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Peter Et Le Wolff: THE ART OF CYCLING

Aside from conjuring an alias that suits many of his colourful, storybook drawings, Peter Et Le Wolff has meandered from ‘sketchy’ style at college to product design at university, and back to an illustration technique that he’s comfortable with. The Manchester-based artist’s skills have often been influenced by other art forms. Under his name are designs for T-shirts - one of which developed Welsh songwriter Sweet Baboo’s lyric, “Let me love your brains”, into a zombie design - and illustrations for a poetry collection entitled There Is Something About Being Alive, featuring one that evolved from a drawing sent to Sweet Baboo in response to his Girl Under A Tree EP. Other designs have focused on outdoors and cycling imagery, and he has been selected as one of the featured artists at the Artcrank exhibition in London at the end of August, a touring and locality-specific poster specialist group tying together art and cycling that recently adorned the walls of 2022NQ in Manchester. You can also find his work on cards, prints and more, on his stall at events like Islington Mill’s Carbooty, as well as at his new Levenshulme art shop and gallery space, Unfoldshop. What initially drew you to art? My parents would always take me and my sister around art galleries when I was younger. My family is full of creative people too. I guess I’ve always been more interested in pictures than words as you can often see something straight away, but then other more hidden elements begin to filter through if you study an image for longer. What’s your working process when starting a new piece? I always start with a small sketch or a keyword or phrase on whatever I have within my reach. If there’s not a deadline looming I’ll put it away for a few days or months, occasionally a year or more to let it brew. Then I’ll do a bigger, neater, more detailed sketch on paper, sometimes some pieces won’t work on A4 or A3, even if they’re not particularly detailed, so I have to go bigger. After that I’ll pen the sketch with Uni Pins, rub the sketch out and scan it in. I’ve started experimenting more with different media recently, so I’ll use anything like paints, inks, pens, pencils and pastels to get the desired effect and scan those in separately, then layer it all up and fiddle with it digitally until I’m happy with it. I want to get more into just getting pieces down without fiddling with them digitally, but I think that will come with time. What themes and motifs do you find yourself returning to? The most constant theme running through my work is cycling and general outdoor surroundings, whether it’s urban or natural. I’m also a massive fan of old things. I love big old cars and hotrod culture because it’s all handmade and hand painted, and also my background is product design so the engineering and design before safety took over really appeals to me. Other themes that feature a lot in my work are animals, severed limbs, greed, life, death, frustration and optimism. There’s also a poetic element that often creeps in, in the form of calligraphic style handwriting. I try and let the image speak, but sometimes it needs something extra to prompt a response. Is it the themes of cycling fashion and appearance, or the motion itself that interests you more? Fashion is so prominent in cycling it’s difficult to get away from it, whether it’s from a practical aspect or a way of showing off. But for me fashion is more of a way of showing what style of rider someone is and therefore what the personality of my images are going to be. Did you attend the Artcrank Manchester exhibition? Some of my favourite artists and designers have been part of Artcrank. It’s great how such a diverse range of pieces can be created from the same theme, which has inspired me to approach my own work from more directions. It was great to see familiar names within the Manchester art scene being represented and what they had come up with. I have been accepted to feature in this year’s Artcrank London at the end of August, which I’m very excited about. Which other artists or art forms inspire you? People I most often look to for inspiration, other than illustrators I know personally, are Timba Smits, Escif, Sickboy, Roa, Miss Van, Yuko Shimizu, Twoarmsinc, Smithe... I could go on forever. I think the main things I like are images in a graphic style with bold lines, colours and textures. All forms of creativity inspire me though. I have collaborated with a poet and conceptual artist on a book, and I am currently working with a photographer on a zine. Collaborations are the best way to push myself artistically as it forces me to visualise things that wouldn’t necessarily come from my own thought process. How has your art changed over the years? Since I was young I’ve always wanted to inject plenty of colour and explore different mediums. Sometimes it’s been successful, others not so, but I’d rather try something and fail than not at all. My teachers at college said I had a ‘sketchy’ style. I more or less gave art up at uni to concentrate on product design, though there was always a sketchbook or piece I was working on slowly throughout. When I came back to art and illustration properly I mostly went 2D in rebellion to working on mind-numbing 3D software. The 3D sketch element is starting to creep back in now using the classic product design sketching techniques I learnt at uni. What are you working on at the moment? As well as various client work, I am in the process of setting up a design-led, artist-focused shop and gallery space in Levenshulme called Unfoldshop. The main aim is to promote the people involved, work with local manufacturers, push our art in directions we want it to go or might not think of going, and have fun doing it. I’ve got to work out what I’ll do for this year’s Artcrank London. I’d like to try using homemade or unusual inks with screen print and letterpress. I’m also working on a bunch of collaborative zines, not only with a photographer, but a bunch of artists and illustrators, and maybe a poet/foodie soon too. Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier? Don’t do what you think other people want you to do, and nothing good comes easy. Don’t rush too much. peteretlewolff.com[imagebrowser id=35] )

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