I have been lucky enough in my life to meet some great and wonderfully talented artists in my life, however; its not often that i get the chance to say i truly am blessed by their friendship. This is one of them connections. Keelan Ashton-Bell is a killer of the art scene, a truly freak show talent. His exhibition is this Saturday night and if you dont make it down, you will regret it for the rest of your life, srsly. I caught up with the mad man for a chat:
HST: Its known the Francis Bacon proffered the opposite side of the canvas to paint on. You often choose to work on board, what is it about that medium you like the most?
KAB: I guess it’s the way it sinks into the board, almost like layering it which you joust can’t get with canvas. I can actually achieve an oil paint look using acrylics if i want and without the time usually spent on oil painting.
I tried to paint on a canvas after using these board and just can’t do it anymore, it’s like i’ve forgotten how!
HST: Portrait work is, in my opinion, is some of the strongest in your body of works. Guide us through the creative process of Keelan Ashton Bell.
KAB: It’s been a longer time in the making to get where I have now. A lot of trialling styles, techniques that best suit my work. I always drew portraits but something was missing. So i try to make them just that little bit different. Hair plays a big part in my subject matter. I have almost an obsession with curls and beards haha, not almost i would say i do! i love drawing and painting loose curls and wavy wavy hair and having the option to play with it and create interest things. am not actually sure how i paint beards to be honest! one moment it doesn’t even look like hair then the next it’s a beard! i can’t explain it hahah. I’m trying to use all my own subject matter; photos and reference but you have to start somewhere and there are many brilliant photographers everywhere. i always ask first if I want to use there work as a base reference for my own. I don’t see it as simply copying but elaborating on something through your eyes as everyone sees things differently.
HST: I know you work a construction job also, is it difficult to find time between the passion of creating work and the bread making side of life?
KAB: Definitely, for starters i’m a night owl when it’s comes to painting and am up in the mornings for landscaping. So basically the week is divided into two. Weekends from say 10pm-6am are painting times and during the week early rising. Sleeping habits suffer a lot!
HST: And, as your body of work grows, are the two becoming intermingled? As in corporate work or advertisement?
KAB: Um… yes and no. I like to do what I think is cool but do consider what would appeal to others. I’m not trying to sell one idea if that’s what you mean. I want everyone to have their own damn opinions about my work and what it means. I always hated art theory classes and how there was only definite answers for why the artist did this and that, sure it could be true, but what if the artist did something just for the hell of it? because he felt like it! I don’t think it should be subjected to defined elements.
HST: Its not hard to see the hip-hop elements in your work, are you still into the Hip Hop scene as much as you would like to be?
KAB: There are certain things about hip-hop I love but it’s getting more defined these days. Artist like Techn9ne and Kriss Kalico, obviously Tupac and Ben Maclemore, artist that actually have something to say and that are experimenting with all types of aspects of music and you can feel the passion in their music really inspires me. I don’t like a lot of the shit that is going around, verbal diarrhea, fake gangster crap and constant talk about guns and killing. That doesn’t really appeal to me Don’t get me wrong I love a lot of types of music. I don’t think you should label people that listen certain types of music and associate it to stereotypes also personally I don’t think it’s possible to like only ONE type of music. I used to make beats and I loved doing it. A different creative process but these days there just isn’t enough time in the day
HST: Your brother Ben who is your partner in this gallery has just released “raised by raptors” – how has that been received on all levels?
KAB: Amazing. It’s his first attempt at a graphic novel and he’s smashing it! He’s doing it with the owner of ‘Drop Dead’ clothing in the UK and lead singer of the band ‘Bring me the Horizon’ and good friend Ollie Sykes. They put it on kickstarted and had to raise about 15,000 pounds I think, but the raised close to 60,000! so I think there onto something He is also really enjoying doing it which is important. He did tell me that he wishing he could just do that and nothing else. So we’ll see how it goes.
HST: Having a Ben as an older brother, did he inspire you growing up? Your styles are somewhat inspired by each other but certain techniques and the imagery is very personally individual. How important is it to be both inspired, but always individual?
KAB: Growing up I wanted to copy everything he did! I loved everything he did and I still do. He has been a huge influence on me. But i don’t want to be copying him. i’ve found my own style, with obvious influence from him but he has definitely helped me to get where I am today. The best thing he has fought my is that things don’t just come to you if you are just sitting round waiting for them and for handouts. You got to work for what you want. I thought I would just get illustrations commission straight out of study, but it took years for me to release that I had pull my finger out and work! He got a good mate of mine from tafe work, Sam Octigon who is an amazing artist, and in my head I thought you know why isn’t he giving me work? And one day it hit me. Ben knows me, he knows I’m lazy, and I was, he’s not going to give me a handout out of sympathy. He has earnt where he is, he has done the hard yards and he has a reputation to himself of a certain standard and quality. When i think back about it I sound like a spoiled brat haha but it made me work. I haven’t told him that So if you do read this Ben it’s not me whining about you and saying that your a horrible person hahah, i’m saying that you were the catylist in me changing my arrogant mindset.
HST: What would deem this gallery opening a “success” for you?
KAB: You know what, A good turn out, people seeing my art, talking about it and enjoying it. If I sell work that’s great, but i think that this just maybe the beginning.
HST: What projects have you on the run now?
KAB: It never stops! haha i will be getting my clothing range back up and running, ‘VYRESS apparel ‘ had to take a break from that but am very keen to get back into it. Commission to finish, to be honest i’m looking forward to having a day off and just relaxing and playing play station!!!
HST: Dude, as always, i wish you nothing but the greatest happiness and success, enjoy the ride my mate, ill be there drinking all the beer 😉