Light years away from the rolling fields of his Constable country childhood, Maxwell Paternoster is ploughing a very different furrow… sometimes with quite alarming results.
Q. Your work has a freaky, cool retro comic book feel to it. Are you an artistic time traveller?
A. I think we (artists) all are to some extent – influence and style-wise. The work develops over the years, taking influence from all kinds of places in time, a bit of the ‘70s, ‘80s and the 1600s. Influence can come from the future too. Thinking about it, I suppose any future-based inspiration probably comes from depictions and influences of the future that were created in the past. So being influenced by the future is also taking something from the past.
Q. What’s it like inside your head?
A. Waheyy! Woooo! Mental! Yabba dabba doo! No, it’s actually all quite normal.
Q. Would you like to live in some of the scenes you create or are they strictly off limits?
A. Ha. In some of my scenes the danger level would be way too high to live in, even if I say so myself. The chainsaw-wielding, devil-type characters and insect-headed bike riders would be terrifying.
Q. How does the process work? Do you wake up Eureka style in the middle of the night and commit to paper?
A. There are different scenarios and ways of getting ideas. If it’s personal work sometimes it’s a fast, looser, basic image I draw off the top of my head. It’s based on stuff I drew in sketchpads over the years from my visual library. If it’s a motorcycle helmet for a customer, I can spend a long time trying to think of an idea and layout – hours and hours of head scratching – before finally coming up with a good idea. Sometimes an idea is developed in the sketchpad for hours and then scrapped, and a really good idea suddenly appears to save the day. Or I’ll spend a while getting familiar with the brief and then walk about or wash the dishes while thinking about the project in a relaxed way, and then it hits me.
Q. The rolling fields and sea of Suffolk is the home of Constable – was growing up there an inspiration?
A. I tried as a kid to be influenced by all that stuff, but I was bored rigid by rolling fields. I looked at the masters and marvelled at their technique. I’d try to do oil paintings, but that was all part of being a kid and not knowing what artistic direction to take. I was more inspired by stuff like farm machines, factories, transportation, animals, cartoons and TV.
Q. There’s a strong late-‘70s ‘comic with attitude’ vibe in your style. When you see real life, does your head translate it into that?
A. Whizzer and Chips, Cor!! Beano, Dandy, Beezer, Topper – I had ‘em all as a kid, and I’d draw all the characters and stuff all the time. Those early influences are still present and when I see things they get translated into whacky cartoon world. I’ve been to job interviews in factories where I’ve had trouble stifling my laughter on a tour of the machines because I’d imagine some cartoon-like scenario happening.
Q. When did the riding community come calling? What’s caused this resurgence in art and bikes?
A. The internet, innit. Ten years ago, it was all about the forums. Then it was all about the blogs, now it’s all about social media. I’ve had a motorbike for years since I was a kid, but for a long time I was the only person I knew with one – none of my friends were into them. I’d go to all the auto jumbles and events, but it was all separate from my circle of friends. So getting online and meeting like-minded bikers was a plus. I used to keep the motorcycle side of me separate from the art side because I didn’t see much opportunity for art in the bike world. It seemed stagnant in moto world, then like-minded people met online and I started to find more interesting bike-related activities, new riding friends and bikes by the likes of Wrenchmonkees. Then the crossover started. I put more bike-related art online, collaborated with photographer Richard Baybutt. Then Sideburn Magazine and Lowbrow customs asked for some, and I got more into the illustration/motorcycle crossover.
Q. What’s next in the pipeline?
A. I might print some T-shirts and sell them online, but I've been saying that for years.
Check out Maxwell’s blog http://www.corpsesfromhell.blogspot.com for all his bike related art.
Feature image courtesy of Sam Christmas Photography.