10?’s with footballer, designer, typographer and artist, Craig Black
Footballer, designer, typographer, internationally exhibited artist, business co-founder and creative director, Craig Black kicks off the first 10?'s of 2022 and opens up about his journey so far and a few highlights of his latest projects with his signature expression of Acrylic Fusion.
Mr Black, so great to be chatting with you today. We’re all huge fans of your work at Nomad, so this is a special one for us.
10 Questions coming right up. Let’s do this...
Craig, you’re a young father, you run a business and you’re an artist, doing mad installations in obscure locations at the drop of a hat. How do you find the time to fit everything in?
Well, I must admit, the 6 am rises with my 18-month-old daughter can be pretty helpful! I tend to wake at the same time as her, spend time with her in the morning, give her breakfast and a bath and have a little play. This genuinely sets me up for the day and after spending the morning with her, I feel ready to conquer the day ahead. I tend to head into the studio late morning and as soon as I enter the studio, I am head down focused on the project I am working on at that moment in time. I have definitely found that I am able to be much more productive, focused and strict with my time management since having my daughter as I know that when I head home at 5/6 pm, the working day is over and I am Daddy again.
In terms of doing mad installations in obscure locations at the drop of the hat, I am lucky that I have a supportive wife who encourages me to grasp every single opportunity and she holds the fort at home while I am away for a few days here and there. When I am away from home, I really use the opportunity to cram in as much work, email correspondence, meetings as I can and really make the most of each location I find myself in.
You’re famous for your lettering and type work, I remember seeing your Barcelona Fiat 500 at the OFFF festival a few years ago, and loving it. This is a pretty awesome career, what drove you to go further to becoming an artist?
Yeah, I developed my love of type and lettering work during my last year at university and focused heavily on this for the first few years of my career. I found this aspect of design particularly fascinating and exciting and I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had within this area of work. Some of my favourite projects to date have been typography focused, particularly the brand typeface I created for Rangers Football Club – the team I have supported since I was a kid. This is something I will always be extremely proud of and this definitely was the pinnacle of my type/lettering career for obvious reasons!
The Barcelona Fiat 500 installation you mention was an incredibly memorable experience. Not only did I love being hands-on, getting covered in paint and of course enjoying the lovely Spanish weather – this was my first ever live art performance and definitely a catalyst that helped get me to where I am today. Following this experience, I knew I wanted to delve more into the artistic world however I understood that I had to continue to build my brand before making that leap.
We both come from similar working-class backgrounds, where design was not really part of everyday life. How did you get from there to where you are today, what was your journey like?
Since I was a kid, I have always been creative. As a young boy, I spent many an evening drawing pictures of football boots, football strips and even used to customise my own football boots just for fun. I was football obsessed!
When I was 16, still in high school, I was offered a permanent contract as a professional footballer with my local football club Greenock Morton. At this time, I remember being so excited at the idea of a career as a footballer however I didn’t lose sight of the fact that I should have a “backup plan” in case my football career didn't work out. My “backup plan” was art. I had an agreement with my school that I would train with Greenock Morton in the mornings and attend advanced higher art class at school in the afternoons.
As you mention, coming from a working-class background, design wasn't really part of everyday life and I guess I wasn't actually even aware of the opportunities that were available. It’s quite funny how it all played out for me actually – after several years as a professional footballer, I decided to step away from the game as it made me unhappy (politics in football!) and I wasn't loving it the way I did previously. Right after turning down a new contract from the club, I decided to head to the pub with some friends and I met my high school art teacher. I told him what I was doing and he said to me “you should go and study graphic design". Honestly, I didn't even know what graphic design was! However, after looking into it, I thought this is something I could be really good at – and the rest is history!
Sport is a recurring theme in your work, especially football, is there a specific reason behind this, is it personal or do you just love the beautiful game?
I just love it!! As I mentioned before, it was a huge part of my life growing up and although I don’t have the same athletic stamina as I had as an 18-year old, I still love watching football and more specifically creating amazing art installations for the beautiful game.
Your Fusion Series for the UEFA Euro’s literally stopped me in my tracks. I remember seeing it on LinkedIn and being immediately blown away. In such a busy world, why do you think what you do cuts through so well?
I think people enjoy the process of such a technique where you can literally see the creation from start to finish as well as the mesmerising way that the paint binds to certain objects to create beautiful and unique pieces of artwork. This is why I always capture video footage of the Acrylic Fusion paint pouring technique. Funnily enough, I actually spoke with UEFA ahead of the Euro’s to pitch my idea to them and they advised that they already had all of their content organised for the competition. However, after I launched my self-initiated Fusion Series Footballs, they immediately contacted me and commissioned a marketing campaign for EURO 2020 which I was absolutely buzzing about as you can imagine.
Another point of cutting through the noise is that I invest a lot of time and effort in capturing the content. I work with several amazing videographers and photographers on every single project, and the results they produce are always top-notch. I strive for the highest possible standard in my work every single time so I pride myself on every little detail that goes into my work.
Let’s talk about your performance at The 7 Sins event. You were completely transfixed. Where did you go? And how did it feel performing in front of so many people with the unpredictability of paint pouring?
During the build-up for this event, I was quite nervous as the Acrylic Fusion technique is not an exact science, it can go slightly off tangent or not work out exactly the way I have pictured it in my head. I’ve been working on my craft for years and there’s still elements of improvisation and problem solving required as I start bringing these artworks to life.
Things like paint not mixing well together, does this area of the ball require more or less pressure of paint, going slow or faster with paint pour creates different effects. Bearing in mind gravity takes hold of the paint as well so the paint on the artwork continues to move around the football long after I’ve finished pouring so there’s many calculations going on in my head when I’m in action.
I’m incredibly focused when I’m painting so regardless of whether I was in front of 50 or 5000 people, I would perform the same. I think it’s a true belief in what I’m doing, I want to provide the most amazing experience for others as I am at play. I make sure to enjoy the moment and soak every ounce up as possible.
What made The 7 Sins event even more special was the interaction with the audience. The crowd was cheering as I was pouring, which was crazy! I was having banter with the audience, chatting away as I’m going between artworks, asking their point of view “should I add more paint?” getting the viewer to think differently about the artwork as well. There was so much positivity from everyone, I absolutely loved it and can’t thank everyone enough who came along.
How important are “happy accidents” in your paint pouring pieces or are you actually in total control?
No, there are definitely "happy accidents" – I guess too many people wouldn't realise they are accidents as such, I can only go by the image I have in my own head and when it doesn't work out like that I need to quickly think of a plan. It happens more often than you would think but I do like the fun and unpredictability of it. Being in total control would be a bit boring!
Are your paint-pouring pieces art, design, sculpture, performance, chance or all of the above?
I would say all of the above… And more!
The Rangers project really was my dream project and once I completed it I knew deep down that there would never be another kind of project that I could do that would bring me the same amount of excitement and passion as this one did. I guess this feeling really made me re-evaluate my position within the design world and gave me the nudge into the art world that I really needed. As a result, I am now fully invested in being a visual artist.
My next big dream project is to work with the FIFA World Cup – what an incredible feeling it would be to see one of my Acrylic Fusion footballs being kicked by some of football’s greatest talents… The thought of this makes me incredibly excited.
You’ve got a lot of fans who love what you do, what advice would you give to anyone starting out in design or wanting to become an artist?
Thank you for your kind words and I always appreciate the support from other creatives and professionals – it really does give me the confidence to keep pushing forward with my artwork and keep focused on producing top class work.
My advice to someone starting out in design or wanting to pursue a career as an artist would be to network, network and network some more. I truly believe that you can learn so much from others who are already in the field or have been doing this kind of work for a long time. LinkedIn is a great place to start forming these relationships.
Start working on your craft, whatever it is you’re keen on doing look to create self-initiated work as that can be the catalyst for the career you want. Put work into your portfolio you want to get hired for. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, take note of what certain inspiring characters are doing and see how you can use this to help push your own career and always look for and be open to any opportunity that can help you get to where you want to be.
Craig Black is a Scottish visual artist best known for his 'Acrylic Fusion' technique.
Craig’s work has been celebrated and exhibited across the world: from London and New York to Sydney and Dubai. He is also known across the public speaking circuit for sharing his inspirational creative journey at conferences and creative events around the world.
He is also the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Creative Inverclyde – a social enterprise aimed at utilising the creative sector to be the nucleus for positive social change across Inverclyde and Scotland.