Westrup is at the forefront of merging underground music with quality art and this deserves to be recognised. We’re not talking about the #hiphopart hashtag. Nah. Let’s talk UK now. Let’s talk Mister Westrup
Words: Asma Qureshi, Subeditor: Tenelle Ottley-Matthew
Mister Westrup is sick at vomiting drawings of women and rappers on my Twitter feed. A single tweet just doesn’t cut it when it comes to this talented digital artist from Colchester, Essex.
Digital art is more technology intensive than it may seem. We’re surrounded by it, Starbucks festive cups to the futuristic spaces created by artists Dalziel and Pow. We are either too used to seeing digital art in our everyday lives or we see it as a complete extreme. Westrup has introduced his art as an alternative to traditional portrait methods used with paint and other familiar medias. The beauty behind it, is that the textures and brush strokes trick our eyes into thinking that it is a painting, revealing his gift to produce realistic yet expressive portraits.
“I guess I was curious about digital art. I’m a bit of a geek so I’ve enjoyed the fact there is so much depth to digital art. There are so many possibilities, it’s so versatile.”
As digital art can be mass produced, don’t you think it takes away the true value of an original drawing that you can have with a raw piece of art?
“I think there are ways to have an original image in digital art. There is still a great deal of stigma attached to digital art, suspicion to the techniques as people try to understand how you did it more than appreciate the piece in front of them. I find it pretty weird, we quite quickly accepted digitally created music alongside traditional instruments. I’m not sure why people find it so hard to do the same with Art. You wouldn’t question a hip hop tracks credibility when no traditional instruments have been used, why do we do it with art? Personally, I think it’s snobbery within artists. I could rant on this topic for some time but don’t want to bore you!”
With Twitter’s instantaneous sharing ability, exhibiting artwork online has never been easier, whether that is building a fan base or being recognized by underground artists. The fusion between the underground music scene and Westrup’s illustrations is something which many Instagram, Twitter friendly artists experiment with. Especially when it comes to mixtape and album artwork, or even artwork for online releases. It’s a clever relationship and has been recognised by many artists.
“There has always been Hip Hop art, there are literally thousands of illustrations of Tupac and Biggy all over the internet, you don’t see it so much here in the UK. I’d never really seen that kind of work done here, not on that scale. In terms of the fusion with music and art, I feel like it’s one in the same. The arts seem to support each other, you can’t really have one without the other. Music is an art, photography, videography, it all supports each other and it kind of intensifies itself.”
The reality is, the words ‘urban’ and ‘art’ are associated with graffiti, but never portrait art. It’s original to the British urban scene that we know of and Westrup is one of many artists (like Reuben Dangoor’s Legends of the Scene) who are transforming the conventions of high art into something relatable. That’s what transforms the whole stigma behind the word “art” as being elitist or a rich kid phenomenon. These illustrations demonstrate a hard graft to create a career from his passion.
“Certain times when there’s not enough interest, if I’m not selling as much as I’d like, or I don’t seem to be reaching the amount of people I’d hope to. It’s funny though, every time I start to feel like that something happens. Like it could just be something someone says, or like an exciting new client. There’s always something there to remind me why it’s worth it.”
Westrup represents the fluidity of art, both in time and expression. The boundaries between audiences have been broken, with absolute exposure, inspiration is everywhere and so is competition. If Doctor Who could bring Monet back to draw on a tablet, would he faint? Who knows? But what’s certain is that Westrup reveals an exciting evolution of still life digital art.
“This, what I’m doing now excites me, there’s so much to learn, there’s so many possibilities, it would be insane to give that up in pursuit of short terms gains. Whatever they may be.”