SNUB23 is an ultra-dexterous artist based in the heart of the United Kingdom. He is peerless, prolific and pushes the boundaries of his work constantly. Our paths crossed, almost fifteen years ago over our passion for vinyl stickers, and all things related to graphic art and graffiti. He has been on a visual assault ever since; Leaving painted walls, buses, canvas and ocean liners in his wake. His newest polyhedron paintings grabbed my attention immediately. I was grateful to catch up with him after he got back from a huge project in China called HKwalls.
Pete: Your latest sketches of human and animal figures are amazing; there is a candid and gritty realness to them. It’s a great contrast to the bright, bold, and graphic cleanness of most of the other characters in your work. Is capturing that human element a natural talent or is that something you’ve progressed to?
SNUB23: Thank you very much, I’m enjoying working with a pencil at the moment. Mostly in the evening when I try and calm my head from the day. It was actually triggered a few years ago when I started to turn my ‘robot’ character sketches into something more 3D and realistic. This started by building the head over a human skull, then modifying the shape. Some of these sketches ended up being painted on walls.
Then my sketches went off on tangents, from animals to humans, with looks or emotions that fit the same SNUB aesthetic. Defined angles and vivid poses.
I’m a very visual person, I watch human behavior and feed my eyes with images daily. If you sketch you gain more confidence plus it adds to muscle memory for when you pick up a spray can.
You have great insight of color relationships, with a graphic “attention grabbing” style that I imagine is in high demand. Have you been able to keep the balance between commercial and independent work lately?
I come from a graphics background, catching the eye is vital. I get physical pleasure from seeing certain colours clash or harmonize. My recent work with isometric patterns has brought about some commercial work but more recently my work in China has given me a chance to mix commercial work with my independent ideas. But between these trips I’m working on a body of work for upcoming solo exhibitions.
I always wonder what the future of technology could mean for the subversion of advertisements. I look at digital billboards now and think, “How do I get in there and change that message?” Are you seeing digital billboards like that in Europe yet? Also, are the eyes in the sky multiplying, or is it just me?
We have those here too and yes I’ve already had imaginations of being able to hack into it. In the future it will be multiplied tenfold and more, visual noise levels everywhere are rising, the chaos of some city streets feels like science fiction. In fact all the comics and movies I digested as a child featured this theme. It’s inevitable that people will be hacking these things in the future.
Are there any collaborations or festivals that are coming up for you? Will there be another Paint and Beer Festival?
We’re taking a break from putting on Paint & Beer this year as efforts are being directed into a new brewery being built on the new site in Amsterdam. I work with a micro-brewery called ‘Friekens Brouwerij’. There will be another but after ten years solid I think a year off is ok.
Other than that I’m working at a couple of festivals and painting at Upfest in Bristol, it’s Europe’s biggest paint jam, this summer. But my trips to China will be continuing so I haven’t really been making plans for other events.
Speaking of beer, you’ve been linked up with DarkStar Brewing Co. in Sussex, England. Can you tell us what fun projects you’ve done with them?
Yes DarkStar Brew Co are one of my sponsors, I’ve worked on many projects with them, recently they have been concentrating on establishing their pubs in Sussex.
I’ve designed beer kegs, delivery trucks, t-shirts, beer mats etc, And painted live at many of their events, I’ve painted the stage for the band the ‘Blockheads’ who played at the brewery. One of my favorite jobs was designing the livery for all the delivery vans, I still see them driving around Brighton.
Over time, an artist will find certain tools that just work better than others, I know you’ve used the same type of knife for many years now. Are there any other tools that are a must have above all else or any tricks you’ve learned while you work?
My tools and techniques have grown along with my style, they work together. Sometimes I discover a new tool or technique that changes my style or an idea for a style required a new tool.
My blade is very important to me, I know some artists prefer a thicker blade but I’ve learnt to use the flex of the Swann-Morton range to cut with. You can’t beat a sharp blade. I see a big part of my work as problem solving, producing artwork on a large scale or onto canvas is a process of translating an idea into a image. There are logistics to painting so big, as much as there are craft techniques used in all my work.
I cannot keep track of all the different and unique mediums you have used – fabricated steel over vinyl, circuit boards, an ocean liner! And of course canvas, bricks and concrete. Is there any work that stands out as your favorite or most fun to do?
I love working with metal but it’s not ideal as I can’t go as big as I’d like, although I may have a chance to work with a sculptor on some projects in the future.
I often find things on the street to paint on, an old discarded rusty sign hidden down some back alley, it’s like taking some of the street home to paint on. Each medium has it own pleasures. Stencils take more time preparing and cutting than than they actually take to paint. Where as painting a big wall is all action and movement, with minor preparation other than gather materials and planning a sketch. So it depends where I want to focus my time, each have benefits and rewards, I enjoy them all.
It is true I use many mediums, I really think it keeps my mind active and ideas fresh, I’m still learning new techniques and imagining new ideas.
The molded Mongrel masks look really cool, what is going on with those?
The masks are an ongoing project.
The idea of masks in general is one of dual personality and protection. SNUB Armour has always been part of work, I’ve armored a fighter pilot helmet before and with my drawings becoming more humanoid this seemed a natural step.
I have blanks still to work with and artists also lined up to customise some of them.
What sent you on this mathematical path with the isometric patterns and fractal-like layers?
My first ever stencils were cube based, there is something satisfying about the solidity. The SNUB cube is a known geometrical form.
This kind of stuff fascinates me, geometry appears in nature and we are part of that nature so I think were attracted to these shapes – I know I am. There is still plenty for me to explore. Layering patterns and optical illusions have been part of art throughout history and now in the digital age we are even more tuned into pushing visual boundaries. I am one of many artists working in this area, all of us going in different directions but I’m sure all inspired by the master (Escher to name but one). I like to think we’re continuing the work of those that explored this in the past.
Besides art, what are you excited about right now?
The project in China is still growing but plan to have a book published by the end of these visits. But even then I think I’ll still be going back, it’s a very exciting time in China right now.
The solo shows, one in Brighton and one in London with both be very different, one reflecting my travel and painting in China and the other focusing on subject. Plans are still in progress so I can’t say anymore just yet.
Life is very full, with never a dull day and I haven’t felt bored for a long time, there isn’t time. There’s just too much to look at and explore.