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.