Images from Lorraine Connor
Ask any artist what it is they crave most, and although some might whisper it quietly, most will likely pang for that elusive lucky break, the big hit; or both.
Paul Curtis experienced a mixture of the two when a piece of his street art went viral this summer.
“For all Liverpool’s Liver Birds” was painted on a Jamaica Street wall in just one day during August and the reaction and buzz it has generated since has opened doors and provided him with a platform to go on to enjoy further success.
“I got lucky. I did the wings and people seemed to love it. The exposure since has been massive.”
From the day the wings sprouted, it took less than a week for the number of likes on his Facebook page to rise from just a couple of hundred to more than a thousand, with that figure rising steadily.
“It was a day’s work and I did it for free, the publicity it has brought me has been worth so much more, I couldn’t have paid for advertising and got this much interest.
“I have more calls coming my way now, whereas in the past I was having to chase everything.”
Finding a wall suitable for street art is of upmost importance and a new project entitled “Art in the Baltic“ will provide anyone with an artistic flair with the public gallery to showcase their creativity, with its first instalment called “Skin of the City”.
Each piece of work will be exhibited for just six weeks, but the footfall of potential viewers will be hugely significant and there’s the added bonus of the artist owning the work once the project comes to an end.
Paul revealed that he could have done something that was less engaging than the wings and people wouldn’t have noticed it as much, but if that particular piece had been part of an exhibition, getting lots of publicity, then that would have obviously worked in his favour.
With famous works by Banksy that started life on walls within this city, being sold for millions of pounds recently, I was intrigued to know what a fellow street artist thought.
“Legally, I think the people who own the actual painting are the people who own the wall, although they don’t own the digital rights to the work itself” “But it’s a two way thing isn’t it? Because if they don’t let me paint on the wall, where else am I going to do it? In my house? You want your art to be seen and to get noticed”.
As a direct result of the success and publicity “the wings” achieved, Paul was offered a commission in the Baltic by Liverpool Life Sciences College. They wanted the piece to have a science background, but to be engaging. The result is the work entitled “The Evolution of Man” with the idea being that people can slot themselves in between the different stages of evolution.
With life having a peculiar habit of imitating art, Paul acknowledges that he is improving his craft and evolving as an artist with every mural that he creates.
“I can see the improvement in each one I’ve done and I am now working much faster.
“The wings were one of the least skilled pieces, in terms of technicality, because I was limited to just one day, but once I did the outline they were quite easy and being on a brick wall, gave them a more rough and ready look anyway.”
Since then, there have been further commissions, one of which was at the hugely successful Baltic Market: “they wanted something bright and colourful and following conversations back and forth we settled on the Yellow Submarine cartoon Beatles mural.”
Not one to sit back and merely lap up the plaudits, he continues to keep himself busy and the paint is barely dry on his most recent work; a 25 square metre commission by Seel Street entertainment nightspot Circo. The owner knew what he wanted and Paul was more than happy to oblige: “The face of a Victorian era Circus monkey, looking out so it catches the eye.”
The artwork certainly does that as it is painted on the corner of the building which made it very difficult to achieve such a balanced symmetry.
Another cliched question artists of any genre will be asked is “What’s the message?” With the wings, its evident there wasn’t one as such, although the often missed crown atop of the piece is a hidden message for us all to gaze and ponder.
Paul is often inundated with messages from those that have taken a selfie with the wings with many also saying that they have given them some sort of feeling of hope, which although not an intentional aspect of the mural, it is a pretty great result to get.