Artist Interview: Carl Beazley – Experimental Surrealist Portrait Painter

Carl Beazley Painting PortraitTell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
I’m Carl Beazley, a 26 year old from Reading, England and sometimes I like to mess about with oil paints in my garage.

How did you get started doing what you do?
I felt like I was treading water and not going anywhere. I was lazy and thought that things would change for me without me actually doing anything. I just had one of those moments where I thought I was wasting my life away and things had to change. I had a year when I started painting occasionally in my kitchen out of boredom and they seemed to come out okay so I thought why not try this properly? I cleared out the garage and a year later, I’m still doing it. It’s still very early days and I feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do but I think I’ve finally got the right attitude now.

What’s your inspiration?
I get inspiration from all sorts of places. I always get inspired by an original vision, something that surprises me. Film is a big influence for me. People get really confused when I say this and don’t understand how I can apply something like film or music to painting. I’m not sure how to explain it either, other than when I watch or hear something brilliant and original, it can instantly give me ideas and it make me want to get creating straight away.
What is art to you?
For me art is all about creating a subconscious feeling or atmosphere. I’m not really looking to change peoples views or opinions with my art, I just want them to feel something . Life is complicated enough as it is and for me, art is an escape from the real world and the mundane aspects of day to day life. That’s just my personal opinion though. For others art might be making a political stance or a statement on society. I have mixed feelings about people like Banksy. On the one hand he’s very clever but it’s very throwaway. Almost like a one liner joke, you see it, you get the joke but that’s it. Whereas when I look at a Francis Bacon painting I feel something that I can’t quite describe, it does something to me subconsciously. When someone messes with my senses I get a hell of a lot more out of it than when someone challenges me intellectually. I want to mess with someone’s head not try and fill it with my personal views.
Carl Beazley Painting Portrait
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
On average it takes about two and a half weeks (around 25 – 40 hours depending how complex the piece is). I find I need to move on quite quickly because my attention span is relatively short and I get bored of things easily so I usually declare a painting finished when I’ve got sick of doing it. There’s always more you can do to a painting and some I look back on and I can spot obvious faults but you just have to stop at a certain point to protect your sanity. I got to keep telling myself that it’s not the little details that count but the overall effect.
How do you keep motivated?
It can be quite hard at times. Like anything, some days you won’t want to paint and sometimes you think your getting nowhere and want to give up completely. There’s always a certain amount of discipline needed to keep going. Most of the time I enjoy painting but I’d be lying if I said it’s always pleasurable, especially the days when nothing goes right and you feel like you’re going backwards. But when you finish a painting that you’re happy with and it generates a response from people, it gives you that extra buzz to keep going which can be quite addictive. I get a great amount of pleasure now from actually completing something because I spent so many years getting halfway through things and then giving up, due to either confidence issues or laziness (mostly the latter).
How have your surroundings influenced your work?
Since I cleared out the garage and have had my own space it’s been amazing the difference it makes. I can be quite a solitary person so I love having an area where I can get away and spend a bit of time with myself. I don’t think I’d work very well around other people. It’s better for me if I keep what I’m doing secret and then just put out the finished thing.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
Very selfishly, I just want to please myself. I want to be proud of what I’ve done. I’d love it if eventually, a small group of people thought that I’d created something worthwhile that inspired them. It would also be nice if someone that I admire were to see my work and be excited by it. I can imagine that would be incredibly rewarding, if someone who inspired you thought your work was great.
How have others reacted to your work?
Mostly really positive. Some of my friends were really surprised that I could paint. They had no idea. Recently though, I was at a party and a man approached me and shook my hand. I didn’t know who he was but he congratulated me on getting a painting into the Royal Academy of Arts and then told me that he really didn’t like my paintings. I like it whenpeople are honest though. My paintings are never going to be everyone’s cup of tea and if they were, I’d definitely feel I was going wrong somewhere, so in a strange way,a negative response like that can actually be quite nice to hear.
Carl Beazley Painting Portrait
What do you want others to take away from your work?
A feeling or an atmosphere, even if they’re not quite sure what it is. Just something. Even if they hated my work but it’s in their brain somewhere and a few weeks later they’re thinking about how much they hated it, I’ve done my job. My worst fear would be that it just washes over people and is forgot about instantly.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Be more confident. I have so many regrets when I was younger due to lack of confidence (I’m still actually wrestling with this to some degree!). Stop being lazy and do more.
Laziness is a killer. I knew that I was creative and capable of coming up with something original, the trouble was I thought I didn’t have to put any effort in, I thought that something would magically appear. I’ve learnt that people won’t know what’s in your head if you don’t show them. I always stupidly assumed people would know what I was thinking  and that I had these ideas in my head. But unless you put them into practice they’re absolutely worthless. I’m sure thousands of creative people have wasted brilliant ideas and selfishly took them to the grave.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I can’t remember any advice that anyone has given me personally but I have learnt a great deal from reading interviews with people I admire. Honest interviews. Ricky Gervais is great source of honest advice. “Remember don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Because no one gives a fuck.” It doesn’t quite have the same poetic ring to it as your average Oscar Wilde quote, but for me, it’s just as useful. He wrote a brilliant little article for Time magazine that I find myself revisiting quite often.Books have been a revelation for me actually. I was never a big reader before. I’m currently reading a book about the film director Robert Rodriguez. I’m not a huge fan of his films but his attitude is incredibly inspiring. He wrote a diary when making his first film El Mariachi and it covers the whole process from getting the idea, earning the money himself, writing the script and actually making the film. You soon realise no one knows what they’re doing starting out, but things can be learnt surprisingly quickly if you have creativity and drive. It’s probably the most inspiring thing I’ve ever read because it’s so simple and honest. It seems people will always try to over complicate things to scare you off from doing something by telling you that you can’t do it, either because: a.) They can’t do it themselves or b.) They can do it but want to feel special and don’t want anyone else to get in on the action. The truth is, if your passionate about something, you’d be surprised how easy it is to start actually doing it.
Carl Beazley Painting Portrait
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Yeah just do it……now! It’s never too late. It might take 5, 10, 20 years to get to where you want but you need to start. As long as you do something productive every day you’ll eventually get somewhere. I’m at the first year mark and all I’ve done is about 10 or so average paintings. But it’s 10 more paintings than I had last year and 10 more than I would have had if I had spent the last year sitting on my arse. The fact that I am writing this now, that someone might actually be interested in what I have to say, feels like progress to me.A bad idea that’s actually happened is better than the best idea in the world that’s just in your head because it exists. You learn by doing and subsequently, you learn by your mistakes. You need to get your bad ideas out of the way by actually going through the process of doing them. There’s no other way around it. I’ve found it’s important to ignore someone’s opinion if they aren’t doing anything productive themselves. If you tell someone “I want to make a film” they will instantly laugh at you and tell you you don’t have the skills ect. But skills can be picked up and learnt with determination whereas creativity can’t. I’d much rather watch a film that looks shoddy by a director with a vision rather than a slick looking production that has absolutely no creative substance. But until you put that film in front of them they’ll never believe you (and why should they) So many people say they’re going to do things but never put it into action so it’s only natural to be sceptical.
Also, you need to promote yourself and shove it in peoples faces. You have to be a bit pushy and show your art to as many people as possible. If you upload your work to the internet, people won’t see it unless you wave your arms about and point them in your direction. No one will just come to you, no matter how great your stuff is. There always has to be a certain amount of self promotion involved, even if you aren’t entirely comfortable with doing it.To be honest, I’m not in a great position to give advice on a career in business terms as I’m yet to sell a single painting. Luckily I have another job where I can earn my money and not worry about selling anything. If I were just relying on art as income I’d be fuckedand have to cater to what people would buy (which is probably pretty landscapes and pictures of animals) but then I wouldn’t be making art, I’d just be giving people something to fill a space on a wall.
Carl Beazley Painting Portrait
What are your thoughts on art school?
Well I’m completely self taught but I recently read an article about my work where the person really didn’t like the fact that I said I was completely self taught. I think she thought I was being arrogant when I said I taught myself and that I thought I was too good already to learn anything. But that’s really not it, I think she was missing the point. I just want to tell other people out there that it is possible to do things another way if art school isn’t an option. I am eager to learn. I just don’t want to learn the same way as everyone else. I want to learn by mistakes and pick and choose who to take advice from. With the internet you can learn what you like, from where you like. It’s amazing how many people will accuse you of being arrogant just because you’re trying to do something a different way to them.Sometimes I think some (not all) people who went to University thought all they had to do was turn up and you would become and successful. It’s not true. You need to turn up and working fucking hard. Otherwise someone who didn’t go to art school and works fucking hard will soon be doing what you wanted to do, and you’ll be moaning about it.
When I was at school it was all about going to University, and if you couldn’t go, they cast you aside and were not interested in your ambitions in the slightest. I think that needs to change. They tell you the advantages of going to Uni but not the advantages of skipping it (which there are plenty). It’s all very biassed and I wish they’d portray both side equally and leave it up to the individual to decide. There’s millions of creative people that can’t afford to go to art school and I just want these people to know that it is possible to do something.
The trouble is, University used to be for the top students but now it seems more like a business. If you can afford to go your in and if you cant afford it then bad luck. I’m not against university I just don’t like the fact that some people think you’re cheating the system and don’t deserve success if you didn’t go through that process. As with anything, Art school or University can be great for some people and useless for others. There’s no right or wrong way to do things, it’s a matter of personal choice. But schools shouldn’t push further education on students in the way they currently are, like it’s a gateway to instant success if you go and the doll queue if you don’t.
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I’d like to move away from painting at some point and pursue other creative outputs. The advantage of painting, photography ect. is that it is very instant. The brain will make up it’s mind what it thinks of it straight away. Film is more complex, people dedicate time to watching a film and you can change an audiences feeling and manipulate them better. I do love painting but it definitely does have it’s limits. I’ve only been painting a relatively short time though so I think I’m going to stick with it for a while before I jump ship, but I really can’t see myself dedicating my life solely to painting.

What’s your dream project?As you’ve probably guessed, I would love to make a film. But until I go out there and actually do it people wont take me seriously. In fact, people will probably be reading this right now and think I’m pretty deluded. But the thing is exactly that. I will just go out there and do it and work with what I’ve got whereas some people might wait until they’ve got the respect of other people to give them the go ahead. If I make a film by myself with limited resources and it turns out shit (which it probably will), then so be it. I want to die knowing that I gave everything I wanted to do a go, with what I had available to me at that time. That’s all I can ask of myself. I don’t want to be whinging that I was never given the opportunity. I want to be proud that I made an opportunity for myself that wasn’t initially there.

Carl Beazley Painting Portrait
What art supplies do you use?
I started by using really cheap oil paints that cost £2.99 for a box and painted on small canvases from a pound shop. Since I’ve started painting bigger I’ve upgraded to Windsor and Newton oil paints which are the cheapest good quality option. I recently had an audition for a BBC series where I was sat on a table with other amateur artists and a few of them were discussing what brushes they used. One of them said he has a brush that cost him £40 and it only lasts him a couple of paintings. I wasn’t sure if I should bring up the fact that mine cost £3 for a pack of 6 or not. Materials are the most unimportant part in my opinion. If you have something that can make a mark on something else, that’s good enough. I’ve seen some incredible things created using just a biro and a bit of paper. That’s the great thing about art, it costs basically nothing to do. If people say “Yeah, but I haven’t got the right equipment, I can’t afford it, I have no time ect.” it’s because they can’t be bothered to put the effort in. I used to make excuses like this all the time and it got me nowhere.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
Be less contrived. It seems like there is always a certain order to the art industry. But that’s just the way it is, the people at the top control it and everyone else follows. It’s a weird place. People will only be interested in your work if someone else is interested in it. It is cliquey and it is snobby but I’ve got tired of hearing all that. It is what it is.I’ve actually stopped entering competitions that are judged by art critics or artists. A pattern was starting to emerge. I find when a competition is judged by the general public or non art people,you get a much fairer and honest outcome. I’ve learnt if you have to pay a fee to enter a competition, it’s not worth entering. If your work is original, there will always be an audience for it, no matter how small that audience might be or how long it takes you to reach them. But the art industry will never change. It will always be a fickle place.
Any other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
There’s loads of great art out there. If people complain that there isn’t they’re not looking hard enough. I love discovering new artists. My favourite visual artist at the moment is Benjamin Garcia from Venezuela. A painting of his called “Flores” is one of my favourites pieces in recent years. Also Jeremy Geddes. He did a painting called “Cluster” which still blows me away. I do think some of the best contemporary art can be found in film though, and someone like Gasper Noe creates films that get to me in the same way that Francis Bacon does. I actually think the best piece of art I’ve seen this year is a film called “Enemy”by Denis Villeneuve. I couldn’t shake it for days.

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Want to find out more and watch the artist at work? Check out this short documentary on him!

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