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Photo of Edmund Palao's "Cranbrook Road" Painting
Edmund Palao's "Cranbrook Road" (acrylic on board, 2017)

Interview: London Artist Edmund Palao

London artist Edmund Palao made his debut on Blogcritics last year when I spotlighted his dynamic and lively cityscape paintings in an interview. Since then, he has participated in more art exhibitions and also mentored young artists in London. Art enthusiasts can see his artwork and follow his latest plans on his new website, which launched on January 31, 2018.

Why are you dropping the Eddify label? I recall that was a play on your first name “Edmund” and the verb “edify,” which means to instruct morally or intellectually.

It was a cool name, Eddify, and I really love it. To be honest, over the years I’ve felt there was a split in the brand because ultimately, I’m the brand at the end of the day. I sign my paintings “Edmund Palao.” I felt I had to sort of jump over something to say, “Well, I’m Edmund Palao. I’m not Eddify.” I felt it makes it a little easier. Of course, I still want my work to be edifying.

Artist Edmund Palao
Edmund Palao at ING Discerning Eye

What’s happened with your artwork since last year?

It’s interesting because the painting I showed you last year of “Central Street, EC1V” has been symbolic in many ways. It was a fresh studio painting. I’m more into working in the studio rather than working outdoors. I do like working outdoors, but I found I found a new way of working indoors.

That painting also has two street lamps in it. One is yellow or amber and the other is white. In the city streets in London and the U.K. as a whole, the lights are being replaced by white LED lights. They take up less power than the old lamps. It’s changing how landscapes look at nighttime. I think in a few years my paintings are not going to be orange anymore.

That painting was accepted in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition at the end of 2017. I was so thrilled to be accepted because it’s a big, prestigious annual art show in London. It’s open submission and thousands of artists apply for it. I was blessed to be selected. Being an artist and having that recognition by my peers is so important.

Photo of Edmund Palao's "The New Season" Painting
Edmund Palao’s “The New Season” (acrylic on board, 2017)

Are you still involved with networking as an artist?

I was already on the alumni scheme for the University of Westminster. After your interview, they contacted me and they asked me to join their mentoring scheme. Now I’m mentoring two art students and it’s been a great experience! When I left art college, I didn’t really have enough experience or advice or sign posts to follow. It’s good to be in a position to where I can do that for others. It’s part of my long-term plan to be more involved with a university in some capacity.

I meet with the students once a month to see how they’re getting on, support them, and give practical advice about the art world. I’ve introduced them to my art network at Be Smart About Art. The art world doesn’t have to be as scary as it first appears. In fact, I had a meeting before Christmas for myself at Be Smart About Art, where they clarified what I need to do to progress further and do a re-branding. There’s lots to look forward to in 2018 for me.

Another thing I’ve done in the last year is join ArtCan, a non-profit arts organization that is run by artists. Its aim is to help artists further their careers by organizing exhibitions and supporting each other on social media. It’s been a great resource for me on getting to grips with social media tools like Instagram.

I see you did a recent painting about a soccer match.

It was for an ArtCan exhibition that was autumn themed and entitled “Appearance Of.” The painting is called “The New Season.” I didn’t want to do something cliché like brown leaves! Football, or soccer as you call it, normally starts in mid-August. For me, the idea of a new season is ushering in change, but it’s also our football season as well as the upcoming autumn season. The scene features a small ground of a lower league club, because not every football team has a massive stadium. I like those venues because they are traditional and generate a more intimate atmosphere. It looked really enchanting with the sunset. The floodlights – the bright lights were switching on in the sky. I wanted to do something different than what I do at the moment.

Photo of Edmund Palao's "Cranbrook Road" Painting
Edmund Palao’s “Cranbrook Road, Gants Hill IG2” (acrylic on board, 2017)

You’ve focused on cityscape paintings mostly. Are you moving toward depicting more people in your work?

With a football game or sport, ultimately, you’re going to have people involved in the scene. They are the actual theme. I generally people into paintings if it gives a sense of scale and a bit of animation or life. I tend to avoid painting crowds because then the problem is people can end up taking on personalities. I don’t really want that.

“Cranbrook Road, Gants Hill IG2” shows an ordinary street scene with a bus in North East London. All the lights in the picture are white here. There aren’t any yellow ones!

I believe that vehicles give life to the picture and can take the place of people. If there were no cars in the scene, it would look a bit vacant and flat. Parked cars populate the picture in a way that people can.

You’ve mentioned social media. How would you characterize the changes in the art world from those newer platforms and tools?

It’s made it easier in terms of getting an artist’s work seen by lots of different people. I could reach anyone in the world who has an internet connection! The social media platforms are usually free at the point of entry. With just a smartphone, it’s easy to get people interested. The negative side is that everyone is doing it! (Laughs) I become a voice among millions of voices out there. When working on commissioned paintings for clients, I send a progress report or updates every time I’ve worked on the painting. Sometimes they say, “Can you change this or add something?”

I think it’s important to always keep my integrity when doing a painting.  It’s my style. I don’t want to change my style just because someone wants it another way.

What Else is Coming Up?

Photo of Edmund Palao at the Camden Image Gallery
Edmund Palao Exhibiting at ArtCan, Camden Image Gallery, London 2017

I have pictures of completed paintings shown in various stages in progress that I would like to feature in blog articles about art on my new website, too. I’ll describe how I created one of my paintings with more detailed narratives. Maybe I could call it “Behind the Scene” or “Creating a Scene” in a weekly blog.

Another thing I’d like to do is paint on a larger scale. I’ve been told you can get “more bang for your buck” when working bigger because clients feel they are getting value for their money. Now that I’m working more in the studio, I can afford to work bigger. My work can be much more visual.

I’m looking to join some art fairs as well. It’s competitive in that lots of artists want to do this sort of thing. My first priority is to get my foot in the door. There’s one in Bristol, which I’ve been recommended to apply.

If you told me this time last year I would have done all these things, I would have been completely amazed. ArtCan had an article that said 75 percent of artists in the U.K. earn less than £10,000 a year, which is not much. Only 25 percent of artists in the U.K. earn more than that. That shows you the challenge of making a living, because we operate as small businesses as artists, but it’s not impossible. I got selected for the Discerning Eye Exhibition and [there] was probably a 10 percent chance of getting into that. It’s about perseverance and there’s nothing stopping me from being in that top 25 percent.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros earned a B.A. in Art History on a full scholarship at the University of Virginia. Pat is a frequent reviewer of all things Washington, D.C., but she's also covered events in Canada and London. Highlights in her work include articles on Ian McKellen and Mark Rylance, as well as memorable interviews with Lawrence Gowan of Styx, Tony Bennett, and Kiefer Sutherland. At Awesome Con 2017, Pat moderated a Q&A for voice actors Sean Schemmel and Christopher Sabat.

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