Paul Curtis – Inside the mind of an artist.

Paul Curtis artwork.

Taking a look around Prenton Park and Merseyside in general you may be taken aback by the quality of paintings that are dotted around different areas and mostly are painted by the fantastic Paul Curtis.

He joined me at ‘EthanHoijord.com’ to tell readers a little bit about himself and the upcoming projects that he has in store, there is plenty that you certainly wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Hello Paul, to start the conversation off. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, your education and upbringing with football. What subjects inspired you in school and what were you like growing up, is artwork something that has always kept you busy? What other aspirations and hobbies did you have and enjoy?

I’ll be honest, I only had a passing interest in art throughout my childhood, it certainly wasn’t something that I spent too much of my time on.  I knew I was ok at drawing, but not amazing.  I did get an A in GCSE Art though!

My football youth was pretty similar.  I was ok, but an unremarkable journeyman!  

When did your talent first become known about and what were your first public paintings? How were they seen by others? Does word quickly pass around when you have done something that catches the eyes of someone?

I’d say that my ‘talent’ first became evident when I was painting niece’s bedroom with a bambi themed mural. I took a photo of what I had done and a few of my mates suggested that I should probably take it further. So, as I was unemployed at the time I created a little portfolio of the work that I could do and I tried (unsuccesfully) cold calling bars and restaurants looking for work . My big break through was “For All Liverpool’s Liverbirds” in Liverpool’s city centre.  That was a very successful piece of street art that allowed me to go professional

How does the industry that you work in operate? Say for a project like Tranmere’s most recent one, the amazing awaydays photo on the outside of the ground, did the club contact you about this saying that they would like it done etc or did you approach them first?

Well with the Tranmere work it’s Ben Harrison from the Trust that will tell me what sprt pf thing he’d like to see done around the stadium or Birkenhead. Some are of course harder than others to paint. For example, with the  Pat Nevin, Warwick Rimmer, Ian Goodison and Micky Mellon mural, we had to use players from the youth team as body doubles and switch heads as obviously no such photo exists for that mural.  This plays havoc with lighting, source image quality, ergonomics, scale etc.  However, with the general paintings such as the AwayDays trainers, I had a high quality photograph to work from, so I can produce a much better piece. 

Prenton Park is a place full of your great paintings and very rightly so considering the quality of them and the messages that they’ve been able to portray. What is it like painting for a football club in comparison to painting for the general public, for example what are the differences between the awaydays painting and the Liver Bird wings painting in the city centre?

I suppose it differs as football supporters have an element of bias so if the painting is good and gives attention to the club in a positive manner, then they will appreciate it that bit more as they feel a connection. With more general paintings, people may like the artwork, the subject and the composition, but they wouldn’t necessarily feel as much pride and emotion as a football painting would have for thousands of fans.  

On the flipside though, it’s really important that you get football paintings spot on as you don’t want to let down or embarrass a football club or its supporters. I recall a Neville Southall mural someone did a few years back that was ridiculed and wasn’t appreciated too highly by Everton fans, no-one wants to be the painter in that sort of situation!

One case of a painting which you made that had a negative reception is of course the painting of the old club crest in Oxton. How did the idea for that particular piece of artwork come about, how long did it take you to complete and how do you believe it had been perceived by the majority of the local public? Did you think that it would be perceived as negatively, by some, how it was? On a personal note, I loved it!

To be honest, I didn’t worry too much about the criticism that it received as the club crest is not designed by me and I was just hired to do a job.  I hadn’t conceived of the project.  I think the people who objected to it just had a problem with where the painting is located and the fact it is linked to football.  I actually think that badge has quite a historic, heraldic feel and didn’t look that out of place. 

I suppose if it was a design that I’d come up with myself then I would’ve taken the criticism to heart a little bit more.  That said, the objections publicly voiced by the Oxton Society actually ended up promoting me massively on the Wirral, so they did me a big favour.   

I also think that it’s been given compliments by Tranmere supporters so I know that there is a contrast in emotions about it all.  The SWA really took to my defence when I was getting online agro at that time so I thank them for that!

I’m an aspiring sports journalist, I will be starting university in September to gain a degree in that line of work. However, I’ve just finished a creative media college course at Wirral Met where I had many people who loved art and graphics etc in my class. If you could give them a message as they embark on their own journeys, what would you say to them?

One piece of advice that I’d give to anyone really, regardless of what journeys they’re about to embark on, is that it’s always important to try your hardest and to learn from any mistakes that you may make. The best and most talented don’t always succeed, but those who work hardest doing what they love will succeed in some way or another. 

I spoke earlier about building a portfolio of paintings for myself so I could show them to people and businesses who would potentially want some work done for them and I think the more effort you put into anything the greater the outcome is likely to be.

Moving on to a personal topic that touches on the work that you have done around the Wirral. Are you a Tranmere Rovers fan or a football fan in general and what is it about football and a football club that you love the most? Do you enjoy the sense of belonging and unification to a certain cause and how do you believe that Micky Mellon will bring a sense of that for the campaign ahead? How do you think the Rovers will do in season 2021-22 and how do you think we did last year?

I never say what football club I support for professional reasons really, nice to keep people guessing!  However, I do think that it’s great to have fans back at the game and its good that this coincides with the return of Mellon as he has obviously been successful at Tranmere before thus the fans love him and will always get behind him. He’s been able to bring a few good players in as well across the course of the summer, some really good attacking players in Callum McManaman and Paul Glatzel so I’d tip the club for promotion this year really.  Moving back to your question about unity though, I think that is really good to have within any area of working and sporting life really as when everyone’s pulling in the same direction then the group’s will to succeed will eventually lead to the right results. 

To finish off our conversation which I’m so grateful to be having, What’s next for Paul Curtis in terms of the work that you have coming up? Are there any more Tranmere ideas in the pipeline?

There are quite a few projects that I’m working on at the moment. I’m always busy! The biggest being the mural that I’m doing in Ainsdale, which will be the second biggest mural in the country. That’s absolutely massive in comparison to the biggest one I’ve done to date so I’d say that it’s probably the most pressure I’ve had on myself whilst working in this industry. I’ve got a few other great projects to complete lined up such as a Hillsborough painting in Anfield, it’s always important to do something like that to the best of your abilities considering how the tragedy changed the lives of many. However, I’ve not got much to do at Tranmere at this moment, but I am due to do a mural of Birkenhead favourite, Charlie Landsborough, in North Birkenhead soon.  I look forward to getting everything done and seeing how they all look.

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