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Craft/Work

Your Letter Is Only The Start Of It: Jim’ll Paint It For You
Steven T. Hanley , January 23rd, 2016 13:05

Ever laughed at finely honed Paint images of Ian Botham battling Storm Troopers or Andrew Marr bursting, be-ribboned from a layer cake? You’ve probably encountered the work of Jim’ll Paint It, the artist for whom no commission is too strange

Courtesy of Jim’ll Paint It

Like most people, I think I first noticed Jim’s work when he posted Brian Blessed and Goldie riding a Hoover and drinking cider on the Mario kart level Rainbow Road. It kept showing up on my Facebook timeline.

Finally, I clicked on Jim’s page and found his concept encapsulated in a simple proposal: Ask me to paint anything you wish and I will try no matter how specific or surreal your demands. You name it. I’ll paint it. On Paint. Use your imagination!

The next hour was spent scrolling through and marvelling at how fucking insane each request was and how excellent his realisations of these batshit crazy ideas were. 

I spoke with Jim to find out how all this all came about, what it’s like having people send you weird concepts all day, and why Ainsley Harriott is the son of God.

When did you start drawing?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. That sounds rubbish, doesn't it? But it’s genuinely true. I stopped in my teens and started making electronic music instead. I guess I thought I was going to be the next Aphex Twin or something. Then after about 10 years of that I gave up and started making visual stuff again. Mainly collages, serious stuff. Then Paint.

How did the idea for the page come about?

I started off drawing pictures for my friends on Facebook during my lunch breaks. After about a week or so I wanted to share some of the better ones on various forums such as www.b3ta.com. So I set up a Tumblr and went from there. I was already getting lots of requests on Tumblr by the time I set up the Facebook page.

Why the restriction of Microsoft Paint?

I’ve never thought of it as being a restriction. I used Photoshop professionally for many years and by contrast I find the simplicity of Paint to be extremely liberating. Instead of thinking about gradients and vector paths I get to concentrate on what I think might be funny. Once you zoom in enough it’s easy anyway.

Can you take me through your process of working on a piece?

I usually start with faces. For celebrities I’ll find an image on Google that might roughly fit the bill. I keep that in an open window while I paint, adapting it wherever necessary. This is obviously more fun when painting things like “a guinea pig that looks like Burt Reynolds” as I have to use my imagination a little more. Once I have the framework sketched out I use simple fill colours and then do the shading. I do the background last in its own file and then paste the characters in at the end.

Dear Jim, Please paint me a guinea pig version of Burt Reynolds on a sun lounger being served drinks by Hulk Hogan wearing only the top half of a tuxedo. Courtesy of Jim’ll Paint It

How long does the average image take?

I started off doing them in my lunch hour. Now they take me about two days. The suggestions are a lot more complex and so is my technique. I spend a lot of time adding necessary detail.

How did you start gaining fans and submissions?

Like I said, I was already getting a steady stream of requests while my Tumblr was doing the rounds on various forums. It really started to snowball when it hit Facebook. I guess this is because every time someone posted a request (which was almost constantly) all of their friends would see it and be like ‘hmmm... what’s this?’

You’re time lapse video showing the evolution of the image, Monty Python performing a motorcycle pyramid for God who is disinterestedly playing Candy Crush on his phone shows how obsessively detailed your work is. Has it become easier over the years or are you taking on more complex submissions to challenge yourself?

The actual painting side of things has definitely become a lot easier over time. But it’s become much harder to actually choose which suggestions I should paint. Occasionally I’ll attempt a more complex one – such as the Frasier one or the Vanessa Feltz one – partly to challenge myself but also to mix things up. The main criteria is that I have to think it’s funny. Or at the very least would result in a funny, visually striking Paint. Quite often it’s the simpler suggestions that get the best response

Is it true that after your now classic submission Brian Blessed riding a Henry hoover alongside D’n’B DJ Goldie on a Dyson. They are racing on the Mario kart level Rainbow Road and are both drunk on White Ace cider. Goldie’s son messaged you saying people keep taking the piss about his Dad riding a hoover?

Yep. Goldie’s son, Danny, messaged me saying that people kept asking if he’d seen my painting. He also asked me to paint a picture of him looking disappointedly at the picture whilst various celebrities pointed and laughed at him. It was the least I could do really. His Dad found it all pretty funny apparently.

Brian Blessed posted about it on Facebook too. He reckons he could take Goldie on in a hoover race any day.

Courtesy Jim’ll Paint It

Has there been anything you thought was great but just couldn't tackle?

Yeah, loads. Mainly ones that I know would basically take me about three or four weeks of solid work to do. I wouldn’t mind one day doing them but I just can’t afford to dedicate that much time to one piece of work at the moment. It’s really frustrating when you read a great suggestion only to have it end with “...in the background is the entire cast of every series of Star Trek”.

Can we talk about “The True meaning of Christmas” submission Where you have raptors as Mary and Joseph, Ainsley Harriott as the baby Jesus, and what looks like a meteor coming to earth?

It’s an allusion to one of my earlier pieces: Ainsley Harriott, son of God. I really wanted to do an Ainsley themed Christmas piece and that suggestion was vague enough for me to shoehorn him in there alongside some dinosaurs which are my favourite thing to draw.

The meteor just felt right, given the expression on baby Ainsley.

Courtesy Jim’ll Paint It

My other favourite was The Alien Queen, back off maternity leave and bollocking everyone for not using Dropbox properly. Which seems like such a real situation of someone in an office job with a boss from hell.

Yeah. I loved that suggestion because it was so clearly inspired by a real life situation. I also really enjoy painting mundane environments because they’re a perfect canvas for adding those little details, such as the facehugger baby photo.

What is your all time favourite submission?

“Can you please paint me Davina McCall with dreadlocks cooking a full English breakfast on the beach and all of the seagulls at the beach are attacking her and her breakfast is on fire and there’s a dog poo on the beach and she’s smiling a lot staring right at you smiling in a really creepy way with big gold hoop earrings in and can Davina please be dressed in pyjamas and have spiders coming out of her eyes a little bit.”

Courtesy Jim’ll Paint It

What’s the most bizarre submission you’ve received?

I once had a very polite request from this seemingly lovely and perfectly normal young girl. She was clearly a devout vegan and her suggestion involved humans being mutilated and butchered in various creative ways. I declined as, frankly, I was scared.

In a weird way, you get a sort of portal into people’s psyches…

Definitely. It’s clear a lot of people come up with wacky ideas just because they think it’ the sort of thing I will paint. But the real gems are those ones that clearly have some personal meaning. The ones that for whatever reason someone somewhere would genuinely love to see.

Ultimately the biggest buzz from doing this isn’t the likes or retweets. It’s about knowing that you’re going to make a complete stranger’s day.

It seems now that whenever there’s a big media story (David Cameron’s ‘Pig Gate’ episode, for instance), or a round of tributes to a celebrity who has died, I inevitably find myself looking forward to the Jim’ll Paint It response…

It’s been a weird few months really. There’s been so much bad news that it’s really affected the types of suggestions I get – to the point where I’m forced to be a little more satirical than I would perhaps like. Although I can’t pretend it's not cathartic to draw unflattering pictures of Trump and Cameron.

I’m also getting A LOT of requests for tributes to deceased celebs. I’m keen to ensure Jim'll Paint It doesn't turn into some sort of illustrated obituary. So I’m only doing tributes to people who had a big impact on me personally.

Tell me how your collaboration with Combat Stress came about?

It wasn’t really a collaboration. I’d already painted the cast of the TV series Rainbow storming the beaches of Normandy, and a lot of people were asking for canvases. I thought a good way to curb the copyright risks would be to donate all proceeds to charity.

It just so happened that the previous week I had seen a video in which Patrick Stewart – of all people – talks passionately about Women’s Refuge and Combat Stress. The video really struck a chord with me so I contacted them and asked if they’d be happy to accept contributions from the picture. They said yes – as long as I explicitly stated that they didn’t endorse my work.

It’s funny because I ended up getting a lot of flak from both sides. People who found the picture disrespectful and those who thought that by supporting Combat Stress I was some kind of warmonger.

I’m still really pleased I did it though. It meant a lot to me on a personal level.

George, Zippy and Bungle leading the Normandy Landings with their war faces on. Courtesy Jim’ll Paint It

How did you find the experience collaborating with Mashed on your short animations? Do you have more plans to go deeper into animation?

I’ve done three animations with Mashed now. The last one was a 16-bit style Evil Dead homage. With each project I’ve become slightly more involved in the actual animation side.

I originally just sent them still assets, but on the latest one I was drawing entire walk cycles and testing various animations before sending them over.

It’s loads of fun, but massively time consuming.

What else do you have planned for the site?

I guess I’d like the page to become more like a community. I know there are a lot of creative people out there and I’d love it if people not only suggested things but just came along and painted other people's suggestions.

I have this idea of a place where people can just go and get stuff painted for free by whoever – just for the hell of it.

It might just be pie in the sky but then this whole thing has made me reconsider what’s possible and what isn’t.

Jim’s blog can be found here

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