“Painting is a lazy kind of therapy”: Alan Fears is back with his punchy portraits
Since 2017, Alan has been working hard on his practice, perhaps a little too much. He tells us why he’s spending his time undoing what he’s learned over the last three years.
- Ayla Angelos
- 1 May 2020
“I expect the negative people to roll their eyes and the positive people to open theirs,” explains artist Alan Fears on the reactions he hopes to receive from his work. No stranger to It’s Nice That, we’re huge fans of his punchy scenes and humorous portraits of pop stars, film stars and fictional creations. And, since we last heard from him in 2017, Alan has kept his 80s-inspired style but he tells us how his technique has improved, “which means I got worse,” he says. “Now, I’m spending most of my time trying to undo all that I have learned in order to be freer.”
Three years have past and it’s safe to say that Alan has been keeping busy. Not only was he featured and commissioned for the cover of 2019’s summer issue of the Paris Review, he was also shortlisted for the John Moores Painting Prize in 2018, was part of the auction Art on a Postcard as well as Art On The Mind. Elsewhere, he was commissioned to design and animate fashion brand Marni’s short film A Rumble in the Jungles of Paris, he presented work at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer exhibition, sold paintings to Cillian Murphy and Noel Fielding, and on top of all this, believe it or not, there is more.
With an enviable client list and a portfolio to match, you’d be surprised to hear that Alan didn’t have much of a creative upbringing. “I’m the only child of military parents who divorced when I was ten years old,” he tells us, “so I spent a lot of time with myself and that is how and why I developed any artistic skills.” Working on his creative talents, Alan would spend his time drawing caricatures of pop stars, actors and “fantasy characters”, and it’s safe to say that he had little interest in anything else other than popular culture. As such he continued to draw until he pursued an art course at the age of 16, which he failed from a lack of confidence in his abilities and “no real connection to traditional art practices”. In response to this, pop art was therefore the genre that he would continue with, and it’s where he found this connection. “From there I started to find things I liked and that I believed I could achieve.”
Working full-time as an artist, Alan’s goal was to make work that connected with people. “Inspiring people is inspiring,” he says, feeling lucky that he has the time and energy to work on his paintings. “If I can snap somebody out of a bad mood or make them do something productive, that makes me want to make more work." There’s no doubt that his pieces will bring a sense of joy to even the most cynical of people, as there’s quite literally something here for everyone.
There’s Hockney, Matisse, Peter Blake, Basquiat, Dubuffet – “the usual suspects” – as well as the contemporary stars like Tiger King or other colourful characters like a 'renaissance man’, a life guard and a woman with a mullet who inform Alan’s practice. When seeking inspiration, he makes sure he doesn’t spent too much time studying his subject as it can lead to him “pinching things” by mistake. “My day-to-day experience of painting is a lazy kind of therapy,” he continues to explain, stating how he spends a few hours a day free from anything else going on in the world. Waking up at five, he likes an early start and lots of quiet. He feeds the cats, puts on his “dirty outfit”, makes a coffee and will “disappear” into his studio. There’s no linear structure as to what he decides to paint, and it tends to be quite literally anything that he can get his hands on quickly. “Ultimately, I am just trying to lighten my mood and hopefully brighten someone else’s.”
Recently, Alan has been working on a piece titled Beer for Breakfast, Headache for Lunch. This is a painting that he created at the start of April, “illustrating my current state of mind during the lockdown,” he says, “and how having nothing but free time can sometimes feel like a chore.” As we’re all in a current state of unknown limbo, there’s pressure to be productive, create and hard at work. But how about taking some time out – take a moment to sit back and fill your day to fill with Alan’s cheerful paintings. You won’t regret it.
Alan Fears: Sweet Freedom
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.