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Meet the artist: Gavin Dobson

We explore how Gavin Dobson brings together his love of fine art with inspiration from comic books and superheroes to create his expressive, cheerful pieces...

Gavin Dobson is a contemporary fine artist specialising in painting and screenprinting - often combining the two to help communicate his chosen narrative. Using both vivid colours and expressive strokes, he creates engaging and lively screenprints which often depict colourful, hand-painted nostalgic images - iconic designs which are humorous ornamentation and invite an opening for conversation.

What is your first ‘art’ memory?

Drawing superheroes fighting each other; copying comic books or creating my own heroes.

Describe your art practice in five words

Colourful, simple, expressive, fluid, painterly.

How did you become an artist / where did you start your artistic training?

Studying Fine Art at Middlesex university was probably a no-brainer. I was technically very strong, and my main strength of figurative painting and illustration led me to work for many years as an illustrator.

Eventually I fell back in love with fine art, painting especially, which I now use for all my artwork whether it’s for my screenprints, card designs, illustrations or indeed large canvases – painting is always the basis.

What is the main inspiration for your work? Are there any artists, in particular, that influence you?

George Perez was my childhood art hero. An American comic book artist who can draw anything, from any angle, his storytelling ability is unrivalled. Best known for his work on Teen Titans, Wonder Woman and Crisis on Infinite Earths, without a doubt, George was my main influence as a teenager.

Once I got further into art, I fell in love with Jenny Saville, Manet, Monet, Lautrec... masters of painting and movement with light and textures.

I was lucky enough to visit Derek Jarman’s cottage and see his work studio untouched. I remember that it was a haunting experience; I was drawn especially to his experiences as a gay man. Jarman’s writing and film work are particularly strong but you can’t help but feel the anger in his paintings. Such talent.

How has your work changed over the years?

Over the years my artwork has definitely loosened up. I used to take pride in being very detailed and accurate with my artwork. More recently I have found (especially with interior designs) that the colour and gestures of a piece have become more important.

My screenprints now often depict colourful, nostalgic images; iconic designs which are humorous ornamentation and invite an opening for conversation.

How would you like people to interpret your work? What does your work say about you?

It depends on the piece really. A lot of my most known pieces are quite simple, self-evident images. A flamingo, a Fab ice lolly etc so I don’t really think deep thought is needed. Hopefully, they are appealing and cheer a room up!

With regards to my larger canvases, those are a lot more theoretical. I’m unsure what it says about myself - perhaps that we are made up of many layers and sometimes what seems quite apparent on the surface is not quite the whole truth.

Explain your process, from concept to finished piece

I am a keen doodler, and I find that my best ideas often spring to mind when I’m mid-run, or in a coffee shop. Once the idea is on the paper, even in this format, I will then just dive in and explore with a paintbrush. I like mistakes and most of my best pieces have actually come about from mistakes and embracing them!

Once a piece is finished, if it’s a screenprint, I will then scan and sometimes play around on Photoshop before splitting the channels to prepare the positives to handprint in the studio. It’s a long process of each layer being hand-designed, screens made and stencils washed through, then hand-pulled before the final pieces are signed and numbered.

Please describe your typical working day…

Normally, I am either screenprinting at a print club in East London or creating the next actual designs. If I have some spare time I like to go to my painting studio and work on some large scale canvas pieces.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us...

I’m currently writing a screenplay.
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