During December I have set myself the challenge of interviewing 24 personalities in motorsport, creating a special advent calendar for my readers. Each day a new interview will be published, with today’s edition featuring the incredible talent that is Paul Oz.
Paul creates painting and sculptures using F1 and racing as an inspiration, in addition to a variety of other people in sport and culture. Having travelled the world with motorsport, creating new work wherever he goes, I managed to catch up with him days before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to discuss his year in motorsport.
Katy Fairman: When you start a new year, do you have a set plan on what you would like to achieve or is it a case of you take the opportunities when they come?
Paul Oz: Usually I have a rough idea how the year will pan out. It’s based around the immoveable dates of my favourite F1 weeks, and then my big solo shows which are planned at least a year out spaced around them, based on how much work and how long I should need to create and promote them. Some solo shows are motorsport focused, about half of them are something else like my London 80’s Kid show in 2015, and Safari ROAR! in 2014. Monaco and Silverstone F1 weeks are a certainty every year – and with the usual calendar there’s little space for anything in between. In the last couple of years I’ve done Singapore and Mexico weeks too, which again makes anything else around that time difficult. It tends to be the same race weeks year after year, as every re-visit builds on the year before, and the same guys tend to invite me back to be part of their events. Each race week would usually take two to three weeks prep, a month’s delay to dry, frame and ship everything, a week away and then a week struggling to get on top of everything back at base afterwards, so it’s pretty time intensive. There are loads of charity dinner and black tie gigs that I’m part of every year too, and Autosport International if I’m on top of workload towards the end of the year.
KF: How do you make sure each year is bigger and better than the last?
PO: It kind of happens on its own! Every event you meet new clients and new business partners, it kinda snowballs on its own I guess, if you make the right impression. For sure I don’t have to be proactive now with being part of events, it’s more a case of how much I can cope with workload wise and deciding which I can do.
KF: How important is it to seek new challenges with your work?
PO: Vital… I get bored easily. It’s one reason I love being commissioned for something that I wouldn’t normally have chosen. I learn something in every piece I create, but definitely more when being pushed outside of my comfort zone. The biggest challenge with F1 week events though is the logistics.. luckily the actual painting itself is second nature, as I usually have little head space in the run up to a live performance.
KF: You use social media to its full potential. Do you have any tips on how to grow and promote your business through the internet and social media applications?
PO: Just be yourself, and true to yourself, and tell your story. Focus on building relationships, don’t try to sell. Sales will come naturally if they’re going to… if you push, people will just turn off.
KF: How long does it take to complete a piece of artwork?
PO: It varies massively. I guess it averages out at a week each for an original painting, some can be two or three weeks sometimes. I need to have a good idea how long it will take beforehand to be able to have time creating around events. I either need to start and finish an area of a painting within a few days – if I have to rework an area a week later when its half-dried it’s a nightmare. Logo’s for instance which of course are prevalent in motorsport art… I can only add them on top of wet background paint for the effect I want. A painting will then take two weeks to be touch dry, and six months to be properly set, as they’re so thick in oil paint. I’ve figured how to pack a sopping wet painting on a plane though handily, or it would seriously limit what I can do.
KF: You’ve had a crazy year: let’s start at the beginning. What did you get up during the first few months of the year?
PO: Actually 2016 started off calmly for a change… tail end of 2015 was awesomely busy so I planned a few months just working at home to catch up. Then I had my initial publishing series which took a couple of months to create. From Monaco in May onwards though has been crazy again with events and travel.
KF: You announced your deal with Wishbone publishing early on in the year, with the launch being in October. Do projects like this normally take months for everything to all come together?
PO: Definitely… big projects like this are planned about a year out, loads of considerations to time everything to run together. The specific pieces I needed for the October launch were pinned down in January. Even so, the initial sixty canvas limited editions from Wishbone for me to embellish arrived the day I was back from Singapore, and the week before we moved house and studio… even the best laid plans can become challenging with outside factors, or opportunities that I just can’t turn down.
KF: Do you find that you tend to get busier towards the end of the year? Or does business balance itself?
PO: Every year End May-early July with Monaco/Goodwood/Silverstone is crazy – and it also seems a favourite for gallery shows, as galleries can be quiet in mid summer. There aren’t as many sponsor events and parties around the mid summer European F1 events – but always loads around the end of season fly-aways, I just need to choose a couple of them to focus on. This year with Singapore, Mexico and then Abu Dhabi fairly close is tough! And we moved house and studio the day after getting back from Singapore too. Then there’s Christmas which is always flat out for six weeks before.
KF: You found yourself in Monaco again in May with the Scuderia Ferrari squad. What did you get up to there? Do you often get asked to do live paintings for teams and organisations?
PO: It was a sponsor driven project for Ferrari, with Infor. Every opportunity like this seems to come a different route… but mostly driven by a sponsor who I’m effectively working for. I live painted Vettel in this year’s car in their suite above St Devote, pretty cool! I managed to get the painting finished during the Saturday… or I was due to finish it during a yacht party. That might sound epic… but I found in previous years that it’s a lot more hassle and stressful trying not to get paint everywhere on a multi-million Euro yacht where there’s no space at all to move! Sunday I was live painting in another suite run by my regular business partners Edge Global, who always have suites in the same building too, above turn 1. Projects like with Infor are tricky to coordinate with the teams, who quite frankly have enough on their plate with the race week itself, and even big sponsors only have access to a driver for a few minutes, costs getting and being there are so high and paddock passes like gold dust these days. So typically it needs to be me that makes it easy for them by getting myself and my work there autonomously, or it wouldn’t happen at all. And that means that I need to justify the time and monetary cost too… which is why if I’m at a race week, it’ll rarely be just one event I’m part of.
KF: What did you get up to in the summer of this year?
PO: After Silverstone week I had a couple of short trips personally delivering some of the F1 component sculptures, that I’d created through the year with Racing Gold and JLF. Then catching up a bit on commissioned paintings. The whole of August was preparing for Singapore, ready to ship first week of September.
KF: The last couple of months have been very busy for you – you’ve been to flying to Singapore and Mexico with your work. Any highlights from your travels?
PO: I love the bizarreness of travelling with the F1 circus… being an outsider to the close knit stalwarts, but knowing enough of them and enough about the goings on, to be amused by the finer points of who’s talking to who in airports, which bar and which hotel to be in for most entertainment and networking. So many highlights. Working with Jenson at the British Embassy event in Mexico I think might top it! Dinner with Paul Hembery and John Button on a Monaco yacht a few years ago was a memorable experience. Monaco is always amazing. Then standing in a monsoon in Singapore with some of the Sky presenting team and John Legend performing to about 10 of us, love the randomness!
I love the bizarreness of travelling with the F1 circus. [I am] amused by the finer points of who’s talking to who in airports, as well as which bar and which hotel to be in for most entertainment and networking.
KF: Where have been your favourite place to visit this year and why were you there?
PO: I think it’s still Monaco. It’s a ridiculously incredibly daft place to race F1 cars around, and because it’s all in such a confined space, the atmosphere is incredible. Parties on the track until it’s almost daylight, and somehow they can race on it just a couple of hours later. And it doesn’t have to be expensive.
KF: What have been your highs and lows from the year?
PO: The Mexico Embassy event with Jenson I think the highlight so far… let’s see what happens in Abu Dhabi though! Easily the low point was the whole event I was part of in Singapore being cancelled with two days notice, when I had 10 artworks out there already, non refundable flights and no hotel room as that was part of the event booking. The most stressful couple of days I can remember as soon as I got out there, trying to find my work in time to make the replacement events I lined up, to rescue something from the trip. Not everything works out! But if you don’t try, for sure nothing will.
KF: Any plans for 2017 that you can share?
PO: More of the same! Several big project ideas for Monaco and Abu Dhabi… it’s just which year we do them really – one or both could be 2017 at this point. But typically it’s not until the new year that discussions really get going.