For the launch of the Saucony Progrid Omni 9 OG we talked with Artist, filmmaker and designer Aaron Bevan-Bailey talks to us about the founding of ‘Play Attention’. We dive into what drives his creative urges, learning about all things from processes to craft, and as luck would have it a similarity on colour palettes to the OG Omni 9.
Footpatrol: Hey Aaron, hope you’re well, thank you for taking the time to chat to us, could we start by getting a bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
Aaron Bailey: I’m an Artist, film maker and designer and founder of Play Attention. If i’m not painting, illustrating or sculpting Im filming something. Creating and making things with my hands is my happy place. I have a hard time putting a label on what I do because it’s constantly evolving but Play Attention seems to be versatile enough to satisfy a lot of my creative urges. I’d describe myself as a Creator.
FP: We know you’re an artist that has a very distinct style, however, we’re here today to talk about your other project ‘Play Attention Now’ Can you give us some background on how and why this was started?
AB: Play Attention started as an antidote to the more serious themes in my other artwork. It was a sort of playground where I would just freestyle and let my imagination run wild. For me it was a way of injecting humor back into my work.
I worked as a storyboard artist and Art Director in advertising before starting Play Attention. I felt like it was time to use the skills I learned in the advertising world to do something other than just sell random products. I wanted to do something that mattered to me and inspired other people. I was doing a lot of spiritual self reflection and the name Play Attention came from remembering to find the Joy in that new sense of awareness, not taking myself too seriously. The older you get the more important it is to find a sense of open minded playfulness so you don’t become too rigid.
FP: How do you approach each illustration? The subjects and characters that feature in the works are quite varied.
AB: I start with a very loose idea letting each mark react to the last, sort of like a meditation or a puzzle and let the composition evolve naturally. I like to just draw with ink and no under drawing incorporating the mistakes I make into the final piece. I think that style of drawing really struck a chord with people online. Kind of like advanced doodling. When you watch it in timelapse it looks sort of effortless but trust me its taken a long road of trail, error and practice to make it look that easy.
My inspirations come from everywhere and anywhere memes, reality TV, renaissance paintings, cartoons. Faces will catch my eye and I can already see them as a drawing. I love drawing things that are quite grotesque. I was obsessed with the cartoon Ren and Stimpy growing up. I loved when they’d cut to a close up of something and it would be this beautifully rendered stomach churning painting.
When I was a kid I was very into comics like 2000 AD, Tank Girl, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and anything by Moebius. I would live with my head in the pages of Judge Dread and Slaine. I used to copy the illustrations of people like Dermot Power and Brian Bolland obsessively; that’s kind of how I taught myself to draw. I love comic book illustration, you have to simplify and distill the marks. One line has to do the job of five in a more realistic drawing. Its more complicated than it looks, the greats can convey weight, physics, sound, movement, texture to the point where you really feel like you could step inside that world, all with simple lines.
I think my ten year old self would think I have the dream job. I try to remember that when I’m drawing. I keep a photo of myself in my desk from around that age and think about what he would think was really badass. I feel like if you draw things that appeal to your inner child it tends to connect with other people on that level. I always loved the simplicity of people like Kieth Harring. His art can connect with someone who’s 5 or someone who’s 85 and make them both smile. Picasso said “It took me a lifetime to learn how to draw like a child” that always stuck with me. Play Attention is just what naturally comes out if you put a pen and a piece of paper in my hand.
FP: Roughly how long does it take to finish a piece? Is it something you’ll try to get done in a small window of time? Or something you’re happy to visit over a period of weeks or months?
AB: It depends on how inspired i’m feeling.I try to draw quite quickly, the drawings have more energy that way. Some I’ll do in an evening in a single sitting and others I will revisit over a couple of days. The big pieces can take me a week. It also depends if Ive drawn the object/character before or not. When I draw purely from imagination and memory it comes out faster. I try to remember things Ive seen and draw them from memory. One of my idols, the late Kim Jung Gi, was a master at this. He could draw incredibly complex structures like oil rigs and military aircraft from memory. He inspired me to have the confidence to stop under drawing and just ink. If you don’t know his work I encourage you to check him out, you will be both inspired and humbled. You retain way more than you’d think I like to exercise that part of my brain.
FP: what are your go to pens for producing these illustrations? Is there something you’re yet to try and incorporate or would like to try differently going forward?
AB: I use alot of Chinese calligraphy brushes in my work. I love the lines they give you. They encourage me to make more bold marks. I’m also a big fan of Pentel Brush Pens. They are frustrating at first but once you figure out the right amount of pressure to use you can get so much variety out of them.
I definitely want to start working on a much bigger scale if anyone wants a Play Attention Mural holler at me.
FP: Do you take commissions through PAN? I’d imagine people come to you with some pretty crazy concepts?
AB: I do take commissions, I like to keep the brief pretty loose so I have space to play. I recently did a piece where someone wanted a bunch of legendary jazz pianists. That was fun. I listen to alot of jazz when I work. I feel like Jazz is all about improvisation and flexing in your art form without being too tired to structure. I like to think my drawings are a bit like that.
I’m designing merch, posters and stages for this years Secret Garden Party Music Festival at the moment. I’ve also been doing some artwork for Seth Troxler’s new label Slacker 85 that I’m very excited about coming out.
FP: If YOU were a sneaker, what would you be?
AB: If I was a sneaker Id be Jeremy Scott Js Wings because they’re cartoonish and surreal but based on the Campus 80s an absolute old school hip hop classic. I just love that he did that, its such a bat shit crazy design. I want to be that bold when I start doing sneaker collabs.
FP: Tell us about your venture into apparel, we recently saw you screen printing your designs, if there was a brand you could work with (you never know, they could be reading!) who would it be?
AB: My ethos with apparel is definitely about sustainability. I love reworking, upcycling and extending the life of pre-loved classics. I think the future of fashion depends on it. Coming up without a lot of money it was all about finding that vintage gold and customizing it to make it my own. Streetwear has always been about styling out what you have and juxtaposing things you wouldn’t think would necessarily work together. I like things that are slightly distressed with a bit of character, one offs you know no one else has.
I don’t want the creativity to stop at the point of sale. I want to inspire people and encourage them to further customize the things I make. That’s something I’m definitely incorporating moving forward. I’m looking forward to doing some pop ups later in the year where we will have a screen printing carousel where people can print my design on their own clothes or customize pieces they buy from the store.
I really love vintage Carhartt workwear; it feels like a blank canvas to me. I love getting my hands dirty in the studio building things so I like something rugged enough to work in that looks cool. For me it’s the perfect balance between style and functionality. If anyone from Carhartt is out there, hit me up.
FP: Before we go, we just want to finish on giving you an opportunity to shoutout or give any words of wisdom on what the current creative industry is doing well or even lacking?
AB: Learn to accept your mistakes. Let your limitations become your style.
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