Interview with lowbrow artist Paulie Polka

Paulie Polka - London based artist and photographer. Former ballet dancer and scorer champion. Educated slavicist and graphic designer. Mind full of ideas and dark nooks and crannies. German expressionism madcap. Weegee's photography lover. Especially moved by art deco, lowbrow art and Kustom Kulture. Likes to dance to Gene Krupa Orchestra. Works with varied traditional and digital mediums, however soft pastels predominate over others.

Paulie's lowbrow images range from realistic to cartoony, from kitchy to spooky, and are deeply inspired by both the 50s era and classic horror films. No wonder her latest Kiddies came into being shaped by the retro adverts trimmed with her distinctive creepy flavour. Making them grotesque by mixing childish innocence and neat composition with disturbing elements. As we all know, kids can be really cruel... Bon appetit!
Hello dear Paulie, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?

I’ve always displayed interest in various art fields. During the school times I was more focused on drawing then doing homework. When I was only 13, one of my drawings was shown at a group exhibition in a local Academy of Arts. Even though, I may have previously wandered, seeking a proper occupation, I’ve always wanted to create and that’s one of my real loves.
What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
I live and create influenced by the times from the 20s to 60s. I’ve always been somewhat rebellious, and that’s probably one of the reasons why I identify myself with Kustom Kulture. I find almost everything about it exciting, from rocknroll music to drag racing, motorcycles, lowbrow art and loads of creativity. There, along with old horror films, is where I mainly find inspiration, however any tiniest detail from everyday life can be inspiring. My artistic guru is, needles to say, Mr Robert Williams. Also I’ve recently discovered Doktor A, who creates crazy steampunk figurines. His Copper Creeps are rad. Yet I admire not only lowbrow artists. I’m a huge fan of Tamara Lempicka and modern cubist artist Willy L’Eplattenier.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
Pretty „normal“, I guess. I get up, work, work, work, go to grocerys, cook, work, work, work... Different are days of shows and other events. Hopefully I work from home. In general, I work a lot, nevermind if it‘s painting or any other project. I simply enjoy being busy.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I’m totally self-tought. This is the main reason why I moved to UK. Here I found much more opportunities and appreciation. Back in Poland, holding a degree in slavistics, I wasn’t welcome to art galleries. They would ask me to proove my art education. So I finally showed them my middle finger and left to London. My story shows you don’t necessarily need to have an art degree. You can learn by yourself. Nontheless, it may take longer and require more effort to be finally noticed.

What fascinates you the most about lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
I would say, everything about lowbrow fascinates me. It’s origin and how it evolved. Freedom of creating, mixing varied motives and having fun, what my own style reflects. I mainly create bizarre, grotesque images with a bit of humour and I like to see people smiling at them.
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
I love the whole process of creating, from an idea to a finished piece of art. Being creative means entire life to me. It means freedom.

Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
It’s almost the same everytime and starts with an idea coming to my mind. Then it grows for a bit. When it’s formed enough I do a couple of sketches, pick proper tools and start. I’ve tried varied mediums yet soft pastels happened to be my favourite, and predominate among others and when I finally grab them I find it hard to stop for a break.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
As an avid photographer, my dream is to have a go at silverplate photography. The whole image formation process intrigues me much.

Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
My workspace is my little own world and I spend there most of the time, and not only when I work. It’s a place where I hide and relax when I feel like it. Weird things happen there everytime I create...
Some may find my growing collection of hands a bit odd. My favourite one is a whole arm from a 20s wooden mannequin.
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
After all those rejections from galleries I’ve learnt to believe in myself and keep walking.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
The best one was to do what I love and don‘t give up and the worst advice was to get a „proper“ job.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I try not to think about negatives and focus on positives. That’s been helping me for a while now. Being an artist, in spite of all those beautiful things happening, is not easy in general. Especially at the beginnig of the journey. And indeed it is lonely in some way. Particularly when I prefer to stay in my head...

Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
My goal is to develop by producing more and more images. I’d like to exhibit a lot and see people enjoy my art. Maybe find an agent...
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
Practice, be yourself, be tough.
Your favorite quote is ...
I had a laugh reading what Robert Williams said during some interview:
“If you can get into those big museums, in a big white room, and you’ve got a pedestal, and you put a dog turd on that pedestal, that thing is going to be sanctified.”

What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
Dancing rocknroll or lindy hop at live gigs is a perfect stress remedy. I also kustomize some furnitue and home goods, when I have opportunity.
Do you have an online portfolio, blog or social medias where we can view your work?
Feel invited to take a look at my web page, like me on Facebook or even follow me on Instagram.

Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
Firstly, it was a pleasue to answer your interstng questions.
Secondly, would like to invite everyone who’ll be around London on the 7th of April for an opening night of my joint exhibition with Joe Whitney at the Flaxon Ptootch Gallery on Kentish Town Road.
Thirdly, in March a „Contemporary Art of Excellence Book - Volume II“ featuring my art will be published.
And last but not least, I’d like to proudly announce I’ve just opened a little online store so now you can order some creepies directly from me on Enjoy!
Thank you dear Paulie, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
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