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John Lee Bird

John Lee Bird

It's the beginning of the month, which can only mean one thing...! It's almost time for another Pecker! Special guest Per QX joins Gibson and the Duchess Of Pork in  the laser basement whilst the top bar plays host to the madness that is Grizzle. Ahead of Friday's party we caught up with Pecker poster artist John Lee Bird. With his own exhibition, Before Encore, coming up this month featuring a cast of familiar faces including Grizzle/Pecker duo John Sizzle and A Man To Pet, we decided to quiz him a little on his drawing processes, artistic inspirations and more!

What is your favourite piece of pop art, the piece that defines the style for you?

It has to be Warhol's portrait of Marilyn Monroe. Simple, bold and brilliantly iconic.

Warhol's Marilyn

Do you prefer sketching from life or do photos work just as well for you?

I always work from photos, life drawing can be a bit embarrassing, I'm a bit too worried about staring too much...or looking in the 'wrong' place!

How long does the average portrait take you? What's your process?

Once I've done the photoshoot I come home and make a simple line drawing, then refine that as I draw it onto the canvas. Some things need changing when you see a small drawing projected up onto a 5 and a half foot canvas, and the projecting process makes it easier for me to be more ruthless or considered with simple lines. They're really controlled paintings so I like to make mess when I'm mixing up pots of the colours I need. I work for about 12 hours a day over the course of a week to get the paintings completed. Each colour requires at least 3 layers of paint and then the outlines takes about 3 or 4 days to finish. I haven't got the steadiest hand so I blast out loud music while I paint to take away from the stress! 

What are some of your highlights from your latest Before Encore exhibition?

They're all highlights, I can't choose a family member over the other... haha!

Why these subjects?

I think they're the best at what they do. I make a list at the start of each series and start pinning people down for photoshoots and then the list relaxes a bit; I tend to meet someone and then catch someone else performing and fall in love with them too, and as I'm there I rope them into the clan there and then.... so then the list grows. I've already written out a list for the next series (the 10 year anniversary of the project) and it features a few people that I wanted to catch with when I first started the project, so I won't be able to deviate too much this time. 10 years waiting is long enough!

What besides people do you enjoy drawing?

It's always people really. I'm always sketching faces, or sometimes stupid creatures - depending on how drunk I am.

What outside of art inspires you?

Music and performers and meeting people inspire me. I rarely go to art exhibitions. When I go out it's to escape my studio so I'd rather go to a gig  or see a show. Before Encore is my way of making exhibitions entertaining. I like to see everything happening at once, and especially if you're showing portraits; people can see the inspiration for the painting in the flesh, doing what they do best!

You're the designer behind the amazing Pecker posters! Tell us what was the brief, what was A Man To Pet's input into that brief, and how do you make them sleazier every month?

John Sizzle and A Man To Pet said they wanted something sexy with birds and cocks, some leather, jockstraps and sex, more sex and SEX! So I just started collaging bits together from leather mags and added birds heads, and slapped Sizzle and Pet's heads (from their Before Encore portraits) onto any naughty bird I could find, it's basically chicks with dicks (literally) at a leather bar with tongue firmly in butt cheek!

PECKER poster

What was the first piece of art that you saw in real life that really touched you?

Watching Derek Jarman's Sebastiane when it was screened on Channel 4 when I was at school. I then found a book at the library and got completely obsessed. Derek's films, with Simon Fisher Turner's soundtracks, and Derek's art and journals are pure heart-wrenchingly honest and full of sexy/angry joy. 

What can we do to get our mitts on your amazing Before Encore tea towels and tote bags?

I'll be bringing a few to Pecker on the 6th June and handing out some flyers while I have a good gossip with Sizzle and Pet at the DJ booth. 

John Lee Bird's tea towel and tote bag

Then they'll be on sale at the exhibition on the 20th/21st June at The Liquor Store, Stamford Works, Gillett Square, Dalston. Facebook event is here. It's open to all, everyone is invited!

I'm looking forward to being able to wipe up some dirty dishes with Ma Butcher's face, who could resist? That should be on everyone's list of life's simple pleasures!

Ma Butcher

Join John Lee Bird, John Sizzle and A Man To Pet this Friday 6th June at Pecker at Dalston Superstore from 9pm - 3am.

Visit John Lee Bird's official website: johnleebird.com

Photo credit: Jonathan Dredge

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John Lee Bird