Over lunch at Brighton’s ‘Table’ restaurant, I meet artist, Sir Peter Blake. Best known for designing the album cover for Beatles LP, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, Blake was in town to preview ‘I Love You’, a series of 175 silkscreen prints featuring black and white diamond dust. Covered in his iconic designs, a bespoke double-decker bus stood nearby. Blake wore a black waistcoat with blazing red lining and cufflinks depicting ‘The First Real Target’…
What are your current projects?
As well as ‘I Love You’, I’m working on a four foot square painting of St. Martin for the knight batchelors at St. Paul’s. They have an amazing chapel in the crypt. I recently completed a new carpet for the High Court and am about to do a show for Leslie Waddington in homage to 10 artists. There will be five pictures of each artist. There’s also the wrestler which I call ‘Brick Lane’ for the Brick Lane Art Boot Fair (at Brick Lane). I realise the name sounds like a porn star!
In another life, what would you have done?
A Japanese wrestler.
Are you busy?
I’m even a bit too busy, although it’s been a difficult 50 years financially. In fact it once got to the point when I literally had no money and my bank cards were stopped. Fortunately, as a painter, you never really get the sack, so no one can stop the flow of what you do. Printmaking has brought new life.
How did the ‘swinging 1960’s’ compare to now?
Although people think the 1960’s were the most exciting times, I believe that now is more so.
I’ve never been a flag waving BNP patriot, but I am a royalist. I’m happy for a sense of Britishness to come into my work. Generally, this os particularly evident in British pop art compared to the US. Unlike contemporaries such as David Hockney, I’ve never wanted to live abroad.
Other than London, what are your favourite cities?
New York, Paris and Amsterdam.
Which location has the best light?
Venice, as well as the Cornish coast. [See the Venice Suite]
Which galleries do you rate?
For art, ‘The Saatchi’ and ‘CCA’ who own the mobile gallery; for photography, ‘Michael Hoppen’.
Do you rate street art?
I’m not for tagging, but I am for the more decorative expression. I once met a man called Robert Banks, and asked him ‘Are you Banksy?’ He looked rather sheepish. That was before he was obsessed about the whole anonymity thing.
Has your work ever been influenced by food?
When I was the National Gallery’s artist in residence, I designed a menu cover featuring a lunch party. They used it for a year. The original is in my study. Long ago I completed a friend’s advert for the ‘Fatstock’ meat marketing board, including typography and arrangement. On another of their commissions I went totally overboard with a ridiculous level of detail, delivering a watercolour of peas and parsley inspired by 33mm slides. Unfortunately it wasn’t what they wanted at all. I keep it on my wall to remind me never to make such a mistake again.
What’s your favourite food?
Sausages and mash.
And your dream lunch?
My best meal of the past year was a birthday lunch for Daisy Bates at the River Café: antipasti, fish stew then cheese.
That’s easy, it’s green.
What is your favourite font?
Bodoni, but it used to be Cooper Black. I still slip it into my work sometimes, partly because my artist wife, Chrissy doesn’t like it! I also use Stencil.
What are your favourite pieces by other artists?
A wooden baby’s head by Constantin BrâncuÃ…Å¸i, and ‘Las Meninas’ by Diego Velázquez.
And of your own work?
A self portrait in badges, 1961. I wore a denim suit.
Are you a collector?
I have many collections, from small toy elephants to boxes made of sea shells.
What, creatively, is there left for you to do?
I’ve always been interested in architecture and interior design, although I could never do a designers job.
What do you think of Liverpool’s ‘Hard Day’s Night Hotel’?
It feels like the designers could have been braver with the Beatles imagery.
How is your relationship with technology?
I don’t have an e-mail account; in fact I can’t switch a computer on! Neither do I own a watch or mobile phone. I recently purchased a Remington Typewriter from the 1920’s, on which I plan to type my autobiography.
What’s the most memorable thing that’s ever been said of you?
Ian Jury insisted that on advising him how to paint, I said: ‘If you like tits and bums, paint those.’ It’s not true, although we remained lifelong friends…