Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Artist of the Week

Neil 'Women158' Parkinson

What inspires art? What requires art? What drew me to the work of Neil 'Women158' Parkinson were the illustrations that he had created for the latest album by That Handsome Devil. There is nothing that says the liner notes of an album must be filled with art, especially art that relates to each song. However, Neil created a unique piece for each song and was able to capture the essence of an entire album after only hearing demo versions and receiving a few quotes. Neil's work, as with all of his work, captures a struggling innocence cloaked in images of the street and its rugged reality.

Neil, like a lot of young artists, perfected his style and his nickname on the streets but he has really taken to the galleries and clients and all that goes into being an artist. He is now commissioned to work on murals instead of running for authority. His ultimate goal in anything he does is to make you smile, and if that is the goal or inspiration of art then the results will be magical. Aside for painting and illustrating Neil is also working on a collection stories that will be turned into a hybrid collection of illustrations, stories and more.

Recently, Neil 'Women158' Parkinson was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Neil Parkinson (NP): My work is it's own beast really, I let my hand drive the beast from my mind and manifest itself in some inky character. My work varies from being just silly fun or a cute girl, to having a lot of passion and meaning behind it, drawn from an endless array of sources and inspiration, it's there if you want to find it. It's hard to describe your own work, and I never like to, I find it's best to approach it with neutral eyes and form your own opinions. I hope they make you laugh, smile, think or feel something. And I'd much rather hear your opinion on what I do, than mine.

OA: Where did the Women158 name come from, and what does it mean?
NP: That's a hell of a long story, lets just say after many years painting illegally, getting busted and changing names, I decided to go legal. I chose a name that wouldn't allow me to take it too seriously, thus women. 158 was a tribute to old New York writing your street number, and my family, 15 was my dads house and 8 my mums. I've heard many theories though and they're all much more interesting than the truth.

OA: You recently did a series of illustrations for the band That Handsome Devil. What were they like to work with? How long did you have to listen to the album before these images came to you? What was your process like?
NP: They are absolute stars; it was great to work with a band I had a great amount of respect and love for. Easy guys to work with, I was in touch with Godforbid occasionally checking in, he wasn't as crazy to work with as I expected, there where mentions of alien porn, but I think he must have been told to behave or something haha nice guy though. and Matt from traffic was a great guy to be dealing with, it all went smooth, and he was holding it down keeping everyone mellow and checking we where all good coming up to deadline. For the best part of the creative process I hadn't heard some of the songs, I was sent 6 tracks unmastered to start with, and had pretty much finished by the time I got the whole mastered album. Most of the project was just working with quotes Godforbid had sent from his iphone. I think it lead to some odd work. I think there are things I would have done different maybe better with more listening. When I listen now I get total different images to draw, but I guess that's the mark of a good band if they keep you thinking. And hopefully it won't be the last time we work together.

OA: In past interviews you have mentioned working on a collections of short stories. How is that coming along? Will this collection be more like a hybrid of illustrations and stories?
NP: Yeah man that's on the cards, I've done so much writing and the initial feedback has been great. The idea is to produce a great book you can pick up and read cover to cover, or pick up for one page. It will be a mix of just prose, illustrations, photos, short stories, comics, thoughts and a million other things, so it's gonna be some weird hybrid like you where saying, my test tube baby. I think it has potential to be something a bit special. But it will probably be a long haul to try get it published. I was going to go diy with it, but it's taken so much time and emotional drive, it would be good to see if I can get a publisher behind it and get into the wider world.

OA: Given your history in graffiti and now your experience as an illustrator, do you feel that graffiti loses some of its meaning when it is taken from the streets and moved into the galleries?
NP: I have no problem with the gallery scene and I'd be a hypocrite if I said otherwise. I feel a writer should have paid his dues and done his time getting his name up and his skills on level. It's vital for graffiti to have the street element, but I think in the same respect it's god it has the gallery option now. The illegal or street side to it gives graf it's integrity and soul, and the new gallery route and legal side kinda shows people it's not all gangs and turf, people still think that man, shocking I thought we where smarter now, but when you have the council standing up saying we're evil the general public will follow blindly, and that's why illegal or just street based graffiti is important, unadulterated media, I think people walking to work or on the bus seeing a big piece that's just appeared jolts them back to the real world, where life is full of possibility and beauty. I don't mind graffiti in a gallery, what I have a problem with is galleries and advertising companies who hire fools who pretend they're a writer but have made a few poxy stencils for their university course prior.

OA: What's next for Neil 'Women158' Parkinson?
NP: Work more on the book, seek more work, paint more walls, paint more canvas, draw more, keep creating relentlessly, whether I'm paid to or not. I never know what's next and that's the excitement, but I look forward to it coming along. Keep flying the flag for peace, love, unity and positivity the 4 zebra men of the utopian society.

Bonus Questions:
Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in your area?
NP: I love coffee; it's as essential as blood and oxygen to my day. There isn't many great coffee spots in Leeds it's all massive chains, it's lost a lot of soul. My favourite coffee right now is Guatemala elephant, got a bit of a honey and chocolate taste to it. Can't be beat right now. I shouldn't be so positive about coffee.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy, and who are a few of your favourites?
NP: I listen to all sorts' man, my taste is so diverse, if something's good, it's got to be acknowledged as good, despite genre. Must say I love my ska and reggae. Favourite bands are hard to define, depends what mood I'm in, and I love different bands in different ways. A constant has always been Sublime though, I can walk through town smiling if I've got that bubbling in my headphones.

For more information on Neil Parkinson please visit his website.

1 comment:

monkeyboxing said...

Damn! You got there before the monkey. Neil's stuff is dope. Wanna swap links? You're in mine already.