Sheffield Artist Alan Pennington
Welcome Alan Pennington to the Volta Creative “Hall of Fame” he’s the latest addition to our Fellow Sheffield Creatives feature. We produced some work for Graysons Solicitors who sponsored last years Art in the Gardens which featured Alan’s work and we really liked it, so we are very excited to have him as a contributor.
Alan’s work uses bright, vivid, flat colours to conjure up wonderful local iconic images which never fail to bring a smile to the face and warm feeling to the heart.
Volta: Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
Alan: When I was about 10, I first saw Wallace & Gromit – The Wrong Trousers. There was something magical about that animation that really hooked me. It captured everyday life in Britain – teapots with cosies on (reminded me of my great Auntie Dora), the pace and feel of the environment was very relatable and everything was solved by a cup of tea.
In my late teens, I developed a keen interest in urban street art. I admired the skill it took to create some of the most psychedelic and surreal pieces I’d ever seen and all done using a spray can as the brush really blew my mind. It was in researching famous graffiti artists I found Keith Haring. He used thick black lines in his work and it inspired my approach with my illustrations. It’s a combination of these influences which have married in my work and inspired the art I create.
Volta: Were you self-taught or have you had formal training?
Alan: I was self-taught, I guess. Drawing had been something I really enjoyed doing from being very young. I would doodle in my lunch hour at school and the other kids would gather round and watch. It was something I felt really good at and it came naturally to me.
Volta: What did you do before you did what you do now?
Alan: Way back, when I had just finished uni and was applying for Graphic Design jobs, I worked in a wine shop; Threshers. There used to be a stack of wine wrap on the counter which I couldn’t resist doodling on!
People would ask if they could have the pieces to wrap their bottles in. Some even asked to keep them and put them on their walls! I just thought they were being kind, but it turns out there was a genuine love for the things I was creating and it fired me up to pursue my art.
Volta: How did your current style develop and how do you see it developing in the future?
Alan: My art is something which will always keep evolving. I feel I’ve established a recognisable style which I continue to tweak and grow whilst still keeping it instantly recognisable as one of mine. I love to experiment with unusual colour palettes and levels of detail. My aim was always to capture the look of a place or the feel of a moment in a clean, bright and simple way.
Sometimes capturing a moment in a simplified style is deceptive in difficulty because you have less detail to play with there’s more riding on getting every line just right. At present, I’m really enjoying capturing the Peak District in my style, with a new series of six pieces being released very soon.
Volta: How would you describe what you do?
Alan: In the roots of all my pieces are personal memories, with the majority of my work using Sheffield’s wealth of iconic buildings and landmarks as the subject. Outside of the city, these subjects wouldn’t necessarily mean anything to someone, but here, they really do.
They could be a snapshot of a place where a couple first met, or somewhere you remember spending a lot of time growing up or walking past over the years. I always say it feels like having an exclusive fan club which celebrates this special city some of us have called home for a night out, a few years whilst at uni or work or for our whole life!
Volta: Can you remember the first piece of work you ever sold?
Alan: Yes. I believe the first piece I ever sold was of my Henderson’s Relish bottle character, Local Hero. I was creating some pieces to sell at my first ever art exhibition at Art in the Gardens back in 2009. A workmate at my first design job was wanting to hold a stall at the show and asked if I’d like to go halves so we could obtain one.
I remember when I was asked how much the painting was and not knowing what to say. I couldn’t believe my first piece was about to be bought and put on someone’s wall! Even now that memory makes me so happy it gives me goosebumps!
Volta: If you could choose famous one person to own one of your pieces of work, who would it be?
Alan: I’ve been very lucky to have a few famous folk buy my artwork – Reverend Kate Bottley from Gogglebox, Gemma Atkinson & support from Reverend & The Makers.
To me, everyone who has bought a piece of my artwork is like a famous person to me. If it wasn’t for people supporting and mirroring my passion for the city back to me, I couldn’t do the thing I love which is create art from the heart.
Volta: What piece of your own work gives you the most satisfaction and why?
Alan: I can’t really pick a single piece. I have a rule (which may sound cheesy), but I get a feeling with every piece I do. If I don’t feel it’s right, or good enough and wouldn’t want to frame it and put it on the walls in my own place, then it doesn’t make the cut. I like to take my time on a piece and really get the feeling it gives just right.
Volta: What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?
Alan: It’s got to be the people and places. I could reel off a tonne of places which were significant in sculpting my childhood and adult life. Sheffield has been a fantastic city to call home and holds so many wonderful memories for me.
If I really had to pick one thing, I think it’d be going to Granelli’s sweet shop with my brother and sister and making those all important decisions on how best to spend our pocket money on our favourite sweets. Flying saucers and fizzy cola bottles in the park afterwards, life didn’t get much better than that!
Volta: What advice would you give an aspiring fellow creative who was wanting to break through to the next level?
Alan: I’d say take the time to find your style. Be inspired by artists and the world around you, but make sure you do your own thing. There’s room out there for all of us to develop our own thing and to support each other in our common love of creativity.
There’s nothing stands out more than something new, never done before. So break the mould, find your style and let the world see it.
Sheffield Artist Alan Pennington
Want to find out a little more about Sheffield Artist Alan Pennington’s work?
Here are links to Alans website and social media channels – enjoy!