Alexander McQueen once said, 'I think of people I want to dress when I design'. For artist Rugman, AKA dad Anthony McEwan, the same approach applies when he creates art: he has a clear idea of the home he is designing for. Funnily enough, it looks very much like his own: monochrome with pops of neon and a smattering of Oliver Bonas.
We first encountered Rugman's art when we were invited to tour the showroom of one of our favourite interiors brands, Buster + Punch, in London's Borough Market. The motorbike-inspired heavy metal glam of Buster + Punch fits perfectly with Rugman's rock 'n' roll art; the pieces on display at the showroom combine aluminium with gold leaf, while the images explore the relationship between mankind and the natural environment.
But most importantly, his prints are just fucking cool. And surprisingly affordable.
We caught up with Rugman to chat about his celebrity following, tattoo obsession and plans to scare off his daughter's future boyfriends...
PH: Hey Antony - so...you're just back from the gym?
R: Yeah - my daughter is 11, so I'm trying to get in shape to scare off her first boyfriend. Reckon that'll be in a couple of years, when I'm 40 - but I'll be ready!
PH: You started out as a graphic artist in the fashion industry, working with the likes of Vans, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein – how did you get into that?
R: I was living in Glasgow around the time when Damien Hirst, Alexander McQueen and the Brit Art scene were big news. I loved McQueen, was keen to do something on the arts side of fashion, and wanted to be part of that scene - the bright lights were calling. So after my foundation year at Chelsea Art School I headed to London in search of fame and fortune.
PH: Tell us a bit about your love of tattoos - they play a big part in your designs.
R: I'm from Barrhead, near Glasgow, and when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s I had some tasty uncles: one was a boxer, and as a kid I thought he looked like a proper hard man with his tattoos. I've always liked that look: a bit rebellious, with a punk element. I have quite a few tattoos myself. My first was a tribalesque tattoo when I was 14, by an artist who had tattooed Billy Connolly - I lied and said I was older than I was so he'd do it. I've had it slightly covered up since - it's not really my style. Nowadays I tend to find tattoo artists I like through Instagram.
PH: Have you ever tattooed anyone yourself?
R: I've never actually done a tattoo, thought I have designed them. I'm really intrigued by tattoo artists - they have to be totally confident when they make a mark. The black line, the tattooist's starting point, runs through all my work. The colour comes later.
PH: Have you planned your next tattoo?
R: Yes - it's going to be a plain black heart on my right arm. For me, black isn't sad or bad - quite the opposite; I see a black line and that makes me happy. I love black on white.
PH: Would you describe yourself as a street artist?
R: I’m not a street artist – I'm an artist who's done some work on the street. Street art is a young man’s game - you need to be prolific to make an impact - it's like a logo. It's great that street art is gaining momentum again though, as it allows art to be accessible to people who might not otherwise have got involved - Instagram and Facebook are helping promote a whole new generation of street artists. When you're doing paste-ups on the street it's bizarre to think of this art form going mainstream. I mean, you've got teams of people going round on street art tours in Shoreditch, near where I live, and the number of street art galleries have quadrupled in London over the past 15 years or so.
PH: Some artists are sniffy about the commercial world of brands, but you embrace it – why?
R: As a dad you need to pay the bills. I do my shows, do my own work in the evenings, but nothing is better than being paid for doing what you love, and commercial art allows me to do that - to make drawings and sell them. Selling at the Saatchi Gallery, or collaborating with a brand, it’s all the same to me; I think art and business is a great combination.
PH: Which brands would you like to work with in the future?
R: I'd love to collaborate with Vans again. I was really into skate culture as a kid, and, for me, there are two brands that transcend generations: Vans and Stussy. That's a sign of a great brand - if you're doing the school run and you see a seven-year-old and his dad wearing clothes with the same logo.
PH: Your Icon print series in collaboration with the Saatchi Gallery has been a sell-out. Bowie; Madonna; The Queen - why did you choose these particular icons?
R: The original concept for the icon series was to try and cancel out as much as possible on the face; replace the features with tattoos, but ensure the person is still recognisable. So I needed people so famous - and with distinctive enough hair - that it was instantly obvious who they were.
PH: How did you end up collaborating with Buster + Punch?
R: Anna from Buster + Punch saw some of my work during the last week of my 'Sister, Mother' exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery [pics above], and got in touch. I've done some works on aluminium which just work really well in their showroom.
PH: We agree! So what style of home do you reckon your art looks look best in?
R: I imagine my own home when I design - loft-style, mainly monochrome, with white walls. I have three of my own prints up in my living room for pops of colour. I also have a low grey couch and neon blue, pink and green Oliver Bonas cushions and a throw. Oh, and my new purchase - tiny yellow and blue tables from Habitat. There's also an Elvis by Peter Blake on the wall. I'd love my home to be more minimalistic but with kids that's not really possible.
PH: You’re gathering quite a celeb following - we hear both Tom Hardy and Tim Minchin own your designs?
R: That's right. Tim bought my Ziggy print at the Jealous Gallery in Crouch End - he said it was for his house in LA. My pal Tom has been wearing my designs for a few years now - he wore a Rugman Beardy Man tee for his Vanity Fair shoot [pic above]. I have also gifted him one of my prints.
PH: So what's next?
R: I've got quite a few plans. In May I'm doing a live paint at We Built This City on Carnaby Street to celebrate The Queen's birthday. I might have covered her face in tattoos, but I actually quite like her! Then in July I have a show in Chicago, and I'm also doing a window space in Southwark near the Tate Modern. I've also just released a new limited edition print run of Rebel Rebel, one of my Bowie designs from the Icon series [if you're quick you can buy one here - we did!].
PH: Cheers Anthony! Great chatting with you - and good luck scaring off those boyfriends...
For more about Rugman, and his online store, visit www.rugmanart.com