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Side Hustles and Social Media with Laurence White

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We caught up with Essex based painter and freelance TV producer Laurence White as he embarked on his most time sensitive project to date, a painting for the Liverpool Right-Back, Trent Alexander-Arnold. 

 

Laurence has an Awesome connection, he went to Loughborough University with our videographer Tom Avery. Tom was studying Visual Communication and Laurence was a Business undergrad. Tom had no idea Laurence had a passion for picking up a paint brush. They have kept in touch and worked together on various content projects. 

 

Laurence seems to have a gift for being in the right place at the right time with his art. But it’s all part of the plan, one rooted in business and a practical, determined mindset.

Given the current circumstances how are you finding working from home?

I’ve been furloughed. But I always knew that when we could go back to filming that I would be. It’s kind of been a time to double down and focus, which I have been but, the last couple of weeks i’ve been trying to wind down and take a step back and enjoy the last bit of this period. Before you know it you’ll be back into the fold and working again.

Looking at your socials, it looks like you’ve been able to build a sort of momentum there with working from home, we saw you were delivering a painting to one of the Geordie Shore cast?

It’s interesting that it comes across like that because I don’t feel like I’m out there enough.  Yeah, those [paintings] are done for the speed of like, ‘I want to get to this person’, you know? The connection came about through TV, but it’s not just that. It’s the fact that they’re willing to do a little bit more to promote it and she doesn’t have to do that, but because I know her, you just get a little bit more from it.

What are you working on at the moment, the big piece?

It’s for Trent Alexander Arnold (Liverpool FC footballer) and the plan is to get that to him next week. There’s some time pressure to get it done, you know where I was saying about taking these last couple of weeks being pretty chill, well this has come in and I’m like, cool. I just want to take advantage of the time I have.

That’s one of the big things that resonates through all of your content on social media, it’s the work ethic and attention to marketing.

That’s good because I feel like that’s a big part of it, so it’s great that you are saying that. I was talking to a friend about it actually earlier, and I was saying that a big part of it is not so much the art it’s the business and all the stuff around it. This is just a product, and I keep saying that, but I don’t think it really hits so that people can understand. I treat it more like a business than a passion project. Do you know what I mean?

Yes, you really can’t tell that you have kept the producing going on, it looks like the art is your full time focus.

Yeah, I’ve been working. Over the last 5 months when we’ve actually been in lockdown it seems like a lot more stuff is happening but it’s not really an even playing field, you know, these artists that are full time are actually full time and I’m not full time. You know when people say that they’re busy, sometimes I’m like “hmm… trust me, you ain’t THAT busy”. I do understand that people have jobs and different priorities though.

So tell us where you grew up and what got you started with art, where did that passion come from?

I grew up in Essex, and so I’ve always lived in the area. Which I’m actually, I know contrary to popular belief with the TV programme, quite proud of you know. Went to the local school and ended up going to college and that’s where I stopped doing art. From there I went on to University to get like a “proper degree”. Did that for 4 years and went into TV from that randomly through a family friend who was looking for some help on the X-Factor at the time.

It was a really fun time, you know, seeing Simon Cowell coming down the corridor, and Cheryl Cole getting her make-up done and all that kind of stuff in its hay day. Then the following week someone ended up getting sacked so a position opened up for me and I wasn’t expecting to do any more work, I thought it was a one off day. I ended up doing the rest of X-Factor that year then went onto Britain’s Got Talent, and just kind of flip-flopped between those two shows for a couple of years. Moving up and getting promoted onto like Geordie Shore and all those other types of programmes that I now work on in the reality entertainment field.

TV is a freelance game so on the side as I was working my way up I’d always be trying to start some type of business or sort of do something on the side, just to keep things ticking over but also to help with money. Nothing was really sticking, I tried jeans companies, I tried a bit of property, a bit of social media marketing, but nothing really worked. About 2 years ago I ended up on a bit of a F*$%-it moment and wondered if I could still paint, because I’d always been really good at it at college, top of the class and all that kind of stuff.

I ended up painting Kanye West, and that was seen by one of my mates that was actually on Love Island and he ended up posting it. I haven’t stopped painting since that point. Love Island is as big as it gets and it gave me the exposure that I didn’t have at the time. It led from one painting commission to the next.

Talking about exposure, we saw the painting you did of Ice Cube. Where does that fit within the last 2 years?

By accident, at my local barbers, the decorators got it wrong and they accidentally painted over the whole wall and so they actually got rid of that image of Ice Cube, so the barber owner was looking for the exact same thing basically but repainted. I was like ‘yeah cool, I can do that’ and this was really early on, about 5 months into doing all this.

So I went in and did the painting, and just on the off chance I just kept on posting it on instagram and twitter, and then months went past and Ice Cube just tweeted a picture of the post and instagrammed it as well which was mental! The only thing is he didn’t tag me which is a bit of a shame because I would have got a lot more of an upside from the post but I was like, hey, for him to see it and give it recognition was a win in itself.

So we know and we can see you are fiercely independent as an artist but who would you say your main influences are in the art community?

Timmy Sneaks, Alec Monopoly, for the lavish lifestyle and that kind of stuff and what can be achieved. A girl called CJ Hendry, she is technically brilliant, she draws actually, photo realism. An American guy called Anton Connolly, he hasn’t got a massive following but he creates like quirky paintings you wouldn’t necessarily think of which is really cool. Chris Guest and a guy called Paul Lock, they are all my favourite artists at the moment that I am kind of shaking inspiration from I guess.

I look at those guys and I can see they are selling to this person, they are doing this, they have stuff going on. Specifically I look at Timmy Sneaks and Alec Monopoly a lot because they’re at the kind of level I want to get to. Their paintings are selling for tens of thousands and just the lifestyle that goes along with it. Not only that, their work is really contemporary and modern, whereas I think it’s easy to get into that stuffy, like oil painting kind of thing and it’s just really not what interests me.

The BlackOut Series, what was the idea behind grouping these famous faces together?

I was painting in a different style before I started the BlackOut Series but I wanted to create a style of painting that was a lot more modern. Technically I can paint in different styles but I wanted to simplify it and make it more edgy I guess.

There was a technique that I was playing around with, which is a kind of like posterizing effect I guess. I was having trouble at the time getting my colours exactly right so I thought why don’t I just try it in black and white and that’s what led to the first painting I did which was Marilyn Monroe. And then just from there just thought let’s make this a series of like 5 paintings which ended up being 6, and it’s been great.

That body of work can relate and you can group it, there’s a lot of added benefits to like a series of work, people know where they’re at, it’s not just some random pieces and people can associate with it a lot more.

Our favourite is the Kobe Bryant, what spurred you on to include that one within the BlackOut Series?

At the time I didn’t have a commission on and I don’t really like jumping on trends just to jump on a trend but, when I did my research into Kobe Bryant, his mindset is everything that I try to do myself which is hard work putting in the hours, do you know what I mean? So I was like cool let’s see if I can do him justice.

That was a really mental one, I put up a blank canvas saying, ‘I am going to do a Kobe Bryant painting’ and it sold within the hour, before I’d even laid a brush to canvas if you will. These people have made it to the top of their field and so there are certain principles, success principles, which I really enjoy learning about. Because I did a business degree I’ve always tried to start businesses so it’s just my way of keeping in touch with that side of things.

Yeah when you look into Kobe Bryant you can almost apply it to your life and think about why am I not hanging around with some of the friends I used to because I’m looking for more. I was watching something the other day to do with Robin van Persie and he was saying, to get to the very top level he had to make some hard decisions about the people I was hanging around with etc.

On the topic of Basketball Legends, have you managed to watch The Last Dance? I know with your job and the painting you are super busy.

Yeah I managed to watch up to about episode 5, I’ve watched enough to know that obviously he’s great and all that kind of stuff. There was a rumour going around actually that he put that out because LeBron James just won the league and he wanted to sort of take away some of his shine and be known as the best, so even now he’s competitive you know?

Let’s talk merchandising. The postcards how are you going to be using them?

I want to be a brand, and offer paintings that not really everyone can afford, meaning I like the exclusivity of it. You might have to save up to buy one of this kind of stuff but I do get a lot of messages from people that can’t afford the stuff that want to invest in the art but don’t have hundreds of pounds for a print or thousands for a painting. So it just seems right to draw up almost like a little thank you just because it’s been going well and stuff, after the series of postcards I might not do something for a little bit but just in the meantime to say thanks.

What is in store for the rest of 2020 and the foreseeable future?

I want to become one of the most well known artists out there and essentially by painting for the celebrities and people in the elite of society, by association, I will in turn become that myself. Which will help get my brand out there. There’s a reason why I paint for celebrities and it’s just a case of time and getting that right break that’s really going to blow things up.

What’s the next big painting you are doing?

At the time that we are talking this painting for Trent Alexander Arnold is my focus. I’ve only just announced it so this is my next big thing and we’re just kind of seeing where that could go, I think there’s chat of maybe painting for Anthony Joshua later in the year. Where some people have been slagging me off for painting for what they call z-listers and reality stars, all that I don’t turn my nose up at because that in turn has helped me get to the sort of people that I’m now painting for. It’s all been a process of building.

All these years I’ve never gone to any of the [reality stars] to like sell them something or get them to do stuff, so now that I’ve actually got a service that I am offering, it provides them with some value and in turn myself I think, sweet, let’s capitalise on that. The reason why I’m so comfortable with putting myself out there on social media is because i’ve been watching the pros do it for all this time now, so now I’ve got the blueprint. You have to be upbeat on a story it hits better.

That’s your platform really isn’t it, Instagram.

Yes, that and TikTok. They’re the main two at the moment. I want to start on Etsy, someone mentioned it to me and especially with these postcards, I’m like, ‘cool that could be a good avenue for that type of thing’, and the merch too.

Get your postcards made here

Check out Laurence’s website here

You can follow him on Instagram here

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