Leicester-based artist Tim Fowler is recognised for his strong use of colour and contemporary interpretations of famous faces and architectural landmarks.  His distinctive “urban expressionist” style combines bold brushstrokes with a vivid and energetic palette, rendered in both fine and street art mediums.

Fowler is set to debut his newest series of portraits in a solo show ‘In Good Company’ (Darren Baker Gallery, 12–19 May 2017), which will feature icons of the silver screen imbued with a touch of the contemporary, ‘Tim Fowler’ style. 

We sat down to catch up with the emerging artist about his latest body of work, and his aspirations for what we’re sure will be a bright future.  

What inspired you to move away from architectural subjects to portraiture?

My approach to architectural painting is very measured and revolves a lot around perspective and angles. I wanted to work looser and to try something completely different so I moved into portraiture, which opened up a whole new direction of development for me. 

That’s not to say I've given up on architectural subjects - I'm just taking a break!

What qualities do you look for when choosing a subject for a new portrait?

The majority of my subjects in this new series are silver screen actors and actresses. I really like the taking an old black and white image and using my colour schemes and contemporary approach to create contrast between the subject and final painting. 

They might be famous faces and superstars of their era, but to me they are just interesting faces. I am drawn to the powerful look in their eyes, the way they carry themselves, and the old-fashioned clothing and hairstyles. 

What inspires you to use such vivid and somewhat surreal colours? 

My colour palette is very recognisable and is one of the most important aspects of my practice. I am often asked what inspires it, but as yet I don’t have a concrete answer.  

For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to bright vivid colours, whether in clothing, toys or animals. I was especially obsessed with snakes and their intricate colours and patterns. Now I get colour inspiration from everywhere: be it fashion, interior design, advertising, cartoons, or nature. 

Do you plan the palette of each painting beforehand, or does it evolve during the creation process?

For me, it can take seeing one potential colour in a new subject to develop a whole palette for a painting. Each colour leads to another, and then it becomes a case of careful juxtaposition and balance within the painting. 

When I mix my acrylics I keep them in jars to prevent them from drying out. This means that as I work on a number of paintings concurrently, you can spot the same colours appearing throughout a series of works. In some cases, the subject of the painting will lead the direction of the palette also. 

What is your favourite work of art you've made to date and why?

My favourite has to be my painting of The Krays. I love the colour scheme I used: different pink tones for Reggie and greens for Ron. I think the violent nature of their reputation combined with these colours against the flat background worked out really well. 

It’s not often I paint two figures in one piece as well, so the composition was quite different from my usual portraits. 

If you could own one work of art by another artist, what would it be?

If I could own one painting by another artist it would be Picasso's ‘Weeping Woman’ [inset]. It was the first painting I really fell in love with - I had a poster of it on my bedroom wall as a teenager. I was fascinated by the use of colour and it's crude almost childlike execution. 

What are your ambitions for the future? 

In the future I want to get to a point where I'm curating my own photo-shoots to source material for paintings; hiring models, setting up scenes and using props...

At the moment I mainly paint headshots, but I want to start experimenting with more narrative in a piece. I have also started to use oils in my work and want to explore them more. 

I have a lot of ideas and different directions I want to take my work in, but I don't want to rush into anything. There are still a lot of areas left to explore and develop in my current practice, and I also plan to revise architecture soon. ■

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