Pete Fowler Tackles Europe's Refugee Crisis in Comic Form
Art has the ability to cut to the center of an issue that is difficult to discuss. Visual communication can say things directly to the heart of the viewer in the way that news reports and articles cannot. A direct emotional line from one human to another speaks to these questions with immediacy and passion, begging response that could ultimately contribute to the betterment of global problems. When Pete Fowler was invited to be a part of Off Life's ongoing weekly YELLOW comic series, he had the opportunity draw upon any number of current events, but decided to focus on Europe’s current situation with their incredible influx of refugees. “My work rarely touches on real world events and situations,” Pete told Off Life. “Although I have a very keen interest in what’s going on, I tend to draw mostly from my imagination. But recently I’ve been looking for some way to respond, as a human, to what’s going on around us. You can’t get away from the mess that’s being made.” Pete saw an opportunity to do his part, to put it in a visual context that could inspire others to at least pay attention, maybe even get involved.
It’s no question that the refugee situation in Europe is at a crisis and ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. Closed borders, riots, and overly aggressive policing was particularly affecting to Pete as he watched it escalate and boil over. The tension keeping the disaster from being solved is between concerned governments, hesitant populations, and split constituencies. Obviously it wasn’t happening in his literal backyard, but with the immediacy that social media and the news cycle offers, it feels like it is. “It’s with this in mind that I approached this illustration,” Pete explains. “With a purely human and emotional take on our fellow human’s situations and struggles, I wanted to portray the situation, perhaps sitting to one side of the fence a little, I must admit.” The emotions in the piece are clearly evident.
The title for his piece is a direct line to Pete’s personal experience of witnessing the global humanitarian struggle. “My initial thoughts when watching the story unfold via Twitter and news sites was ‘this shouldn’t be happening’. I don’t think I can really say more than that to be honest, so let’s call this piece: This Shouldn’t Be Happening.” Sometimes art has the power to change the way we think about issues that are as important as this one. Perhaps this piece can help shift the way you see the world.
Check out Pete Fowler's newly updated portfolio here.
Pete Fowler Tames the Bricks
Although Pete Fowler loves painting murals, it’s an unlikely convergence of style and medium. For his latest work with Converse ccontracted by the agency Amplify, he was tasked with bringing his very graphic, clean style to a brick building with a lot of protrusions and items attached to the exterior. “This wall is a brick building, so the surface quality is what I like to call ‘cross country painting,’” he says with a laugh. Like moving across the landscape, he met hills, valleys, boulders, and cliffs that complicated what he had planned. But that’s okay, he was able to adapt. “There were little areas here and there where the image had to be tweaked,” he says.
He and Converse went back and forth quite a bit to make sure everything was right. But it all starts with a sketch. “Everything I do starts with a pencil sketch, doesn’t matter what it is,” he says. “There was quite a lot of planning.”
Before even starting the painting, he had planned about 95% of the image, giving himself that little bit of flexibility to ensure perfect execution. Working from a very detailed set of materials that Converse had provided him, Pete drew his inspiration from the story of the brand in addition to the iconic Chuck Taylor. He looked mostly to the people that he imagines wear those classic shoes. “The people that go out to gigs, people who kind of stay up all night and have a good time. Maybe play in bands,” he muses. “People grabbing life by the horns.” After he says that, he excuses the pun since a bunch of his figures have horns and antlers.
The figures in the mural are classic Pete Fowler. Not only are there bold lines and a fluid energy, but there are skulls, a musician flying through the air, and even a hint of a goatee by a moose in a hoodie taking a photo on its smart phone. Pete lives in Shoreditch, London a very trendy, culturally aware neighborhood filled with the kind of energy that he drew from. But, despite the cool color palette, he’s not in his blue period.
“I work very intuitively with color, really,” he explains. “I wanted to come up with a color palate that was quite rich but also limited. I wanted the balance of the colors to be very important but also not to overcomplicate what’s actually going on.” Keeping the palate tight allows the mural to pop where it is. Regardless of whether the sun is hitting it straight on, or it’s a cloudy day, the combination of vibrant blues, light purple, and the contrast of white and black make for an image that stands out on a stylish street. In a neighborhood with old buildings and fresh energy it’s the perfect convergence for The Monsterist, as he’s known on Twitter, to background his work.