Art of Drive: Paul Hughes

A few questions with Melbourne based lowbrow artist Paul Hughes.

How would you describe your art?

I suppose the easiest way to describe my art is that it's kind of illustrative in a cartoony way. I like to tell a story with my paintings, like an old three panel comic strip only the first and third panel are missing and it's up to the viewer to make up their own beginning and end. My style fits nicely into the low brow, kustom kulture, tiki, surf & punk genres.. Go figure.

How & when did it all start for you?

I've been drawing from a very early age, it's always been a natural thing for me to do. By primary school I was drawing cartoons on request for the kids in my class and that went on right through high school where I basically did all of the art subjects on offer.

Who & what were your influences in the early days?

My early influences were definitely comics, in particular the comics that my grandparents would send me from England. Beano, Whizzer & Chips, Dandy, to name a few. Most of my mates were reading Super Man while I was reading Desperate Dan. By my teens I was collecting Mad magazine. I would re-read them and just marvel at the art work. This probably implanted the strip comic ideal that is in my work. These days I'm influenced by all the hard working artists that I meet both locally and internationally and all the people that buy our art and come out to see it.

How do you feel your art has changed and developed over your career?

A lot of my early stuff was pen and ink and really basic cartoon style. A big moment in my life as an artist came when I went to art school in my mid twenties as a part time adult student to study illustration and design. This switched me on to painting in acrylics the format that I still mainly use to this day. I can clearly see the changes in my work and I suppose that it's just developing and improving through just constantly doing it and trying new things and challenging my ability as an artist. I sometimes look at some of my old work and say out loud "What were you thinking man?!".

Do you ever use digital tools, or is it all good old fumes and brushes?

I like to say that I'm ‘old school’, but this could just be code for computer illiterate. I'm sure that I could do a lot of the logo and poster stuff in half the time if I knew how to use a computer, but I don't think it would be ‘me’. I rarely even do preliminary sketches, I usually draw on the surface that I'm going to paint on and start splashing on the paint and hopefully the image that I end up with is the one in my head.

Tell us about some of the more interesting commissions you have been asked to do.

The private commissions I do are usually paintings of custom cars or hot rods, but some of the more interesting ones are the designs that I have done for The Camperdown Cruise and The Bright R.I.O. festivals. Having to incorporate rockabilly, hot rods and local landmarks into the artwork was a challenge. I still get a buzz from seeing people walking around with my design on their shirt.

I would have to say though that designing the Tiki Mug for Kustom Lane gallery was not only interesting but an honor and a privilege. Barney could have chosen any number of more established and well known artists to do it. I have also done some designs for Marcus 'Tiki Beat' Thorn for a top secret hush hush project that he might have mentioned in this very magazine previously.

What's next for Paul Hughes art?

Thats a big one. I've just started experimenting with One Shot enamel paint and it’s opened up a whole new world of painting. I'm already getting commissions to paint on Guitars and drums and stuff so I guess the applications are endless. I will be taking part in some upcoming group shows at Kustom lane gallery and hawking my wares at a few kustom kulture events locally and hopefully abroad.

I've only been doing art full time for around seven years and I'm constantly learning and trying new things so who knows what the future holds.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 10.

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