Our friends at Memento Exclusives have just launched the latest artwork by Paul Oz – hot off the easel. The paint is still drying on this latest piece to celebrate Lewis Hamilton’s 5th World Championship. The original artwork was commissioned by a fan even before Lewis had sealed his 2018 win, but you can reserve your limited edition prints in time for Christmas gifts! We caught up with Memento Exclusives for a Q&A with Paul Oz
Lewis Hamilton is one of the sport’s greats; what does it take to immerse buyers of your art in the moments that defined careers and seminal moments in F1?
I guess by being a fan myself, first and foremost. No one needs to tell me what moments in F1 to celebrate and when… I know as soon as ‘it’ happens because I’m immersed in the sport. Like at Jenson’s last race in Abu Dhabi, privileged to be at the back of the McLaren garage with his one off yellow lid on the bench – I knew exactly what I was painting as soon as I got back home and into the studio.
Your limited-edition, artworks of Lewis Hamilton have captured some of his defining career moments, so how long does it take to create a canvas and what is your strategy when approaching such a task?
I schedule myself to one week for each piece. The challenges of being self-employed and so many distractions, I found that without a set target, everything went to pot. If a piece is taking longer I just work more intensely. But conversely… it also stops me painting too much sometimes. Strategy is largely around the visual effect I want to create of a certain moment or achievement… then usually looking for a reference image that fits with what I see in my head, from the work of F1 photographers who I have a good relationship with. To capture the emotion and energy of the moment is vital.
Do you enjoy working on particular pieces of F1 art more than others? If so, why?
For sure… some private commissions I have little interest in myself so it can be a bit more of a struggle. Not creatively… but motivation to get off my butt and into the studio! I’m a proud Brit, and a massive Senna fan, so for sure anything around that I’m in the studio before sunrise.
Are there challenges when trying to create such imposing images of famous drivers?
The most regular challenge is to create a recognisable portrait when often it’s just the eyes and nose that are visible… in my inherently loose style. Technically visors are a challenge, or at least were until I got my head around how to imply a reflective surface. And painting impressionist logos… need to be accurate, but not. Most of it just takes practice with a bit of obstinance thrown in I think.
When portraying emotional scenes associated with F1 – like your Ayrton Senna art – does the size of the canvas matter to you as an artist, or is greater emphasis placed on the colours or your style when creating the distinction necessary to add energy and life to them?
I’d love to paint as large as possible to be honest! But practicalities and wall size get in the way a bit. Near everything I paint is somewhere between 3 and 4ft. I refuse to paint too much smaller, as I can’t achieve the visual effect and energy I strive for.
When you are creating hand-embellished pieces, what do you to make every individual canvas unique and special for buyers?
They are all unique for sure – I’m not a production line, each piece is created individually with as much paint as I can get back on top of it. The same accidental paint splats happen when embellishing as when creating a new artwork – 90% of accidents are left where they land as I feel it adds a lot to the energy.
When taking a personal commission for a piece of F1 art, what do you need to know beforehand as you prepare to create the most effective piece?
Some collectors are nervous about commissioning a painting with it not coming out like they envisage, so I’d spend more time with them choosing the reference image together. Others are more like ‘do whatever you like based around xx’, which I prefer. Both ways work – I’ve never had an unhappy client in a decade doing this. I don’t mind tailoring a background tone to fit a room, and to be honest some of the reference images clients have chosen that I wouldn’t have looked twice at have come out awesome – and I’ve learnt more in the process than just sticking to what I know will work. Every days a school day!
How do you ensure your embellished? canvases are as true to the original as possible? Why are the techniques and paints effective when create this kind of art?
Perhaps the clever bit with the embellished canvas editions is the photography of the original – to capture the thick texture but without glare and distortion is really tricky. I’ve been working with the best in the business for years now and we have this absolutely nailed. My canvas printer has his processes dialled in too, and I just get to throw paint around on top! I couldn’t do anything without the right business partners. I use the same pallet knife to embellish as I do for the originals, still 1cm thick in places. Acrylic paint though rather than oils of the original piece… oil seeps into canvas and leaves a tide mark and would stay wet for weeks. Acrylic feels the same to paint with but dries overnight.
What future projects do you have in mind, and which ones would be your favourites to create?
I have way more ideas than time to create them to be honest. And with non-stop new reference material coming at me every race week, that’s not going to change. It’s still the emotive memories from years ago that I love to celebrate most. I love to reminisce and so do my collectors – outside of work I collect sporting memorabilia from the 90’s myself. My favourite ever project is easily the Senna 25th commemorative sculpture that I’ve been working on for 6 months already, that will see the light of day early 2019…. watch this space. I’ve had trouble sleeping all year I’m that excited about it!
You’ve done a lot of Formula 1 travel this year. What’s been your favourite F1 race to attend and why?
Monaco. Every year its incredible. Every year it has a completely different character and I can’t really explain why. Love the place! And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Singapore is a bonkers race with some incredible events around it…. it’s just a tough race week to work at with the heat, jet lag and road closures. Mexico is incredible too… that atmosphere in the stadium section! And tacos.
An F1 fan before an artist, who has been your favourite driver to meet so far and why?
I guess that would have to be Jenson was like meeting an old mate the first time, so engaging and friendly. It might have helped that we were on stage and everyone around us was speaking Spanish whilst an auction was going on… so there wasn’t much else we could do but have a natter. He’d bought a painting from me before we met.
Your job seems like a dream for many F1 fans. What advice would you have to anyone looking to follow their dreams and work in Formula 1?
Yup – it’s a dream come true! But trying to get into F1 is a weird one… it’s a world where so many are trying to break into, that walls go up. You need guys on the inside to bring you in rather than pushing yourself, if that makes sense. But also… be careful what you wish for. I hate to say it but it does become a bit of a bus man’s holiday unfortunately. Race weekends are often so stressful being a fairly small part of a massive event with quite a bit of internal politics, difficult logistics and pass challenges moving around everywhere. I rarely get to absorb the race when I’m at a circuit because I’m trying to get from one live painting post to another, trying to sort something out with team or F1 marketing guys, transport, or even packing up or on the way to the airport before it’s over because it was the only flight I could get that day. Sometimes mid race is the only chance I have for food in a day… no-one cares what the artist is doing when there’s a race on outside! So you definitely need to love it, and be doing it for the right reasons. But my word ignoring all of that yes I definitely have to pinch myself regularly that I get to call this ‘work’.
Browse Paul Oz’ artwork collection available in the Memento Exclusives ultimate F1 Store