Pop art is not traditional, it's becoming traditional but the movement sure does need a few more years. The pop art movement isn't even that old, we're talking early 80's though majority of the recognition came in the early 90's with big names such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann and Keith Haring. Fine art took a turn, becoming fun, more accessible and less serious. Rich Simmons is an example of just that, he's a Pop Artist himself and a good one at that! His art shows a lot of inspiration from many of the innovators in the movement. The vibrant use of colours and various designs make his artwork very appealing for someones space. You cannot miss his artwork when entering a room.
One of my favourite aspects of Rich Simmons art is the accessibility of his artwork. His work is very accessible through his website and he makes that clear. Artwork from established artist's can be hard to access at times depending on who the artist is and how established they're in the art market in regards to their artwork selling at auctions. Simmons has artwork that has fetched in the thousands, yet he continues to make sure some of his artwork is very accessible for those who just love art and want to own artwork from an established artist like himself.
OWITY: How did your career start, when did you know you wanted to be an artist? And why is Pop Art your choice of style?
RICH SIMMONS: I always knew I wanted to do something creative from a young age, whether that was in the art world or as some kind of storyteller. My heroes have always been Leonardo da Vinci and Stan Lee so emulating one of them in some small way was always a goal. I would experiment with different techniques and always found it fun to learn new skills and new ways to creative narratives. That experimentation led me to discovering stencils and street art. It combined my love of illustration, engineering and spray paint and I’ve been learning and trying to master it to tell stories in different ways for almost 20 years now.
My first break as an artist was creating a piece before the royal wedding in 2011 of Will and Kate dressed like the famous Jamie Reid photo of Sid and Nancy from the Sex Pistols at Southbank skatepark. It was the right piece at the right time and it got global media coverage and I was offered gallery deals, print deals and more overnight. It was at this point I had to figure out who I was as an artist and roll with the opportunities presented and transition from someone just doing stencils and street art for fun, and find my own style that would work in galleries. This artistic evolution I had to undergo would end up being inspired by different influences from pop art, street art, comic books and more to create something that felt like my own thing that I would enjoy painting.
OWITY: At what point of your career as an artist felt like you "made it"? Cliche to ask but personally at what time during your career did say to yourself "I am an established artist within the art world"?
RICH SIMMONS: When I started exhibiting with Opera Gallery, I was hanging in the same space as artists I admired growing up. The likes of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Ron English and more. I had a serious case of imposter syndrome because as much as I had been painting and cutting stencils for years, it was always just for me and practice, never exhibited. To have my first tastes of working with a gallery and being alongside my heroes was definitely a case of being thrown in at the deep end and seeing if I could swim or not.
It took me stepping away from this gallery and trying my luck with a smaller gallery who gave me more creative freedom to explore who I wanted to be as an artist and take that initial experience with a major gallery and try and prove myself. I went on to do several solo shows in London but it wasn’t until I got opportunities to exhibit in New York that I began to find my confidence more and feel like I deserved these opportunities. To this day, I still feel more like the nerdy art kid, happy to be alone in a studio making paintings than an established artist but maybe thats the right mentality to have. Remain humble, stay grateful for opportunities and continue to be hungry to prove myself as an artist.
OWITY: I see that you've ventured into the NFT space recently. Though you're a traditional artist, do you think all artist's will eventually all have NFT's as well as their traditional tangible work?
RICH SIMMONS: My head says probably yeh, thats the way the world is heading with more digital, online technologies shaping the way we see and experience the world. My heart says I hope not because I