Be it his trademark clown-esque smiles, a pooping dog (or fella), or simply the fun poses his erratic brush strokes dictate, Ted Parker’s work is guaranteed to make you smile. Capturing the seemingly mundane, the Netherlands-based artist’s amiable, and sometimes smutty, work is inspired by the 1950s, dogs and general feel-good goofing around. Delve a little deeper and humanistic, even sentimental relationships appear, not only between the work and the viewer but Parker’s own relationships; his fears and his loves.
A romantic so and so he may well be, but we can’t get away from the instant impact his paintings achieve. His jovial outlook had us in rather high spirits when we met Ted at his The Early Bird Hype show at this year’s Pictoplasma in Berlin. Here’s what we talked about…
So why is the chap always bald? Is he based on someone?
Everyone has been asking me that. I don’t know, I guess part of it’s humour but also the fact that the character sort of represents me and my fears. If he was a buff guy with hair like mine (Ted has a mean head of hair), it wouldn’t convey those kind of emotions.
Your work is highly amusing, is that your intention?
Yeah, definitely! I’m all about the poo and dick jokes. I don’t make serious kind of art.
So how long have you been doing it?
Since late 2008. I studied art in The Netherlands and in the States for a little while. I lived in Providence and went to Rhode Island School of Design.
How did you set your style? Its very distinctive and no one else really painting like you right now.
I think the work came together because of my interest in painting and exploring different materials. I guess I kind of grew into it. I then kept it quiet for two years just building up the work. I didn’t have a website until November 2010.
And people just started to find you?
At the beginning I knew I had this style and I just kept it up. I just kept on working on a body of work, just enough to feel confident. Then they just found me.
Do you feel confident now?
I never feel confident (laughs).
So why humans and animals as subject matter?
I kind of see my work as capturing moments in my life or in my mind, or at least my versions of events. Like a life I could have outside of the studio if I wasn’t working 24/7. People take lots of photographs of their loved ones, I paint them instead.
The smiles in your paintings are quite distinctive in that they actually do make people smile. What are the smiles all about?
I paint upside down, so the smiles are actually frowns when I paint them. And when they are turned the right way up the smiles almost distort the work. It kind of adds a new meaning to it. You never really know if it’s really happy or not. The smiles can give it a bit of an ambiguous meaning.
Your leading ladies are pin-ups right, are the 1940/50s an influence?
Yes definitely. That’s my era, I was born too late.
So what kind of music do you listen to?
Old people’s music. I like Neil Young, Bonnie Prince Billy… anything depressing.
Where is your studio now?
I live in Utrecht, but my studio is just outside of it – a kind of studio-live-work place.
Drinking and smoking animals, poo jokes and ladies in summer wear, are you planning on adding new characters to your world?
I think I’ll be looking at the relationships between men and women. I’m getting a child soon so maybe I’ll make some children’s books or something. I don’t really know what lies ahead. I just want to draw. I did a cat once, but I’m not a cat person so it just didn’t work.
So what’s next?
A few shop/café type exhibitions. What is nice about the coffee shop environment is that people sit there for days on end. They get used to the work and slowly fall in love with the pieces. I’ve got one exhibition coming up in Amsterdam too. A lot of stuff comes through friends of friends. Oh and I’ll make some screen prints and maybe make a little online shop.