The key is to always believe in yourself
14 September 2016
Following a successful first UK appearance in London last November, the 10th edition of Dublin’s Creative Festival OFFSET will be taking place in Sheffield on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 October 2016 at the Crucible Theatre. To celebrate this event, and the city’s fantastic creative start-ups, we will be hearing from Sheffield businesses.
Interview with Rob Lee, a Graphic Artist who specialises in large scale geometric murals and the distortion technique - Perspective Anamorphosis.
Rob is starting to leave his mark across the UK, having painted murals in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Sheffield. Originating from Sheffield, his technical style is bold, precise and colourful; taking influence from the urban landscape and the organic. A lot of his recent work utilises his anamorphic techniques to create immersive Optical Illusions that invite the viewer to interact in order to see the designs in their entirety.
I've always been a creative person. Discovering graphic design at an early age was the start of it all. I studied Graphic Arts and Design at Leeds Metropolitan University but it wasn't for a good number of years that I started on the path I am on now.
Having worked at The Showroom, Sheffield, as a Duty Manager for four years, I began to crave creativity. I had started creating small pop-art but wanted to test my designs on a larger canvas. I got into stencil art, which was like a gateway to the world of street art. A few other artists had painted pieces in The Showroom staff carpark so when I had the opportunity, I jumped at it, leading me to set up as an independent artist.
I’ve been working on my own for four years now, initially gaining commissions from word of mouth. It all began with someone asking me to do some painting in their garage, which then led to a commission at Fez club in Sheffield and it spiralled on from there.
Once I started to get more work, I realised I needed a studio which I rented from Creative Arts Development Space (CADS). Having this studio helped massively in developing my practices. I’ve been pretty lucky with my work so far as I’ve (almost) always had something in the pipeline and the projects have been quite varied. The work I’ve done has ranged from murals, optical illusions and installations to design for festivals.
I attended Upfest Street art festival in Bristol last year, and just recently I painted a wall in Digbeth, Birmingham for the City of Colour’s Street Art Festival (an urban arts company with a community interest mission to provide an accessible platform for artists of all levels and backgrounds to produce, exhibit and engage with the artistic community). It was a really great experience as I had a huge audience watching me whilst I was painting and I received lots of positive feedback as I was doing it. Other work has included numerous different office commissions, a mural for CADS and their club night venture The Night Kitchen as well as designing and painting the entrance to a department in Harrods (London). I also designed an Elephant for the Herd of Sheffield (the biggest public art event Sheffield has ever seen) and created the immersive optical illusion room for the Great Escape Sheffield.
My latest project has been my most important yet; a commission for the Year of the Making 2016, a festival which celebrates Sheffield’s past, present and future as a city of makers. I have created a large-scale mural to represent Sheffield’s industrial past, its present, and future and to act as a landmark for our city. I have used Sheffield’s train station code as the basis for my mural [SHF], choosing a green colour scheme to represent that we are The Outdoor City. And it's a graphical/typographical piece to celebrate the rich design culture we have here. I’ve loved working on this because it is in a prime spot for people driving into Sheffield on the A61. It’s the first thing you see as you enter Sheffield from that direction – acting as a “Welcome to Sheffield” sign.
I use social media to promote my work, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo. Instagram, in particular, has been useful as it has acted as an immediate way of displaying my work. Social media has opened up my world and I’ve discovered hundreds and hundreds of artists.
If I had any advice for people wanting to break out into the art world, I would say make sure you have something that you 100% believe in. I have a real passion for what I do and I’m a perfectionist which forces me to keep to a certain standard. I would also say: be prepared to work extremely hard and stay focused. I’m lucky that I have some amazing friends who have helped get me the odd commission here and there, but it's rarely that simple. Working for yourself can be very stressful as you seldom know when the next job is going to come through, but the key is to always believe in yourself and you’ll eventually get recognition. I have found Sheffield to be an amazing place to establish my career and I’m proud of being from this city. It is a creative city, full of musicians, artists and makers so if you have a creative idea, go with it!
If you feel you, your business or event could benefit from Rob’s work get in touch with him www.rob--lee.co.uk
If you would like to learn more about the advice and support available in Sheffield for creative start-ups and other services Business Sheffield can provide, please contact a member of the Business Gateway team on 0114 224 5000