Contemporary fine artist and sculpture artist-cum-recycling extraordinaire, Philip Stuttard has seen and done it all. Not in an annoying ‘nah nah nah nah nah’ way (pulls tongue, looks cocky), more of your well-travelled/life experience way. And well-travelled as in having much under his belt as opposed to the accumulation of a drawer full of Air Miles. In a nut shell (the full story follows after the paragraph break), Stuttard trained as an airbrush artist on leaving Blackpool’s College of Technology and Art (where he studied Graphic Design), before making a go of it in the Big Smoke (London, England) as a bona fida professional artist, where he worked out of his studio for a decade, flogging his compositional wares across the world. Stuttard also was involved in display/backdrops for many of London’s nightclubs and for West End stage productions during his time in the UK’s capital city, after which he became one of the Daily Mail’s freelance cartoonists. Then he packed his bags, bode farewell to London and relocated to Yorkshire. So, just where did it all go right for Stuttard?
As a kid, Stuttard recalls constantly tracking down scraps of paper from around his family home to draw on, feeling that there was never enough to satisfy his obsessions/needs. Having said that, the tools for putting down his artistic roots were also in short supply, only receiving the all-important likes of pencils, paper and erasers for birthdays and Christmas. Still, one day all of a young Stuttard’s birthdays and Christmases arrived at once, as he recounts someone handing him a roll of wallpaper. A roll of wallpaper which of course provided reams of plain papered reverse sides. Just imagine the excitement of it all. Stuttard believes that he was roughly 10 years of age when it suddenly dawned on him that he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. This coincided with a school project handed out at the time whereby pupils were tasked with designing a Christmas card for their parents. So we’re assuming that it was November/December time that particular year. Stuttard set about picturing Santa in a yellow vintage car, which so caught the attention of his teacher that they showed it to his class mates. This marked the first time in Stuttard’s (admittedly still young) life that he’d been recognised for an achievement as such; and justification that he was good at something. There would be no turning back from this point. Incidentally Stuttard still has this 35 year old card in his possession, which he keeps for posterity.
So, skipping a few higher educational years (as summarised above) and Stuttard found himself in London making a living from his art. Well, his in-demand airbrush art as it happened, which he concentrated on for the best part of 10 years, and which saw him paint his designs onto a multitude of surfaces, ranging from trash cans, motorbike tanks, personal computers, guitars, stage back drops, leather jackets, t-shirts, baseball caps and even the plaster on a salesman’s broken leg according to the obliging Stuttard. But in 2001 the artist returned North, and made the beautiful Yorkshire Dales his new home; which was literally a world away from the London one he chose to leave behind. It was whilst settling into this rural idyll that Stuttard was inspired to turn his hand to sculpting, influenced by both the beautiful dales and moorland at his creative beck and call as well as the animals and people who made it what it was. It was from these initial sculptures that the paintings ultimately derived from.
On moving to Yorkshire, Stuttard was fortunate enough to get signed up by one of the UK’s leading art publishers, Washington Green, who ensured maximum and targeted exposure for Stuttard and his work, eventually not only here in Britain, but across mainland Europe and as far afield as America too, whilst his gift ware range is represented by Border Fine Arts. Today Stuttard divides his artistic time between his paintings and his sculptures, with the latter breaching new territory of late as Stuttard experiments with recycled tin as his material of choice. Stuttard himself takes up the story; “I am currently painting Woolly Jumper Sheep, and Rent Men. Along with my paintings I sculpt works from recycled tin. These are made from everyday items that are thrown away, and up-cycled into Sheep, Bog Hoppers, Crabs, Sharks,Hares, and almost anything you can think of,” adding; “I really hope I bring a smile to people’s faces. I know that I love doing them”.
Indeed, Stuttard not only puts the viewer’s emotions at the heart of his every piece, sculptured or painted, yet he hopes that his work manages to capture the dignity and pride of the mills and the industrial, working class communities that he dedicates his time to originating on his canvases and through the manipulation of the tin. Stuttard is adamant that his fundamental desires are to cement the emotions, feelings, hopes and fears of factory and mill workers who, as he concludes, all too often lived and worked in harsh environments. Yet at the same time, Stuttard would like to think that his work engenders a sense of happiness and contentment in the eyes and minds of those whose lives revolved around these predominantly northern industrial heartlands. Picking up on that mantra, Stuttard insists that he tries to habitually portray the funnier side of life, especially when conveying the likeness of animals, which he typically illustratively interprets in a resolutely quirky form. Sheep, pigs, cats & birds all lend themselves perfectly to this pictorial rule of thumb, as do dogs, all of which figure prominently in Stuttard’s back catalogue of collective works. Stuttard’s ‘Feathered Friends, Four-Legged Friend’ and ‘Old Friends’ pieces are chief among which when discussing our relationships with animals, and to a sculpture they’re obviously all celebrating the closeness of one man and his pigeons, dog and cat in that quaint and altogether touching sculpted fashion which appeals to the old romantic found in us all.
In terms of artistic inspiration, and Stuttard cites the one and only Rolf Harris as the main one, waxing lyrical about his TV shows which were part and parcel of many of our TV-based childhoods. Stuttard comments; “I used to watch his shows on TV and never ceased to be amazed at the way he seemed to throw paint at a wall and scrub it with a yard brush, then, hey presto! ''a work of art'' would appear before my very eyes ... wonderful!!” Seizing on this memory from yesteryear, Stuttard fervently believes that as artists we will be ''forever children'', and that essentially we have never grown out of wanting to paint and make things! Fortunately in Stuttard’s case, they actually get paid for the pleasure which is then of course passed on to us.