Painter: The Art of Explosive

His explosive portraits are so unique that he’s had commissions from some of the biggest names in the world, including Bruce Lee Enterprises, Star Trek, Ali and Thunderbirds. Partnering with several international motorsports teams and capturing the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bradley Wiggins on his canvases, make Paul Oz not just a sought-after artist, but a successful entrepreneur. For the record, he’s also obsessed with Star Wars.

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You’re based in the UK but you’ve had galleries all over the world. Which country do you feel has the most vibrant art scene?

To be honest? The UK! I was impressed with Kuala Lumpur, though. An incredible mix of very different works.

How did you get your first big break? Who was the 1st big name you were commissioned to paint?

I wouldn’t say art is about one big break. It’s more like stepping stones, each a little higher than the last. Sure, you get big wins, but on their own it’s difficult to identify them as career changing. My first solo gallery show in 2008 was big, for sure. I think gallery representation is vital to get moving. It’s an affirmation that you’re an “artist”. The first big name I was licensed for was Bruce Lee, on behalf of Bruce Lee Enterprises and his daughter Shannon. In at the deep end!

How many paintings have you done so far?

I’d guess around three-hundred. I create about 1 a week at the moment. Now scheduling work in for November. It’s a dream come true!

Is there one painting you consider to be your all-time favourite?

It’s very tough to say. It’s constantly changing as, hopefully with practice, I should continue to develop what I’m doing. My side profile of Clint Eastwood is right up there, though. Heath Ledger’s Joker too. And the bare-shouldered Senna piece really hit home for me.

Joker smaller

The attention to detail in your portraits is staggering! What was the most difficult piece you’ve ever painted? How long did it take you to finish?

Details come with scale, to be honest. When I’m painting ten times life-size, they don’t always look detailed up close, more “messy” and I absolutely love that difference in perception with distance. The longest piece was the 2 metres wide Avengers painting, which took me three weeks. Perhaps not the most difficult, though. Bradley Wiggins’ commission sitting on the throne after he won the Olympic time trial was incredibly tough. I was well outside my comfort zone with that one. I loved it!

You’re a Star Wars fanatic! Which characters did you paint from their galaxy? Do you ever paint just for fun?

Indeed, I am! And I feel pretty honoured to have been part of an official art of Star Wars show on May 4 the last two years. It’s all I can remember watching as a kid! I’ve painted most of the principal characters over the years. R2D2 worked well and so did C3PO, which was really tough to paint in my style because of all the gold! Luke too, with a yellow tinted visor. I can’t really warrant painting for fun with work overdue but it did start out that way years ago.


Would you say that an art school background makes a major difference on the artist’s work?

Yes- negatively! I could talk all day on that subject! But my view is fundamentally that artists should just be taught history and technical aspects to create, and not all this guff, bluster and rubbish that often surrounds work. I mean, if a piece needs explaining, hasn’t it failed? And what’s with all these 3rd person profiles? Don’t get me started!

What kind of impact does the rise of social media have on artists these days? Did it bring anything new to your work?

Simply put, without social media I wouldn’t be a full-time artist. It’s vital, whether an artist works solely through the traditional model of galleries or drives their PR themselves, like I do. It’s a numbers game, when it comes to perception. And when it snowballs, social media is incredibly effective. I think all of my gallery partners will accept that when we promote a show together, I can bring half of the opening night crowd by myself just from social media, even if it can make the relationship a little difficult with potentially autonomous artists. It’s a fine and tricky balance, but I think it has to be like that now, with the world so open. Artists and galleries have to adapt to survive.

Lewis Hamilton 2

Painting, like others forms of art, has gone through several stages of evolution over time. Compared to the style of older generations, what would you say is the one major trend dominating today’s painters?

Perhaps this isn’t quite answering the question, but the proliferation of slap dash, thoughtless, unoriginal art has made it tough for those who are truly talented to get noticed!

What advice would you give people out there hoping to become entrepreneurs in the world of art?

Communication, PR and brand identity need just as much focus as the artwork itself. Sure, that’s not the romantic or even true artistic notion, but if you want to forge a career for yourself, it’s unavoidable now. Warhol and Hirst are prime examples of how it can work in the extreme. It doesn’t matter how good your work is if no one sees it. And without selling, you can’t afford to keep practicing to learn and grow. You need to remember that it’s a business if you want to earn a living from it.


Photos courtesy of Paul Oz

You can see Paul’s work at

Words: Mohammed Hassan


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