Paine Proffitt is a man whose artistic works are inspired by sport, some of which are displayed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in America. His work looks at football, baseball, hockey and rugby, a niche that he has been fine tuning since he started seriously thinking about art at age 17. But how does a man with such skill, talent, and artistic vision move from America to Stoke-on-Trent? In an interview with the man himself, 44-year-old Paine explained his journey from Philadelphia to Stoke-on-Trent, and his accomplishments along the way.
Paine explains that someone saw his baseball painting, as pictured below, on social media and asked if he would donate a piece to the collection. Paine’s piece is on display near Andy Warhol’s work inside the museum but says that it is not the be all and end all of artist’s achievements.
“That’s a big honour for an American and a baseball fan.
“I get satisfaction from small things, like this piece where I tried something new and it worked! Any gallery that takes my stuff is great. The Baseball Hall of Fame, that’s a huge honour.”
Born in Arizona, Paine’s mum and dad both worked as journalists travelling the world reporting on stories. His dad worked as a war correspondent for Newsweek and his mum as an editor for newspapers like the Philadelphia Enquirer. Spending most of his teens in Philly from age 14, Paine considers that his first home.
“I guess because they’re part of your teenage years, or that’s where I spent my most time in one place, that that really felt like home at the time and kind of where life started.”
Paine says that his dad was sick of ‘shallow grave countries’ that were a risk to his family and so he retired at age 40 and wanted to write novels.
Attending art school at Rhode Island School of Design, Paine began his journey into the artistic world and started off with illustration. Once in the UK, after moving over with a friend, he began studying again at Brighton University on an Art and Illustration course. Once finished with this one-year course he moved back to the states to finish University at his previous art school, and when he graduated he moved to the UK permanently in 2001.
As an introverted and anxious person, Paine often finds it hard to go to his own art exhibitions and selling evenings. When asked to explain he described the feeling as a ‘social hangover’ where he would get wound up really tight and take it all very hard and personally in terms of social faux pars. Some artists don’t go to their openings at all, or they hide in the back and pretend they are not there. Paine says the attention is not for him but does like to see his work on display sometimes.
“I need a lot of time after big social things, to not deal with anything, and sometimes that can be for days. Sometimes I just think, you know what? Who cares? It’s alright. Yeah, I messed up there, who cares? Kind of going easy on myself a bit. It’s a bit like dust, it all kicks up and it’s messy for a while and sometimes you just need some time for it all to settle down.”
Paine started doing art for football clubs in the UK when he moved over permanently. He says that when he stopped doing illustration works for other people and started to do what he wanted to do it was ‘kind of looking at naïve art and then traditional figurative stuff or still life’. Paine began producing some pieces for Port Vale, then more surreal stuff in football and a few rugby pieces. These pieces were, of course, snapped right up by the clubs.
“They were okay, they weren’t that good, and then I started doing more of the stuff that I’m doing today, kind of poster stuff with words. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them or where they’d fit in. There was the start of something there for me personally. That kind of unlocked the door and I realised hey why not paint what you want and how you want and I really enjoy it. I keep boxing myself in without meaning too. Having to break out and start something new and different again. The stuff that was really liberating when I first started, in football work or poster stuff, that’s now the stuff that I feel a little trapped in now and I want to try something a little new and crazy. I really have to build myself up and go for it every now and then. I’m doing a few more personal things in sport. Baseball and Ice hockey. Figurative stuff, lifestyle, surreal work. Almost like fairy-tale sort of things. Lowbrow art and pop surrealism.”
When talking about Philadelphia and the few things he misses, he said:
“It does have that big city kind of feel. It’s a very traditional city; it has lots of American history. I miss the sports and food, but that’s about it. Cheesesteaks and Mexican food. Cheesesteaks are a Philly specialty and good Mexican food is delicious. I don’t miss the weather at all; I find the English cold is a lot colder than the American cold. I hate the heat and humidity in the summer, and I just think of every 4th of July there’s a big heat wave in the States and it’s so uncomfortable. Every 4th of July here I’m usually in jeans and a hoodie just to stay warm. I love that!”
Luckily Paine has found the deliciousness of the Stokie oatcake and says he has them about two or three times a week. Adjusting to life in the UK, Paine said he has had some trouble with the local Stokie accent. He said:
“It took me quite a while just to understand what people were saying, you go ten miles in this country and the accent changes. I was told early on that Duck was a local saying so it didn’t take me by surprise. That “cost kick a bo agen a wo” thing was a bit of a mystery. I couldn’t understand the words and even when someone told me what the words were I just thought, “Who says that!?! … ever???” I felt like an idiot because I had to ask everyone what they were saying 2 or 3 times … and even then I sometimes had no clue.”
I asked Paine what advice he would have for young artists, and how he has made a career out of doing what he loves. Here’s what he had to say:
“Just keep at it. Work hard, don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to experiment, don’t get discouraged if the artwork isn’t as good as you’d like to be. Just keep working as much as you can and don’t give up. It’s easy to give up, especially if the work isn’t going the way you want it to or if you don’t feel good enough. I’ve only started to feel comfortable with my own work in the last few years, and even still I’m struggling with pieces and trying to get better. It takes time and dedication, so just keep working at it and making as much art as possible.
“I’m afraid there’s no way to sugar-coat it, it takes a lot of work, the pay isn’t great, loads of talented people are all competing for recognition and there aren’t a lot of opportunities, but if it’s in you then keep at it and hopefully the chances and a career will come.”