Archive for the Artist PRO.FILES Category

Artist PRO.FILES: Simon Birch

Posted in Artist PRO.FILES, Artwork with tags , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by bendey14

Now I’ve never met Simon personally, but instead stumbled across some of his work a while back.  More specifically; his work for the “This Brutal House” exhibit at the 10 Chancery Lane Gallery.  To say I was stunned would be an understatement, and after researching his story, everything became full-circle.  Homeless, drifter, starving, construction worker, cancer-survivor?  He is or has been all of those things, but when everything is said and done… he’s just an artist with a passion that never quits.  Simon was nice to take some time out of planning for his upcoming exhibitions and ongoing paintings to share some insight with The Vivid Underground.  The interview below.

Simon, tell us a little bit about yourself and how “it all began.”
“I live in Hong Kong, just turned 40, not much family but have Armenian heritage.
I was born in England, moved around a bit, ran away in the early 90’s after DJ-ing and promoting rave parties. Traveled round the world on a shoestring and came to Hong Kong in ’97 broke and homeless. Got a job in construction and was saving money to try to put myself through art school and somehow started selling work. Managed to quit my day job in 2001 and haven’t looked back.”

How did you first become an artist? Any reason why?
“I was born that way. I drew obsessively from an early age, just never had opportunity or encouragement and was always struggling to pay rent. But I’ve been making art my whole life.”
What do you consider your main source of inspiration?
“Everything. People, film, art, theatre, life, love, fear…… In my more conceptual work I think a lot about science fiction and monomyth, or hero myths, the idealism that gets corrupted by civilisation, about the dreams of individuals and the pushes and pulls of the rhythms of institutions. I think about spectacle and wonder, things like circus that are at once wonderful and dark.”
Now I read that you were diagnosed with a rare form of cancer recently. Can you tell us about it?
“It sucked. But I’m ok now.”
Does it play any role in your work?
“Only in the sense that being so close to death bought me a clarity and understanding, and awareness that I never had before. About what real fear is, about what death is. It freed me from a lot of insecurity and I’ve yet to fully understand the repurcussions in my work. I certainly work a lot harder and more intensely and am a lot more excited about the work.”

You’ve gained international recognition for your paintings, sculptures, film, and photography. Are there any other mediums you’d like to pursue?

“I just want to paint better and I’d like to do more film but it’s restricted by budget quite often. I’m tying to produce a hologram installation right now but it’s crazy money.”
Your painting technique is very distinct.  All though very detailed, your paintings exhibit a sense of “messiness”, what can you tell us about your unique style?
“Painting for me is very spontaneous and intuitive. I photograph the models and work from that, but the final result is nothing like the initial drawing or composition. I really kinda get lost in the process, sometimes they come out clean and other times blurred, sometimes more representational and other times completely abstract. I guess the thing that’s important for me is that I progress and change and experiment constantly. I love that painting is so direct, that it is what it is on the surface.”
Is there anything you’re trying to communicate to your audience?
“I’d never try to lead the audience. It’s my voice, that’s all I have. People have their own perspective and I kinda enjoy the varied interpretations.”
Any particular messages involved in your work?
“Passion and hard work.”
What’s next for Simon Birch? Are there any future projects you can share with us?
“I’m building an enourmous installation right now. It opens in April 2010. It’s a 20,000 square foot space in Hong Kong. It could be described as a conceptual circus. There’s about 10 films, a dozen huge sculptures, performance and installation. It’s vast and expensive and I’m funding it as we don’t have any supports for this kind of thing in HK. I got the venue for free from a big property firm called Swire. Louis Vuitton is lending some support too, as well as Diesel. Nothing like this has ever been done in HK, we don’t even have a contemporary art museum. So I’m building my own temporary one. It’s called Hope and Glory. I am working around the clock with architects, film crews, production people, it’s pretty insane, but a lot of fun.”

If you could change one thing about the world, what would you change and why?
“Reduce the population  to 1 billion. We ‘progressed’ too fast in the last 100 years, we should all slow down and be way more cautious and thoughtful about the way civilisation develops. The western industrialised model is just so flawed but you gotta have hope that we clever little monkeys will work it out. We haven’t blown ourselves up yet after all…..

A big thanks to Simon Birch for his time and insight.

Be sure to check out more of his work @

Simon Birch website

Monkey Modified (SB blog)

10 Chancery Lane Gallery


Artist PRO.FILES: Florian Nicolle

Posted in Artist PRO.FILES, Artwork, Graphic Design with tags , , , , , , , on December 29, 2009 by bendey14

Some of you may remember my post earlier this month about French artist/illustrator/graphic designer, Florian Nicolle, a.k.a “NEO.” Well, he’s back again and was nice enough to share some of his thoughts, creative vision, and what it’s like to be a 23-year-old graphic genius.  When I attempt to describe Neo’s work, it’s very difficult to do so with just words.  Beautifully raw?  Detailed destruction?  Spontaneous perfection?  I just can’t decide…but it’s safe to say, he’s making big things happen.

NOTE: For Neo, English is not his first language, therefore conducting an interview had it’s obstacles.  But instead of editing his responses, I’m choosing to let him speak to you how he would naturally… very similar to his artwork.  I’m not being lazy either, there’s just something beautiful I found from two creatives at different ends of the world sharing unrefined ideas.  No boundaries, spellcheck, or Americanization on this one folks.  This is Neo:

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself.
“Hello, my name is Florian Nicolle, aka Neo, French 23 year-old illustrator. I already have a diploma in Graphic Design, and infact, at a very tender age, at about 15 years old, I wanted to be in Graphic Design, that is why I have decided to move towards the field “arts appliqués” where I began to search my own style thanks to my teacher, specialised in sketch, who has greatly helped me on this, and some of my friends from whom I got inspired.”
What led you to become an artist / illustrator ?
“I am skilled in graphic design. There was a little section devoted to the illustration that I have worked a lot. Which finally took a big place in my work, including graphic design work. And now i do more illustration than graphic design work.
Of course I practice a lot sketching, more seriously since about 8 years.”
Are there any major differences or advantages that come with living in France compared to other parts of the world ?
“Hehe, I dunno, I have never lived in an other country…”
What inspires you and your artwork ?
“I am very grateful to my first art teacher who as been my greatest source of inspiration, which really helped me to move on with my work. In this way, I have been able to attain my own working, my own style. Of course I continue to watch a lot of work of famous or anonymous illustrators, with different styles.”
What do you hope your artwork does for people ?  Any particular message you’re trying to send to your audience ?
“I search to communicate through portraits the impression to be really watched by the drawn person and imagine his thoughts and his/her feeling. That’s why I work more the look.”
What can you tell us about your unique style ? Do your choices in mediums and colors play a specific role in your work ?
“I try to create an image that retains its freshness of the first paint stroke, the expressions of the line have to be very free and spontaneous. While keeping a rigorous drawing. So I use “fast techniques” like a big, large brush, watercolor and chines ink then I add texture on Ps [Photoshop].
I use much texture of text, because it add a presence of hand. I draw a picture as if I wrote a text, with the same tool, the same freedom, with erasures, lines, scribbles etc…What is written does not matter.”
What’s your favorite piece of your own art and why ?
“I think it is “eve” because it is the first piece where I added texts and some details very worked (eyes) in a sketch / illustration.”
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or future plans ?
“You will see hehe.”
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be ?
“Hehe, i dunno… fruits maybe.”
Thanks Neo!  If you’d like to check out more work by Florian Nicolle (Neo), you can find more at
Florian Nicolle Website
Behance Network
Deviant Art


Artist PRO.FILES: Zeph Farmby

Posted in Artist PRO.FILES, Artwork, Graphic Design, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by bendey14

Ladies and gentleman, it’s with great honor that I introduce to you all,  a personal friend, mentor, and fellow artist, Zeph Farmby.  Zeph is a Chicago-based artist/illustrator/designer/entrepreneur making waves throughout the Midwest with his artwork, who was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to give us an in-depth look into his creative process.  I first met Zeph in the summer of 2006 at an Art Hop in Kalamazoo, MI.  Shortly after meeting him, I got the chance to work with him on a mural project for the City of Kalamazoo.  Upon meeting and working with Zeph, I was struck by his vision.  His creative genius finds an application for everything; there’s nothing Zeph isn’t afraid to do.  And I feel like he’s only scratched the surface.

All great art comes from a source of inspiration. What do you consider to be your biggest source of inspiration?
“My inspirations come from lots of things…my surroundings, books, magazines, and other artists to name a few.”

As a kid, when did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?
“Well as a kid I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. All I knew was I enjoyed drawing. Back then I was heavily into comic books. At 12, I was introduced to Graffiti and that sparked the new interest in my life.”

You’re the creator of I Amaze Eyez. Tell us a little bit about what that is and how it got started.
“Yes in deed! The Creator/Founder of I-Amaze-Eyez. After graduating from college I began freelancing for a few small companies. After a few years, I partnered with one of my best friends to create a T-shirt line we named “Allister & Askew“. Allister & Askew grew over the next 3 years and we built a strong name throughout Chicago and the mid-west. Soon, I decided I wanted my own identity as a brand and company so I started “I-Amaze-Eyez” Studios. I Amaze Eyez, houses everything I do artistically (painting, graphic design, murals, apparel, etc).”

What do you hope your artwork does for people? Any particular message you’re trying send to your audience?
“I want to open the eyes and minds of the mass population so people can get a better understanding of all art forms. I also want to push the envelope with Graffiti to the forefront of popularity. My message is to stop following tradition and let loose! Let’s build on tradition and create new ones!!”

Now you grew up on the Southside of Chicago doing graffiti. Have your Chicago roots and/or graffiti background had any influence on your artwork?
“Yes, my upbringing has everything to do with my art. My older siblings were into Hip-Hop music and break dancing but not really graffiti. Graffiti was something that I chose to move toward.”

Any crazy stories from your graffiti days you can share with us?
“This story is from years ago. Me and my crew were waiting to catch the city bus outside of our high school. We were standing inside the Plexi glass bus booth when I happened to take notice that there weren’t any cops around.  Immediately, I pulled out my sand paper and etched (tagged) my name in the glass. It was huge! Back then I walked around with a book bag full of paints, markers, sand paper, and shoe polish just in case I wanted to bomb something. I finished my tag quick and my crew started to imitate me thinking they could do theirs just as fast. All of a sudden, the cops pulled up told them to “drop everything in your hands.” “We saw you just writing you name on the glass!” Of the 4 of us, 2 were busted for damaging public property. The police took them to the station for hours and both of their parents had to pick them up. My other friend and I didn’t even run, we just continued waiting for the bus. The other 2 didn’t snitch on me at all. Since they didn’t have anything to tag with on them, the police just took them to the station for questioning (I guess). They both called me later explaining what had happened. I still bring that up to them from time to time.”

Neighborhoods on Chicago ’s Southside have been getting a lot of media attention from the recent increase in youth violence. Is this something new to you? Has your artwork/success been affected by any of it?
“Chicago has always been a violent city but the media always makes more out of nothing. Even thought this isn’t new to me, the crime rate has risen in the last few years tremendously. This hasn’t affected my work or success but it does affect my family and friends causing them to not have as much freedom as I did growing up.”

You are known for your detailed paintings of hip hop artists and urban culture in general. You also regularly do graphic designs for clothing companies. Is there any other medium of artwork you’d someday like to explore?
“Most definitely! I’d like to explore more with sculptures. I tried it a couple times before and enjoyed it.. That’s one area I’d like to become more familiar with along with photography and tons of other things.”

I recently had the chance to check out your new website. Visitors can now regularly read your blog and twitter updates to stay updated with your current work and future projects. For an artist that likes to keep his plans “secret”, why the sudden change?
“Thanks for checking out the new and improved site!  Yes, visitors can get up to the minute details of my current work and projects. I’m still the artist who keeps his personal art plans a secret. I never liked sharing my ideas before I execute them b/c I think that will jinx my ideas. I wanted to change things up a bit and give my audience more of my personality and get to know me via my web site. I also wanted to share more of my freelance experiences with my audience.”

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or future plans?
“I can, but the real question is, “Will I?” Ah- ha! I’m only joking. My future plans will be filled with more art shows, a new and improved studio space and location, and more branding for I Amaze Eyez at minimum! I have a few upcoming art shows in Chicago and Milwaukee museums starting January 2010. I’ll have new limited edition prints available through my website as well.”

If you could go anywhere in the world and do anything, where would you go and what would you do?
“If I could travel anywhere in the world and do anything, I’d go to Copenhagen to connect with some of the Graff Artists there and be a part of the (huge) movement. I’d also travel to Paris to launch my career in fashion and establish myself as an artist there.”

Thanks Zeph!  Check out more of his work at I-Amaze-Eyez or follow him on twitter @ZephFarmby.


A Quick Glance @Florian Nicolle

Posted in Artist PRO.FILES, Artwork, Graphic Design with tags , , , , , , , on December 3, 2009 by bendey14

Call him Florian Nicolle.  The 22-year old graphic designer and illustrator from France.  Florian, or “Neo”, has an extensive portfolio that kept me entertained for hours.  His skateboard designs originally caught my attention, which led me to his website and some of his other galleries.  They are nothing to be ignored.  I want all of these.

Check out more of his work at:

His Website



Stay tuned for the full interview with Florian “Neo” Nicolle coming soon.


Artist PRO.FILES: Ali Manion

Posted in Artist PRO.FILES, Artwork with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by bendey14

Welcome to my first installment of my “Artist Profiles” segment featuring a good friend and fellow Spartan, Ali Manion.


I’ve known Ali for roughly a year, but I wasn’t aware of her artistic talents until a few month ago.  It wasn’t until I finally got the chance to check out her artwork that I finally figured out what all the buzz around her was about.  To put it simply; I could spend days flipping through her sketchbooks!  And her paintings are nothing to be ignored either.  She was nice enough to sit down for an in-depth interview and give some deep insight about her artwork.  She’s definitely making a name for herself in the realm of fine art.  I’d definitely be on the look out for her.  Here’s the interview:

Great art comes from a great source of inspiration.  Where do you get most of your inspiration for the pieces you paint?
I’m one of those people who tends to get inspired almost constantly; the world amazes me, and I find that my inspirations are endlessly evolving as I progress as an artist. I’m strongly influenced by nature and am fascinated with the shapes, textures and colors that appear in the natural world. The creature world inspires me as well, and the diversity and vivacity of all forms of life. Another one of my main inspirations is music–for me, the marriage between visual art and music is so close, as music motivates me in an abstract way and conjures up shapes and imagery that are impossible to put into words. I am also inspired by the sky and the notion of deep space, both of which strike me with their unpredictability in color and form. Above all, I guess I would say that existing on this incredible planet is my main inspiration.

Is there anything you’re trying to communicate with your audience?  Anything you hope they get out of viewing your artwork?
I leave most of my work up to individual interpretations–I love hearing people’s reactions to things that I’ve created, and I feel that a lot of my work allows for freedom in communication. I definitely hope that my audience gets a sense of optimism as well as wonder while viewing my artwork; I like to think it has a definite sense of positivity, and an element that provokes curiosity. I also hope they get a sense of who I am as a person and my approach to life, and maybe I can share a bit of that with them…being upbeat, easy-going, seeking out positive experiences…


When did you first realize your talent in art?
I’m definitely a lifelong doodler, and art is something that I’ve always felt I could express myself through and really loved. It wasn’t really until a few years ago that I started to hone in on having a personal style and approach to art that is all my own, which I did mostly by narrowing down mediums to discover the best ways to create what I wanted to express. But for as long as I can remember, I have had an itch to put pen to paper and create my own visual world.

A lot of your sketches and paintings have a “psychedelic” flavor to them, is this influenced by anything or anyone?
I think a lot of that stems from my love of music, and may be connected to a lot of the shapes and ideas that music can conjure up in my mind. The psychedelic flavors could also be attributed to my obsession with color and my bold use of it in my work. It wasn’t really a style that I took on intentionally, just sort of an innate preferenced aesthetic that began to emerge as my art progressed. A lot of the shapes and symbols I use are things I have been doodling since elementary school, so I guess in that sense I had a leaning towards psychedelic patterns and imagery before I even recognized that style.


I’ve also noticed a lot of pieces that remind me of being deep underwater or up in space.  Is there anything you can tell us about these styles?
For some reason, I’ve always had this thought about water and space somehow being interconnected… I grew up as a swimmer and spent a lot of time in the water, and I think that sensation of weightlessness and physical freedom that you experience while underwater must be similar to the experience of floating in space. I always tend to use a lot of patterns and intricate designs, which remind me of the miniscule underwater life forms, but also of the stars and other matter suspended in space. Both deep water and deep space do seem to appear in my work, and I can only describe it as my attempt to capture a feeling of floating in freedom.

You’ve also been to Africa.  Is there any African influence in your artwork?
Definitely. I went to Kenya for two months, and it was the most visually stunning and overwhelming place I have ever experienced. I really got a sense of life at its most raw, most wild, and I loved it. The riot of colors in nature, as well as culture, were stunning. African influence has definitely appeared in my work since; I adapted some of the freedom of color that the Kenyan’s favored, and the wildlife has continually shown up in my work as well. Africa is the most visually inspiring place I have visited yet, and I imagine that the things I saw and experienced there have influenced my artwork in ways that I probably have yet to even realize myself.


Your “Beatles” trunk is something that always gets a lot of attention.  What can you tell us about it?
I bought the trunk at a garage sale, mostly because I loved the leather detailing and the vintage look. It was painted white at the time, and I instantly knew I wanted to turn it into a canvas. The Beatles were basically the soundtrack of my childhood and something I grew up on, and many of their songs have taken on new meanings for me as I’ve progressed as a person, and as an artist. The idea to make each portion of the trunk based upon the lyrics of a different song stemmed from a simple doodle I sketched while listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”… I love the imagery in this song, especially “tangerine trees, marmalade skies”….”kaleidoscope eyes”… This doodle inspired me to create the landscapes that many of my favorite Beatles songs take me to, and I then transferred these thoughts to the trunk in full color. It gave me the freedom to technically make each side of the trunk an individual piece of art, while connecting them through a central theme of music and the power that lyrics can have in our lives.

Painting is something you do very well, but are there any other artistic mediums you’d like to pursue in the future?
I’ve spent some time playing around with ceramics, which I find to be a very organically expressive medium, but have not evolved in this medium to the extend that I’d like. That’s definitely something I’d like to return to in the future, especially since I’ve cultivated a style and mode of expression in a two-dimensional medium. I’d also love to do some experimentation with more graphic and technical methods, and I hope that one day my learning curve for design software can keep up with my imagination. Glass blowing also intrigues me, and I’d be thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue that in the future. I’ve definitely narrowed in on painting as my main method right now, but I am always open to try something new and to learn as an artist; I think this can allow for a whole new range of expression.

If you could be any animal in the world for one day, what would you be and why?
Hmmm… although my favorite animal is an elephant, I would want to be an owl because I would definitely want to be able to fly, and I think owls are just plain badass, nocturnal birds with the most incredible feathers.


If you’d like to find out more about Ali and her artwork, you can email her at