Fairly recently, my mum showed me an old Hungarian cook book she’s had since the 1950s, before she arrived in England. Amongst the hundreds of pages there are doodles I did as a toddler. Those doodles are the beginning of a lifetime. Since then, a pen, pencil or paintbrush in my hand has always felt natural.
From that cook book I progressed onto early learning comics that my mum bought as she learned the English language. From doodling in them, I began to draw from them. A creativity within me was stimulated and over the past fifty years or so, evolved through a diverse curve of learning.
I didn’t take my drawing or education seriously through my youth. My artwork at school definitely caught the attention of teachers, but only because they were often the subjects. I made my classmates laugh though. Having a laugh was my general attitude towards school and I left in 1976 with a CSE in art as my main qualification. My art teacher forcefully encouraged me to go onto art college, but I just didn’t want to spend any more years in a classroom.
Having no job and not really concerned about the future, I thoroughly enjoyed the heatwave of 1976 before deciding to join the army. The military establishment and I didn’t get on and within two years I was discharged back into civilian life. After flitting around various jobs, by the age of 26, I was married with a son and working in a tyre garage. Drawing and painting was still my hobby though and I yearned to earn a living from it, but without qualifications or any formal training, my prospects were unlikely. Then one day my brain waved.
I needed to publicise my work, show off my abilities and get noticed. Having jumped onto the property ladder by buying my council house, I’d also purchased an enormous canvas on the gable end. There wasn’t a plan or a theme, I just wanted to paint something massive.
The publicity I sought escalated beyond expectations. Press, radio and TV locally, a couple of national tabloids and even a feature magazine. Everyone could see my artwork and I gained my 15 minutes, labelled as an eccentric neighbour from hell.
I did however pick up a few commissions, but not enough to earn a living, so I continued working as a tyre fitter.
As I approached my thirties, I teamed up with an old friend, who was quite a competent cartoonist and together we drew spot cartoons, which we submitted to newspapers and magazines. When we received a rejection from Viz, the new adult comic that had taken the country by storm, we decided to have a go at producing our own local adult comic. It took us a few months, working around our full time jobs, to put together the first issue of ’Smut, The Alternative Comic’ and 300 copies were distributed around Derby and Nottingham. A sales rep from a London distribution company spotted a copy, we met up and a deal was agreed to distribute Smut nationally with an initial run of 40,000 copies. The success of Smut lead to publishing further humour titles and several other small business ventures.
Unfortunately, we mis-managed our finances and found ourselves heavily in debt. After ten years our business partnership dissolved and for eighteen months I struggled to find work. Then an unexpected opportunity arose in a new phenomenon, mobile phone entertainment; ringtones, logos and screen-savers. I was offered a fruitful freelance contract creating pixelated images for Monstermob, the country’s leading mobile entertainment company. My artwork appeared in a frenzy of national advertising and ultimately onto mobile phone screens.
As pixel graphics evolved into hi-res colour images, changes in the company left me facing a new deal that I just couldn’t accept and I found myself unemployed again, for two days. A country walk, long discussion with my wife and a business venture was conceived. I created graphics and together we licensed them, globally. At our peak, we accumulated contracts on every continent and Fulep’s ‘Graphics with Attitude’ were being downloaded onto phones in over eighty countries around the world.
Towards the end of the 2000s, the financial crash, along with the development of android phones, impacted business. As much as I spent most of my daily life in front of a computer, technology had surpassed me and the decision was made to slowly wind down and change direction. With nearly fifty years of learning to draw behind me, I decided to combine all my skills and knowledge to try my hand as a freelance graphic artist, creating everything and anything from logos to murals.
I still continue freelancing to this day, but the more I use traditional tools, pencils and brushes, the more I enjoy my work. As I approach my sixties I have just one more objective in my working life, to try and establish myself as just an ‘artist’.
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