Writer Reece Greenfield / Photographer Daisy Richardson
Recently, I caught up with Birmingham born and bread artist (and my drinking buddy) Robbie Jeffcott. In the evening sunshine in his Kings Heath back-garden we quaffed offy-bought tinnies and began to talk about his influences, his processes, and the results… his wonderful art.
“I’m very interested in Realism”, says Robbie. “Chuck Close for example… I am also inspired by graffiti and abstract art and that’s how my style has developed into what it is now… Realism is really impressive that people can do that… I want to put my own spin on that.”
Robbie is also proud to talk of the role his father’s art plays:
“My father passed away when I was young and my Mom had a load of drawings he’d done and it’s basically how I got into art. I thought it was impossible to get his soft tones on pencil, so I used to analyse his drawings and try and replicate them so somewhere I have a load of half down replicas of my father’s drawings.”
I’m interested to find out if there’s a unifying theme, something that Robbie likes to weave through all of his pieces.
“The way I use colours, I use them very mathematically in my head. with the colour wheel, if I want certain bits to pop, I will use the opposite colours so the way I use colour unifies my pieces.
“I really got into colour theory. Once you know how certain colours are perceived you can use them in different ways, for example green and red; red will come forward, green will go backward as green naturally has more depth.”
I know Robbie is an extremely versatile artist, so the specifics are key.
“The one I tend to use the most is acrylic. Acrylic dries super-fast. I can build up layers that way, do a layer, let it dry, build it up, that’s how I get all the chaos going on.”
Having featured on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of The Year 2021, I wanted to know if there were any projects that Robbie thought us fans should be keeping an eye on.
“Oh, I’ve got a good one for ya… I found this big, framed piece of Jesus in a charity shop – it was made out of mesh. I cut the face and hands out and put them onto a psychedelic body and it glows in the dark.
“People theorise that a lot of the Bible could be explained through psychedelics… Moses and the burning bush for example. So, I called it the Holy Quaternity, insinuating that there’s a missing piece.
“I also created these five characters all wearing different hats and I’ve pasted them all round Digbeth outside independent businesses. I’m doing a treasure hunt, so if you have to tag me and the business and the first one to find all gets a free painting… I thought it would be a fun thing to do, a community thing, it gets people visiting small businesses.”
Anyone who’s walked down Gibb Street recently will no doubt have seen the giant Mike Skinner mural outside Autobrew. It turns out that was the largest piece he’d done and his first real experience with spray paint.
“My mate owns the bar and I said can I paint on that wall? I love that spot and he said he wanted a Birmingham artist, so he decided on Mike Skinner. In my head, it’s still not finished. So, over the next year or so I think I’m just going to keep adding bits on it if I have my pens on me.
“It was the first large scale piece I’d done and normally I’d use paints, but that was massive so I needed to use spray cans – I’d never used that before so that was all new to me.”
And of course I have to ask what it was like on Sky Arts.
“My Mom, for years, had told me to apply for the competition. You had to apply with a portrait of yourself, so I submitted it and got on the show. You have a celebrity sitter and have to paint them… for hours is no time.
“You don’t know who you’re painting until they walk in front of you.”
Well, who was it? None other than “Ian Hislop, ha ha!”
“He’s the worst person to paint ever, he’s got no definition to his face, he’s literally a big blop.”
Between laughs Robbie continues: “But yeah that was a good experience and it got me a lot of exposure. After that show I got a load of commissions in and that’s what kickstarted me to think ok I could actually do this as a job.”
Robbie’s art (including the Ian Hislop timelapse) can be found on his Instagram page @rjeffcott and around Digbeth. If you spot any of his pieces, be sure to tag him on social media and support local artists.
If you like what you see, you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for any bookings.