears to be a large influence in your art. What do you enjoy listening to?
The range is influenced by what I'm creating. Jazz for example brings Miles Davis and Coltrane to the forefront, yet lounge and chill out albums like Cafe Del Mar will have the focus when sketching out ideas and concepts. Going back to my Australian roots, INXS or AC/DC tracks, tend to get the creative juices pumping.
How long did your incredibly detailed portrait of Bob Marley take?
One week solid from laying down acrylic fluoro and metallic spray background to the black ink dots. The mix media spray background, allows less dots on the black ink front to build up tone. Other pieces have taken longer than this one. Plain black and white illustrations have a lot more depth, with an A3 size piece taking up to a month. It's never a linear process; walking away and coming back always brings a fresh eye. I'd be lying in saying a piece is finished. Even after signing it, I still want to add more.
Where did you train? What did training teach you and what do you wish it had taught you?
Copying refines and improves your eye, teaching you a lot. My Tertiary Graphic Art course had an Illustration component which taught me more than I imagined. It improved and refined my technique immensely. I wish it had taught me to push my own individual style more.
How did you get started? Copying drawings or photos I think was the catalyst.
Where and what is your studio? Currently in the Open Studios on the sea front. The space houses various artists working in different styles.
What would you say are the main themes you pursue? Heart based themes. Pursuing themes that I love. Any themes that resonate with me strongly have an impact to a degree. The more I follow in that realm, overshadows any art I think or feel would appeal to others.
Where do you find inspiration? Inspiration becomes richer when nothing seems to be happening. A passing comment or a vision could trigger more gold than any art book.
What are you currently working on? 4-5 other pieces within the theme of 'Freedom'. Also working on New York themed pieces. Love it there! A new dot rendering pointillism piece of Jay-Z has approval to proceed. It's illustrated based on photographer Martin Schoeller's portrait of him. Commissioned street art ideas are on the cards too.
What memorable responses have you had to your work? Wow! That would have to be the late iconic Jazz photographer Herman Leonard. I woke one morning with a thought to send him an original illustrations'. I didn't listen. A week later I woke with a louder thought to do it so I emailed him to say I was a big fan and that I was sending him one of my original illustrations. It was the Miles Davis piece with the depth of field capturing wrinkles in his hand and blurred out background. I received an email saying he loved it and that had never seen an illustrator capturing his work like that. He said he'd send out a gift. Soon after he sadly passed away. Upon this news I gave up as nothing arrived in the mail. A few months later I received a knock at the door, the Royal Mail man had a package with US stamps. My heart skipped a beat! Thinking it was signed book from him, you can imagine the elation when opening it I discovered a personally signed print from him. A print from the same image I illustrated. Titled and signed, "Miles Davis New York City, 1953 For Warren"! Copyright Herman Leonard. Probably the best response I've ever received and most magical response to my art.
What’s the biggest myth about artists? We're all tortured souls.
What is the greatest threat to art today? Dismissing it as child's play.
Do you suffer for your art? To a degree, yes. Having a talent or gift yet thinking you and your art are never good enough would be an underlying suffering.
Which artists do you most admire? Street artists - the ones that create mass pieces on the sides of buildings. Etam Cru. Aryz. Smug. Belin. New 2D graffiti artists with 3D results. Art for the world to see where buildings become canvasses.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing? Ummmmm. Wow, I'd have to say a musician. A saxophonist.
Describe an average day in the life of Warren J Fox... Not wanting to get out of bed would support that 'average' definition... On the upside a sleep in, get up, breakie, coffee, walk up to the studio and create. Back home, dinner and sketching then crafting ideas on the computer 'til the wee hours. Late nights and, if I'm awake, early hours are the best creative times