Upfest 2017 – John Curtis – 6th year running at Upfest


Bristol artist John Curtis, studied Art, Design and Illustration at Brunel College of Art in Bristol after leaving school, and then had a break from visual arts and studied creative advertising and marketing at Falmouth College in Cornwall, before realising that art his real passion and began to sell his work professionally from 2003 onwards.

His work is contemporary and abstract and is inspired by surroundings, moods and experiences.  He uses acrylics, oils, enamel paints and spray paint, and experiments with colours and textures to create unique abstract pieces. The finished products are highly detailed, energetic pieces of artwork which demand a closer look.  He often use inks to add intricate details to the work.

Bit of background and how you got into art  

I studied Art and Illustration at College and Creative Advertising at University, I went on to work in advertising in London for a short period when I left University before moving back to Bristol having a break from art for a few year. I started painting and selling artwork in 2003 using acrylics before discovering spray paint and Posca pens a few years ago, I love using spray paint and posca’s and the results thy bring to my work. My artwork style ranges from abstract art, detailed illustrations to character designs.

I have produced and sold abstract artwork to hotels in Bristol where my work can be seen on display and I was recently part of the “The Grand Hotel” (Bristol) refurbishment project where local artists produced artwork for the hotel and I was commissioned to produce a large abstract illustration on a table which is now on display at the hotel.

My more recent artwork is based on the surroundings of my home town of Bristol. I’m not a graffiti or street artist in the traditional sense, my artwork features graffiti and street art as my subjects are the urban landscapes of Bristol, specifically the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, which has ever changing walls of street art. The whole area is slowly being gentrified and soon the abandoned and empty buildings in the area will be converted into flats and the graffiti will be removed or covered up as the area evolves. I regularly go out taking photos of the area spotting new work and use these in my paintings recording a snapshot of an ever changing urban landscape. Although my work isn’t meant to be political, it does highlight the number of empty and abandoned buildings in the city, whilst homelessness levels are on the increase.

Influences on your work 

I am influenced by the abstract artist Jackson Pollock and illustrator MC Esher and have used these influences in my abstract artwork. Other favourite artists are Andy Council, My Dog Sighs, Dan Kitchener and Buff Monster, to name a few.

What have you been doing this year?

I have held a few exhibitions this year featuring my Bristol themed work in venues and galleries in and around Bristol and currently have work on sale at “It’s all 2 much gallery” and “Steak of the Art” in Bristol. I spend most of the year producing artwork to sell and working on private commissions, Upfest is my chance to produce something on a bigger scale than my usual work. This will be my 6th year painting at the event. I feel very lucky to have been selected each year and to be painting among such a talented group of artists.

 What have you got coming up this year?

This year I will concentrating on getting some more Bristol themed work finished and to start producing and selling prints of my work, as well as looking for new places to exhibit in late 2017 and 2018. I have a solo exhibition planned  from April-May at the Grain Barge in Bristol so will be busy of the next 6 months preparing work for this exhibition. I’d also like to produce a book of my Stokes Croft themed artwork in the future.

Tell me about Circles 

This is black and white illustration completed a few years ago and represents my abstract artwork which I work on when not working on Bristol themed work. This pieces was ink on A1 size paper and features thousands of circles making up the overall image and around fifty hours of work involved, I’ve produced many other illustrations like this and only sell prints of these artworks at the moment as they have a personal meaning to me and take so long to complete. (2 pics included one main and a close up)


Tell me about some of your recent work


“Stokes Croft – Westmoreland House and Carriage works”

A canvas painting of an abandoned building in Stokes Croft area of Bristol featuring a graffiti covered walls of the old Westmoreland House building, the large skull painting and crocodile were added to the abandoned building around 10 years ago, by artist’s Sweet Toof and Rowdy. I have produced other paintings featuring this scene as I feel it is an iconic image from the area.


 Stokes Croft – Help a brother out

Another painting of an abandoned building in Stokes Croft, this one is the Metropolis building which was a former cinema and more recently a comedy club, now left abandoned and boarded up. This scene featuring graffiti which on the building a few months ago, which has since changed.


Stokes Croft – City Road  is A painting completed recently featuring Stokes Croft, based on photo taken a few weeks ago. 

What do other artists say about your work?

Good things I hope, I’m not a graffiti artist but feel honoured to be able to paint at the festival among so amazing artist. My work is different and I hope it stands out amongst the other artwork.

What is important to you about your art?  

I paint or draw almost every day, whether it’s a quick five minute doodle or a complete painting. It’s great to sell work and see my work on other people’s walls as well as hearing people’s comments.

Can you tell me something about what you will be doing at Upfest?

On the past few years when I have been at Upfest I have produced character based designs and I normally collaborate with my friend “Moko-Yo” at Upfest but this year I will painting an image based on my Bristol series of paintings. I’m still busy working on ideas for the final piece, a few days before Upfest.


What are you looking forward to about Upfest ?

Looking forward to meeting the other artists and chatting to the general public. I hope to get my artwork finished on the Saturday so I can spend Sunday checking out all of the artists’ work. I love the atmosphere of the festival and the community spirt it brings to the area. Love or hate street art, I think it’s become a part of Bristol culture.

Where people can find you at Upfest?

I’ll be at The Rising Sun Pub near the Ashton Gate Stadium this year, painting on Saturday and Sunday. I will also have prints and affordable original artwork and prints for sale from the Upfest gallery stalls throughout the festival.

Website             Twitter         Facebook                    Upfest profile

See  John’s work at Rising Sun Pub

Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017

Upfest Festival Map

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