The Magpie Anthology

Ebb and Flow

Leah Mew meets Paul Birks based in Niton and learns about his fascinating resin painting: fluid artwork inspired by the ocean and coming to you from a cupboard on the Isle of Wight…

So how did working with resin come about, what was the inspiration behind it?

I have always been creative and pure my creative energies into music for many years but when that came to a stop, I was sitting at home twitching my thumbs thinking I want to do something creative. So, I started looking on YouTube and I was just browsing through art tutorials and came across this artist called Susanna Danks. She’s an Australian abstract artist who works with resin and acrylic. I thought that I’d never seen anything like that before so I decided to give it a go; I google it, get on YouTube and I learned as much as I could about it. I began with one little painting and thought to myself that’s rad and I’m really proud of it, so I stuck it on Facebook and people really went for it.

Paul Birks

Obviously there is more to it than just grabbing a piece of plastic and tipping some resin over so how do you make them have so much body to them and depth?

I always have an idea that usually starts with a colour palette, just at the abstract idea. I would say is a 50-50 chance it comes out how I expected it. It relies on the chaos of physics almost. So, when you heat up it comes less viscous and essentially it’s a puddle of stuff, on a canvas. And then I use heat gun or a hairdryer or anything that I can use to help move it around. But it will do what it wants but that’s part of the randomness of the art and I’m just kind of guiding it to what I’ve got in my head and like I said 50% of the time it doesn’t come out anything like that!

Paul Birks

How long does each piece take, from set up the finished article we see here?

Resin has a very short lifespan that you can actually work it. It comes in two separate entities: as a resin and a hardener. I mix by weight to a rough estimate to how much I think will be needed. I spend 6 minutes stirring it and then I literally just spoon it on with a cocktail stick or whatever I need to get it on the canvas. Heat it up and that’s when goes a lot more fluid and I’ve got a 15 minute window of sheer panic to move it to get it looking how I want.  Then because it’s got to be dust free, I turn everything off and lock and leave it for 12 hours. I won’t even go back in in that time to check, just in case I leave a hair! And then after 72 hours that’s then when I can start do the backing etc. It wouldn’t say its overly relaxing as a hobby, so I’m currently teaching myself acrylics and watercolours so I can do something else that’s not quite as terrifying while I’m waiting for it to cure!

Paul Birks

Can you see what it’s going to look like before it starts curing or is it just leave the room fingers crossed and hope nothing went wrong?

A bit of both! If everything is working well and it’s a stable canvas, it should pretty much look like as you left it. It always moves ever so slightly while its cooling down so always a few more cells form. Unless it’s a warped canvas in which case I’ll come back to a solid puddle on the floor! Fortunately, I haven’t had a rogue fly stuck to it!

Paul Birks

Are there any limitations with it?

The only really limitations are space and number of hands. For my first commission for example, it was 1m by 40cm and I had to ask my partner to help me mix it up. But with the right tools and a large enough studio there are no real limitations with what you can achieve with it.

So where are you working at the moment, do you have your own workshop, or are you working out of a cupboard?

I live in Niton on the Isle of Wight, with my girlfriend and her family and I’ve invaded a spare room. It started as I need somewhere for a desk. It’s just a twelve by ten poky room which is completely filled with all my resin stuff.

What’s the funniest mistake you have made in the process?

It was probably a warped canvas which essentially had a valley, so I poured the resin, put the blow torch on it and it just went flumph. And I had half on my desk and half on my floor!

What are your hopes for the future? Would you like to carry on doing this as a hobby or if it becomes something people are really interested in making it something more full time?

If I could make a living of it that would be great and do the hours that I want. I would  love to have a space in a studio somewhere, obviously completely dust free, even a cupboard in the corner will do – that would be rad.

You can see and buy Paul’s work through his Facebook page HERE

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