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Meet the Artist: Rugman on Icons and Symbolism

Posted on August 16 2016

London based artist and founder of Rum Knuckles, Anthony McEwan AKA Rugman is contributing to the Art on a Postcard Lottery for the second time.

Over the last 15 years, Rugman has worked as a graphic artist in the fashion industry. He has travelled, worked and lived in Glasgow, New York, LA, Paris and London. His clients have ranged from Donna Karan and Calvin Klein to Vans. Along the way, he helped found Amplified clothing which was very successful in the early 2000’s and more recently his own brand Rum Knuckles. He now does consultancy work within the industry and is heading up projects with big names like New Era and Mitchell and Ness.

His unique style was a huge hit with our audience last year and his new original postcard is greatly in demand. He has produced this iconic image of John Lennon which you can win by buying a £10 lottery ticket to raise money for the Hepatitis C Trust.

Above: Rugman's original artwork for the Art on a Postcard Lottery - win it here


Art on a Postcard's Rosa Torr caught up with Rugman to find out more....


RT In a few words could you introduce yourself to our readers?

AM My name is Anthony McEwan but I have been known through my art career as Rugman. The very simple explanation for this name is I am extremely hairy. My art centres around the technique of basic pen and ink drawing, black and white always play a major part. Elements of my skate, punk and comic collecting youth always come through in my art, seeking the rawness of the homemade punk zines of the early days.

RT What made you want to get involved with Art on a Postcard?

AM I think its a fantastic cause and I really want to do something to help eradicate hep C. I also have great respect for Gemma Peppé and her team who always do a fantastic job every year with their artists.

RT Why Lennon?

AM I think if you look around us in the world today, I think what a bloody mess we have made! More war, more bloodshed… And I look at Lennon and what he stood for and it makes me realise how much people like him are missed. He had great morals and also a fantastic passion for his art. The one major thing is he was never scared to speak out against the governments who were creating the bloodshed and I believe there is not enough people in the fame game today willing to speak out and put their necks on the line.

RT You have talked in the past about using tattoos as symbolism in your work to “disfigure them in some way”. Do the badges in your postcard serve a similar purpose, and if so, what are they symbolic of?

AM Yes symbolism is a major part of my work. The tattoos play the part of filling the space with stories, marks of the human tale. They also show the beliefs, fears and maybe even their standing in that tribal community. As my work has progressed, this symbolism takes on different forms and yes the badges, pin badges and patches are a relation of this concept because once again you are showing your beliefs and marks of your tribal subculture… showing which bands you favour. This project can run and run, I really enjoy it as you are using great icons such as John Lennon and giving him his badges which I think he would have worn and essentially his tribal badges. The viewer can relate and understand icons and I think mixing in some Disney character badges helps to lighten the mood a little.

RT You have been working all over the world consistently for 15 years, how do you find daily inspiration?

AM I am very lucky in this sense as I have books and books of ideas from years ago which I am working my way through. Ideas which will lay dormant for years and then one day it will click and I will understand how I can use it. In fact this is the case for one of my solo shows next year, the idea of using stained glass is something I’ve wanted to do for 8 years but its only now I have a use for it. I also posses an over active mind which really helps with ideas but can also go over load after too many coffees!

RT Your work is very recognisable, you certainly have your own consistent style, could you let our readers know how you came to develop it? What was the process?

AM Its really nice to hear when people recognise your style as it takes years and years to develop. As a young artist you crave that one thing, for your own style. It's taken me a good 14 years to really get to know myself as an artist and where I need to take it. I had a very good grounding at Chelsea Art Collage which armed me with techniques and skills. This then enabled me to go forward and try different things. This is where your style is born because after years of trying and making many mistakes you begin to hone in on the techniques you like and the ones which successfully translate what is in your head.

RT How did you go about the selection process for the art you used for your collaboration with Jealous for The Saatchi Gallery space?

AM This whole show came from one image I produced a few years back. Again symbolic but looking at mother nature and the female form at its purist level. The idea of creating a tribe of goddesses that were half human but tied with nature really worked and the heads of birds worked to give that beauty of nature. This series is called Sister, Mother, something I am very passionate about. I have just started the new collection for a show next spring at Jealous Gallery.

RT What other exciting projects do you have coming up?

AM I have 2 major solo shows coming up next year and a new big print release in the next few months. Also my clothing brand Rum Knuckles will be moving into Europe by the end of the year and USA next year.

RT How has working so closely with the fashion industry informed your work?

AM I think it has made me understand the consumer more and gave me a good business grounding. At the end of the day, art is consumed and in order to survive and pay the bills as an artist you have to sell art. Also because it is such a fast paced, cut throat industry it made me work harder and faster.

RT Thinking less about the daily and more about the permanent; what are five things you couldn’t live without?

AM My wife and kids, Studio, Pen, Paper, Mac


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