Mr Bartle uses collage – both paper and Photoshop – as an almost therapeutic process to put his thoughts down ‘on paper.’ Inspired by pop art and creating from a very early age, mr bartle has answered a few questions about his work and his life as an artist.
When did your interest in art or creating begin?
Since day one really, I remember drawing skeletons at primary school, making spacemen out of papier mache. I wanted a pet sparrow after having a dream about one – so I drew one. At that age I was really interested in robotics and anything space related: other worlds, bringing things to life. I think that theme has just continued. I like to create, to make worlds.
What is your starting point for each piece?
The starting point is whatever springs into my mind when I sit down to make a new piece. This is inevitably influenced by my mood; what’s been happening in my day; things that have been on my mind. So the starting point is usually a single photograph. This image will then spark a connection with another subject – I’ll get a feeling of what the next image should be. This may lead to one more image or while I’m searching through my image library something else may pop up. Once I have my canvas open in Photoshop with one or two connected images I may go off on a few different paths creating small clusters of images over the page or in separate documents that are then brought together or cut apart. I try and allow the process to be naturally evolving, not censoring thoughts, images, or trying to purposefully DO something with them. As the image comes together I may create something like a building out of sweets and car parts, so there is some control in what is happening, but that stage of the process is still open to change based on mood or a new avenue of thought. The endpoint of each piece just happens, it is out of my control, it’s like the pieces are half alive, they finish themselves when they’re ready. It’s like a realisation, like the pieces are saying “Right, now I’m finished, stop working on me.”
I started cutting out little bits of images very roughly maybe 6-8 years ago. The technique came about because of my frustrating with trying to emulate other image makers by very carefully joining images to try and make the end result a very realistic scene, or portrait, whatever the subject was. It just wasn’t quick enough for me, so I started chopping images up like this from scanned images, in Photoshop. The results soon became something that I liked, that suited the way I thought, joined images and ideas, rough round the edges, mistakes, accidents. Photographs for me are my raw material and I think that I paint with photographs, they’re not sacred, they can be cut up, used simply for their colour, their texture or allowed to remain whole.
Although my work naturally evolves there are definite themes that keep coming back, including Christian symbols, women, water, and buildings and structures.
Who or what influences your work?
Everything influences my work, it’s part of me and all my experiences, thoughts, everything I read, see, do, research, friends I talk to, dreams. Some other artists that have been a big part of my work include Warhol, Richard Hamilton – pop was an early favourite. The collage side of things came about originally by seeing a set of images that my dad’s friend did. When I was younger I made a lot of traditional collages with old magazines like the Sunday Times magazine. Other influences include Hockney, JG Ballard, Tom Waits, Burroughs, the beats, Bukowski, Daniel Johnston, David Lynch, Edward S Curtis, Dali, Kerouac, Jake and Dinos, Polly Morgan, Robert Crumb – the list goes on.
Depression, The Black Dog. Such a big problem in my life. It’s being following me round since I was about 12, and although I’ve got a better understanding of it now it’s a hard one to live with. There’s nothing heroic about depression, it’s not the wonderful thing that makes me an artist. Alcohol and drugs were something else that I’ve now beaten – they were a way of almost instantly changing my thoughts, of escaping. I found it generally better to ‘do what I was supposed to’ while dealing with these issues as a very personal and private problem. I managed to stop drinking about five years ago with thanks to friends and other means of support, along with smoking and drugs. That continues to be the best thing that I’ve ever done for myself.
What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?
That’s quite a difficult one, because it’s not my intention to tell the viewer anything. I don’t start off with an idea of what I’d like people to see, it’s more an almost therapeutic process for me, to get all this ‘stuff’ – these thoughts – out of my head. I’d hope that people would see my work and it would fire their imagination, start a conversation. I think they’re quite hard pieces to sum up in one viewing, and i think they need to be seen more than once. I would hope that people find them interesting and can make their own connections with the images.
What do you think about the term outsider art? Is there a term that you think works better?
Like all art classifications it’s useful in grouping together work with similar characteristics, but the term is defined differently in different places. If outsider art is art created by untrained artists, then that’s not me. If outsider art is only art created by people on the edge of society, then that’s not me. Why I feel comfortable with the term and am happy with it as a classification regardless of other people’s ideas of what it should mean, is that I ‘feel’ like an outsider. I’ve never known where I’m supposed to fit into everything. So much of it doesn’t make sense to me – the way I’d like to live, depression. The work I create is a reflection of this confusion. It’s not something that really matters to me anyway, I’ll do my work and if there’s different places for it to exist where like minded people would like to see it, then that’s just fine with me.
What are you working on at the moment?
A few pieces. I kind of stopped the large photo-montages for a while; I got a bit overwhelmed by the process – all those images – knowing that each time it would be a long and often difficult process, so I have half finished pieces that I am slowly looking at anew. I’ve printed one of my unfinished pieces called ‘Prison Sleep’ with holes in it; large open white spaces. I reached a point with the piece that I didn’t know what to do with it, it reached a kind of stalemate, so I broke it apart (in Photoshop) and had it printed with these big spaces in it. The work is now on the table downstairs and I’ve being drawing on top of it, adding diary entries, drawings, text.
I’ve also being making ‘real’ collages again using old french art magazines and material found in charity and junk shops. They’re progressing quite slowly. Sometimes I feel really inspired to work on them, a lot of the time I’d rather be in the Photoshop environment, where I find it quicker to get ideas and images together. I recently started a couple of pieces where I’m making machines and robots, I’d like to do some spaceships. Just sketches right now. I’ve started getting my images printed onto T-Shirts also. Back to Andy Warhol and mass production side of things, I like the idea of art permeating through everything and am planning some wallpaper pieces. I have plans to source different images from many different sources. I generally have quite a lot of things going on, which makes it easier to be inspired to get on with work if I can pick different pieces up depending on how I feel.
I’d like to make a living from my artwork full time and be represented by galleries here in the UK and abroad as part of a happy, connected and inspiring lifestyle.
For more information on Mr Bartle, you can:
- Visit his website (www.mrbartle.com)
- Follow him on Twitter (@mrbartleart)
- Like him on Facebook (/mrbartle)
- Or follow him on Instagram (/mrbartle)
2 thoughts on “The Art of Mr Bartle”
Another very interesting read! I can totally relate to the artist when he says ‘I feel like an outsider’ – I know exactly where they’re you’re coming from! Fascinated that the artist uses both ‘traditional’ mixed materials and digital media to create his artwork.