Sir Peter Blake emerged in the early 60s as part of the Pop Art movement and has since become one of the nation’s favourite artists. His celebrated work includes the design of the sleeve for The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. We spoke to Blake about his work and why he supports Small Business Saturday.
Sir Peter Blake, a founding father of British pop art, is today among the most respected living artists at home and abroad.
We spoke to Blake about his life, his art, and his reasons for backing today’s Small Business Saturday.
You love icons and have a love for popular culture, where did this start and do you still feel as passionately about it?
“I come from a working class family and it was always a natural interest.
“When I went to art school at the age of thirteen, I was being cultured and being told about Beethoven and Mozart.
“But in the evening, I would go home to Dartford and go to the Speed-rail, football matches and particularly professional wrestling which I have always been fascinated by.
“So, I think it comes from my social strata and then I have a particular interest in popular culture. I collect popular art.”
In the past you’ve worked with found objects, like photos and cigarette packets. Do you still find beauty in the banal today?
“I still work with found material. I do a series called Memories of Plays where for example, I’m visiting Hastings and will go onto the working beach and pick up materials.
“The rules are, anything I pick up, I must use and I cannot add anything else to it, so I am designing the collage as I pick it up.
“If I find a piece I almost like… it’s like fish, I’ll throw it back.
“So I am actually designing, then I’ll come back to the studio and put it together.”
Why is helping to put small business owners on the public platform important to you?
“I always try to use the smaller shops around me, even if I did a general shop in a superstore, I’d still get my art materials from a local shop.
“We also use the independent coffee shops, bakers and so forth. So it was something I was concerned with already.
What have you created for Small Business Saturday?
“I was commissioned by American Express to create a celebratory piece of art for Small Business Saturday.
“A lot of photos were taken of independent shopkeepers and after cutting them out; my job was to arrange them in a group.
“We got a broad range of people; a butcher, café owner – I don’t think there’s a candlestick maker!
With the changing nature of music sales and the digital age, what do you see as the future for album art?
“There are shops that still sell vinyl so I think there’s a nostalgic interest in it but most of the bands I’ve worked with have always brought out an LP, so I think even now if you got it as a download, there still would be an LP you could get as a specialist collectors’ item.
“I think the image is always important and always relates to the music.”
You have just received an honorary degree from Southampton. How did that come about?
“I’ve got seven now. I think when you reach a certain point you find that universities are honouring you, they are saying you have done a body of work and you have achieved a certain standard.
“I think Southampton have two people who run the design school who are artists I’ve been associated with.”
Art these days is increasingly digitalised, and you’ve mentioned that part of your creative process involves a computer. How would you say your love of technology for art has evolved?
“I’ve added it as a tool. I was invited along with Hockney when the very first computer invention was bought out and I did tests on it, but I never really understand what it could do.
“I am still making collages by sticking things down and I am still using all the traditional ways of working.
It’s a very handy tool. You just need to use it simply as a tool.”
What will you be doing to support small businesses on Small business Saturday?
“I’ll be doing what I always do; buying coffee from the small coffee shops and going to the art shop to support them the way I always have.
l Sir Peter Blake is working with American Express to support Small Business Saturday on December 6.
Sir Peter Blake’s new artwork HIGH STREET HEROES, above, is available to download from amexshopmall.co.uk