Well, why don’t you meet Artist Bael?

BAEL is a self-taught artist from the North East of England, after solo shows and group exhibitions in London, showcasing his stark and haunting figurative paintings, he has found a definite place on the international art scene and a dedicated following. With influences ranging from German Expressionism to Art Nouveau and Japanese Anime.  We love his work and had to share it with you, here is a little insight into the Artist behind the work…


 What were you doing in the time between leaving art education and starting to paint again? Did you have any creative outlet in that time?

After leaving Art College, I just drifted around and worked minimum wage jobs, spending what little money I had at the weekend having a good time. I was incredibly shy and introverted as a child, so those years away from art when I came out of my shell and engaged with the world and other people.

Why did you not continue with art? Were you disillusioned with the career prospects of being a working artist or was it insecurities around your own abilities?

I don’t think really I had anything to express at that age and had no faith in my own ability.

Going a step back for a moment, outside of this website I’m quite interested in the creative development of children. Can you tell me a little about your own creative development? Were you parents creative? Was it encouraged at home / school or something you figured out on your own? Did you try any other creative channels before settling on painting?

I consider myself very fortunate to come from an extremely loving and encouraging family. In a creative sense, my dad has had the biggest influence on me, he loves music, film and art, he’d studied at Art College and had a strong technical gift for drawing, so I would ask him to draw something like a robot or a super hero and just sit and watch how he did it.

It’s fascinating to see the birth of your artistic development with “Caught”. It’s amazing how many creative leaps have been made from mistakes! It sounds like it was your Eureka moment and you knew immediately it was something special. What happened after that? Did you feel freshly inspired and churn out a lot of work quite quickly or you feel any pressure to recreate the feat?

After I had painted ‘Caught’ I began to show it to people to see how they reacted? What really struck me, was that nearly everyone who saw it had a strong emotional reaction to it, some people said in scared them, other people found the figured slightly melancholic and vulnerable. I felt I’d created someone genuine and unique, so I had to try and figure out what it was about that painting that had worked so well in engaging the viewer.

How would you say your work has changed since that piece and what elements of it remain?

I think everything I do has some trace of ‘Caught’. It brought me to the conclusion that I wanted to create a human form that had emotional weight and presence, but still had a raw energy and execution.

How would you describe your work?

I guess my work is my attempt to capture human emotion and form in a raw, true and effecting way

How much use do you make of your sketch book. Do you use it just when prepping a piece or is it always on you and always being used?

I generally don’t use a ‘sketch book’ as such, I generally work on separate pieces of paper and work on a single image until I am happy with it. I’ve never liked keeping a sketchbook, as I don’t like have a large collection of ‘rough’ work lying around that I’m not happy with, if I’m not 100% sure with something I’ve produced, I generally destroy it.

Do you work with life models?

I love life drawing, but usually as I exercise to keep my hand and eye alert to what’s immediately in front of me. The poses I want for my work are extremely hard for a model to hold, for any length of time, so I use photographs of the models and work from them.

It’s not clear from the images here exactly what materials you are using. Can you tell us?

My materials are high grade acrylic paint and oils in some areas, but I guess the most distinctive element is charcoal sticks: as they are intended to be a drawing material, they’ve allowed me to retain the kind of ‘line’ that exists in my drawings and transpose that into the paintings.

Where did the name Bael come from and when did you give yourself it?

It’s a kind of abbreviation of my name Michael Bell, its just came out of nowhere, most of my favourite musicians use pseudonyms: Aphex Twin, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy etc So I wrote it a few times to see if it worked and it just felt right, so I started using it around 2008.


Well why don’t you check out an art filled “Gypsy” home?

I found this home on one of my favorite blogs, Sketch42.  I was taken by the family’s carefree style and amazing art collection.  The pictures below are taken of the family’s Parisian apartment, but they have lived in 8 different places while together. They embrace each change and look forward to many more.   Having just moved from London to DC, and currently living in NYC, I can relate!  I’m quite over the moving/living out of a suitcase, but if I had apartments like theTouhami family, I don’t think I would mind as much or at all.
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Images take from Sketch42 blog via Vogue

Well, why don’t you visit the group show at the Curious Duke Gallery?

If you find yourself wanting some Art inspiration, why not head down to the Curious Duke Gallery, for a group show of urban art meeting experimental landscapes. Holiday Group show exhibiting Curious Duke Gallery artists with prices ranging from £25- £3,000. The show runs from 31st October until 28th February. It also features Rising Moon, White Magic and Lone Star, exclusive pieces to the gallery.

Well, why don’t you check out The Collector?

I am soooo bummed I missed Frieze London this year, and even more upset that I missed this booth at Frieze Master’s!  The  Helly Nahmad gallery created an installation titled The Collector.  The viewers were able to walk through a recreation of a 1960s apartment in Paris (pictured) belonging to a fictional intellectual called Corrado N. Behind a pile of dirty teacups in the sink sat Pablo Picasso’s graphic Buste d’homme barbu, while a piece by Alberto Giacometti was resting on the bedside table. Incredible!  I love the overflowing feeling of the art and books…it reminds a bit of my aunt and uncle’s place in NYC (The Collector is much messier though!).   This is a perfect idea for a booth, and I hope to see more galleries embrace it.  Think of all the ideas! A cozy English cottage with William Turner’s!? or minimalistic Swedish designs with Tracey Emin’s!?   a bachelor pad with Marliyn Minter’s?

1960s apartment

*Images found on the internet from various sources.


Well why don’t you hang in the Hallway?

Art is a way to add that personal touch to your home, and the hallway is one of those perfect places to hang some art.  Its often the first place you see as you enter, so its an important area to make your own mark on.  We’ve found some excellent hallway examples, from murals, statement large pieces to gallery walls.  Which way would you choose to hang?

Well, why don’t you meet artist John Reuss?

When scouring the internet for some Monday inspiration, I came across the work of John Reuss.  He paints images within images, distorting the human form making complex pattern.  We love the use of colour, with pops of neon embedded in more serene colours like light pink and a subtle grey.  W found a great interview with him on The Dead Dear that we had to share with you…

Do you take away a lot from those historic art forms?

Even though I am self-taught as an artist, I’ve actually read and studied quite a bit on art history & technique – and even painted in just about any -ism and style out there. I think my style is a fusion of various influences and things I tried out at an early age – some more deliberate and conscious than others. I like to take natural elements and then mix them with abstractions – so to that extend, there are elements of abstract art in my work. I think there’s also a lot of symbolism and surreal elements, and while you might see the aesthetic of impressionism, I’m actually very inspired by expressionism. I see my work as an eclectic mix based on history and contemporary elements – just as my technique is a blend of classical painting, contemporary techniques and experiments.

Are the subjects in your paintings based off of real people or is it a fully constructed entity?

Both. Some are constructed subjects, I like to think of them “universal” beings or maybe more representations of certain emotions & experiences rather than a specific person, some are meant to be me and a few are actually based on friends and family. I’ve even done a few commissioned portraits.

The hue to most of that series is overall pretty much the same. An almost human blue usually with shades of red, then some other more varietal color choices. Is there a reason for the consistency?

I think my use of color comes very much in phases. I don’t really plan for a specific palette as such, but when looking back I notice that I often will chose a certain color scheme over a period of time. The way I work is pretty intuitive and I think how I feel and what is going on in my life in general influences what colors I use. As for human subjects I tend to go for the more extreme variety of skin tone. I think there’s a lot of symbolism in the way I interpret skin tone – it’s not that I think that is how people look on the outside, but more a representation of their inner life. You’ll probably never find a healthy and perfect pink skin tone in my work, but more the colors of injury, disease, death etc. or even completely unnatural colors.

In the paintings that use a more differential palette there is what seems to me a more design aspect (basic shapes, straight lines, detailed environments), was that something that you had worked on at the same time as the others or did it get added as the work progressed? Was there any particular reason for such a dramatic change in the series?

The interest in geometric shapes and an actual “room” or environment is something fairly new. I used to do completely isolated figures on a very empty background – sometimes a single monochrome color. A while back I began to take more interest in the way my figures interacted with the environment around them – I think it’s a development of my overall theme of contrasts. I tend to make the figures very soft and organic and even to some extent translucent, while the rest is reduced to very basic shapes with sharp lines and areas of solid color. Some of it takes inspiration from a few experiences I’ve had a while back, especially in the space between sleep and awakeness my mind would suddenly have difficulties defining the boundaries of my own physical being in relation to the surrounding objects, I’d feel as if my “self” was this fluid entity that would spill out over and even inhabit the objects in the room – that all were reduced to these angular sharply defined planes.

Convergence of multiple people tends to be a prevalent theme in a portion of your work, is there a symbolic meaning to this. Some idea that you’re trying to convey or that you are pulling from? Or does mixing people together just look awesome?
Mixing people does look awesome! But really, the idea is that it is not multiple people, but actually the same person at the same moment of time. I see it kind of as a snapshot of one persons inner life in one split second. The idea is that while we are all “solid” and composed on the outside, there’s really a fluid multitude of thoughts, emotions and cognitive processes going on the inside. So I’m trying to convey that inner turbulence.

If you had to match your work to other art forms kind of like an analogy with audio and video works (movies or music) do you feel would be comparable or compatible with your paintings?

As for movies I’d have to go for works by David Lynch – I just love how he plays with the concept of identity, time and the dark sides of the mind and I think there are certain similarities to my work. That, and a (music)video by Chris Cunningham!
As for music, I don’t know, maybe something intricate and glitchy like Aphex Twin. Maybe something by Swans or TOOL .. I actually always listen to music when I paint and it goes from dark, intricate, rock to a variety of electronica and everything in between really. Mainstream music and radio is however something I avoid listening to.
I’d love to do more cover art and maybe even music videos or other collaborations with musicians. Music is a big source of inspiration for me and I think a cross-field collaboration would be awesome

You can find more of Johns work