“Art has a tough time to make people stop and reflect, but that’s why I draw in a more realistic style for this subject matter, so people can read the image clearly even though the content is unnatural and surreal.” //Lee Boyd
Lee Boyd is an irish artist known for creating manimals, a combination of man and animal, a concept that mixes the traditional with modern views. Graduated from the University of Ulster specializing in ceramics, his background is varied as his artwork is, he even designed jewelry for a prestigious jewelry England. He was finalist in the contest “Wildlife Artist of the Year” 2008 organized by the BBC, has been highlighted several times on the platform of art “Saatchi Art” and appeared on “Show me the Monet”, a popular art program broadcast on BBC2 England, and he is also author of the artwork of british band Farriers. Lee remains active in supporting the local art scene as a curator with other artists in the art “Collective Firsty?” His work includes painting and sculpture, keeping as central worldview of primitive humans, creating scenes with a balance between the instinctive and rational. Boyd captures a sophisticated society which recognizes animal reality in grayscale images, using the technique of graphite. Boyd believes that no style or artistic movement has the whole truth, because the art itself is the truth itself. He bets on the only experimentation and risk, to creative freedom without labels, and that creative voice that seeks to get to reflection of the public through clear pictures that beyond surprising look for deepening into an introspective state, “what we need is far more basic from that of what we want.”
Here we have the interview with this talented artist, also you can find a gallery of his artwork and a video.
Jorge Campos: In order to start with this interview, we would like to understand the artist as a creator but also going beyond, inside the human being which is the root, tell us how your childhood was and how your family influenced your passion for arts.
Lee Boyd: I think everyone develops at different stages in life, not everyone is born to be one thing or follow one path. Experiences and life events mold us into who we are now. I was interested as every child is in drawing, I remember asking sometimes what can I draw and random objects around the house were offered up by my parents to keep me quiet. As I grew older I learned more by doing. I wasn’t a natural born talent, but confidence develops by achieving goals, I often failed. The decision to take art more seriously came when I was 17, I wasn’t really sure where my options and career lay. I was considering the Army, far removed from the world of art, but I asked myself what did I love and the answer came in art.
JC: Is there any other artist in your family?
LB: No, I ‘m the only artist in my family. This made it hard to find a reference and understanding of what I was doing. There’s a manimal picture called “Not quite the black sheep of the family” that is a self-portrait based around that feeling.
JC: Interesting! Did your family support your decision, I mean, was there any kind of barrier?
LB: Yes, I was very lucky in that respect, since I was happy. They didn’t try to push me into another direction. I’m sure my parents were puzzled at times, but I do have to thank them for letting me free to decide by myself.
JC: We want to know when this fascination for manimals started to be shown on your work, is there any specific influence?
LB: I was drawing Animals at Belfast zoo, as you walk down the hill. From the top of the zoo you can see like a viewing screen which separates the chimps from the public only from my position, you cannot tell who is viewing who two seconds. When I saw that view in Belfast Zoo, it stuck me. We are very seldom different from animals, we even describe one another in animalistic terms like “Lazy pig”, etc…
JC: When it comes about your portraits, are you talking about a new kind of mythological society? We can see this shape shifting creatures, are you humanizing animals or animalizing humans?
LB: I researched the idea and found most cultures have an animal-human crossover of sorts, such as ancient Greek and Roman gods came down to earth in animal form. I looked at it in more modern terms. I use the animal side to give a narrative and inside to the character and attitude of a personality. I try to make them as real and natural as possible, it’s not only about scale of animal meaning -if someone is small I use a small animal-, but more their attitude /personality. It is very subjective, it’s a personal comment sometimes that connects with the viewer. Many times it inspires conversation over what and who they are
JC: It’s like if you are showing us a SuperBeing living in peace, a good taste classy society, is that a kind of critic to our nowadays society
LB: We are a complex animals, seldom the same all the time, for example we are different when we are working to when we are relaxing with friends. Scenarios often dictate different responses, but that makes the subject for me all the more engaging. I try to reflect what I see, some of it positive, some questioning, the perceived notion of “bad”, the picture “For God sake, no means no” is an example of that: The god of Lust was Mars and his animal attribute was a pig, and the goddess of love was Venus her animal attribute was a swan; on looking at the picture the “male chauvinist Pig” is consistently harassing the Swan (Love). I’ve seen this happens many times, but the question is why does he do it? I’ve seen the swan changed her mind, so I ask people to reflect on it and what would they feel as either of these animals, the responses are as diverse as we are individuals.
JC: What is the revelation we can find out on your work?
LB: Not everyone is that interested in knowing the “why” I create the picture, but what it means to them. I feel though it does connect with people even if the reaction is negative. We live in a world of images being bombarded at people 24/7, so art has a tough time to make people stop and reflect, but that’s why I draw in a more realistic style for this subject matter, so people can read the image clearly even though the content is unnatural and surreal.
JC: Your draws are unquestionably exquisite, how many time do you spend creating a new painting? Tell us about your creative process.
LB: I work six to seven days a week, 12 plus hours a day, but I’m not working in the same sense of someone with an office job. I think Art is my vocation rather than job, and I live it. I cannot switch it off and so pictures take the time they need to be created. Sometimes I’m half way through a picture and I lose feeling for it, so I put it down and carry on with another, a month may pass and I start that picture from where I left it off and finish it in a day. Time is relative to what the picture needs rather than hours per unit production.
JC: Is it a lonely process or you like to spend time with people to visualize new portraits?
LB: I have a small note book which I note observations down, thoughts snippets of conversations, emoted responses to life, these often conjure up images I investigate and develop into pictures, for example I write one down: I observed eyes fixed in a distance but not seeing anything but memories, that takes me back to the place and the idea of what I thought about. When I saw an old lady drinking tea by herself that gave me an idea for another work which will, in time, become a manimal drawing.
JC: Very organic. What about your influences? Both, personally and artistically? Who are those that gave you the inspiration?
LB: Yes, I think I allow an idea to develop rather than have a stick process which I could feel it’s uninspiring after a time, the manimals are a small aspect of portraiture. Those who inspire me are those who don’t give up after failure or success that still push the boundaries of what can be, that’s in any field of life and work not just art.
JC: Do you have any artist in mind?
LB: My art book collection is like an iPod shuffle, there’s everything you could think of in it. I have never been a person to only like one flavor of music, Art, food, etc. A contemporary would be Pamela Wilson, Laurie Lipton, but equally I like Tracey Emins “Messy Bed”. I have quite punk like attitude and unconformity not to be obtuse, but I just don’t think one group, style or movement has all the answers. Every Picasso wasn’t a master piece and Da Vinci made mistakes, but I love both for their experimentation and voice of creating something unique and brave.
JC: I guess it gives you a wider horizon and a bigger room to create.
LB: Yes, which is important if you want creative freedom. Don’t box yourself up in rules of what is allowed, but I will be honest, I create a goal for a work understands its guidelines and deliver. Total chaos is not creative, it’s a basic balance of common sense and wonderment.
JC: I understand, but also understand that are your own guidelines, and not based on others types of arts, right?
LB: Certain techniques and processes for applying mediums can be learnt and developed from peers, but I don’t get too hung up on groups of arts working better than others. I understand through the wider audience likes to know where you stand as an artist the “Label”, so I sometimes put surrealist or pop surrealist, naturalist, realist, but mostly just call myself an artist.
JC: I like how that gives more freedom. Now, how important has been Saatchi Art to show your art work? And what can you tell us about the “Show me the Monet” experience?
LB: Both have been very valuable in the way I have connected with other Artists. Opportunities, advice and support have come out of those connections. Learning the business side of the Arts is important if you want to make a living from being an artist to sustain you to create art. The commercial aspect isn’t a negative to the creative process, however it can obscure if it became the central drive.
JC: And how do you separate both?
LB: Certainly the exposure on both of these platforms, TV and Online, have broadcasted who get to see the work and well, I’m now giving an interview to you were as ten years ago it wouldn’t have happened.
JC: Some artists think this can be exhausting… Others live for that part of the marketing, what is the trick to find that balance?
LB: Putting a commercial value on art is difficult, but over time you learn and you grow a base. I don’t create the works to sell, but I sell them when they are done. I want them to have and give enjoyment and challenge others. If I can sell works to make more I will rather than working in a job that takes me away from what I love to earn money for someone else. I did do this for about 15 years and out of the two I choose to sell my art to afford myself to create more art. Certainly some are better at marketing than others. The art work always is the truth though quality both sells and lasts so there is no quick fix: longevity and integrity always shine.
JC: Good! And my last question. What is Lee Boyd working on currently? What is your own vision about yourself?
LB: I have many more works on the manimal to create some more acerbic than others, but all I hope is to engage rather than shocking, the way on is to trust in what inspires me at present on the drawing board… Well, when it’s done you can see it on my Facebook page or website with a brief description. I follow that belief that I stay true to what I think, that inherent integrity behind my work pushes me to explore, and create, never worrying about failure as I know that will happen. All drawings don’t make it, that’s nature of creation.
JC: We’ll be looking forward to that!
LB: It’s been a pleasure chatting to you Jorge and thank you
JC: Thank you for the opportunity, it’s an honor to have you on “Vórtice”. Hopefully you can keep us updated on your newest projects, so our readers can have more information about it.