Ron English – Sketchbox – Mini Interview

Ron English is one of the most technically adept and prolific artists alive. Taking out billboards all over the globe with his own hard-hitting political messages, he has risen to the top in popular art culture. English’s own brand of ‘Popaganda’ takes many images and ideas from modern culture and injects them with his own dry, cutting humour. Most notably, he designed the character for American junk-food exposé, Super Size Me, and produced a mash-up portrait of Presidents Obama and Lincoln for the 2008 electoral campaign.


VNA is hosting a Q&A session with Ron this evening at Boxpark, from 6-7pm, if you have anything you want us to ask, tweet it to @boxpark and @vnamagazine. In the meantime, we asked the big man a few questions of our own below:

VNA: You play around with a lot of subversive ideas, but what do you most enjoy about your work?

Ron English: I like it when my ideas no longer seem subversive, I like it when they become common wisdom.


VNA: We’ve heard a few stories about the scrapes you’ve been up to with billboards and activism, what is the most reckless thing you’ve ever done?

RE: The most dangerous thing I have ever done is admit to all the things I’ve done.


VNA: Apparently some of your paintings start out as actual 3D models, how do you create these from concept to finished piece? Do you make all the models at your studio?

RE: I go from sketch to sculpture to diorama to photograph to painting, mostly but not always in the studio. One day I will do a huge installation of all the dioramas.


VNA: Your retrospective at Boxpark opens this week, what are your favourite pieces in the show?

RE: Camo Deer Autumn silkscreen print.


VNA: You keep returning to and reinterpreting the template of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, what is the particular significance of that piece?

RE: It’s called an obsession. I like the idea of comfort chaos as the foundation for a series of works.


VNA: What artists and individuals have had the most impact on your own work and style?

RE: I learn something from every artist I encounter. Diane Arbus showed me that every work by an artist is a self-portrait of their tortured soul. Kenny Scharf legitimized fun as an art forum, Les Levine gave me permission to drop my guard on a personal level, Andy Warhol made me understand art is a business, Banksy reinforced the concept of all the world being a canvas, Olek reminded me how far out on a limb we actually are.


VNA: How do you feel about the recent events surrounding the Charlie Hebdo magazine?

RE: Violence is a way of saying ‘I can’t participate on an intellectual level in the modern world.’ No matter what God you believe in it would seem to me that disavowing God’s greatest gift to humanity, unprecedented intelligence and consciousness, is the only true heresy.


VNA: Can you tell us more about the mural you have planned for Boxpark?

RE: I want to paint Camo Deer. If his camo is successful he will go unnoticed.

Check more of Ron’s work online here:

You can also enter into a competition to win one of Ron’s ‘Camo Deer screen-prints at Art Republic: