WITH AE’S FAVOURITE ARTIST: FIONA STEPHENSON
It started out simple enough. AE was getting two new trucks and the plan was to give them their own unique identity. So an extensive search began, that took quite some time, to track down an artist that would compliment the vision. In the end, we found that artist in Fiona Stephenson from Barnsley, United Kingdom. Now, years later, she has delivered to us our 12th and newest commission. With her own private art gallery on wheels rolling along the streets of the GTA (and beyond), we thought we’d interview her so you can get to know the artist responsible.
“When Affiliated Equipment approached me in 2014 to paint 2 Pin-Ups riding rockets for the side of their vehicles, I didn’t expect to still be working for them years later. They’re a joy to work with, they trust me to put flesh on Ross’s ideas, he keeps me on my toes and challenges me artistically. I’m from the UK but I have friends in Toronto and I still get a buzz when they send me a photo of a truck and say ‘is this one of yours’?”
– Fiona Stephenson
How did you get your start?
I came across Pin Up Art at the comic convention in San Diego many moons ago, I was working as a comic Letterer and Colourist at the time. There was a stand selling Gil Elvgren books and cards, I fell in love immediately. I was looking for a challenge so when I returned home I decided to copy one of Elvgren’s paintings, it was ‘Quick Change’ featuring a girl changing a tire on her car. I had never used oil paints before so it was a huge learning curve but immensely enjoyable. A couple of friends bought the painting and it still hangs in their kitchen. I decided to get a website advertising my work as a tribute to Gil Elvgren and I was happy doing that for a time, but then I felt the need to create my own originals.
Do you do a lot of commission work?
Over the years I’ve enjoyed doing a combination of commission work and paintings that I have created from my own ideas. I can License the work I do for myself whereas the commission work belongs to the client, so it’s good to keep both options open. The commission work gives you different challenges and keeps the bank account ticking over, it’s also great to see your artwork on unusual merchandise and advertising platforms, your work is likely to get more exposure with a client.
What is the response to your art in this modern world we live in? Do you get any push back? Who are your biggest supporters?
I’ve always had a positive response to my work, especially from women, Pin Up art is usually sexy but not sleazy, an important difference for the people who buy the merchandise or see the advertising. I think there are acceptable norms in Pin Up art, beauty, fun, mild sexual interest, a story element in the paintings and these elements appeal to both men and women. My biggest supporters are people who like nostalgia and an engaging sense of fun.
What were your first thoughts when a film equipment rental business from Canada reached out to you?
I was surprised when Affiliated Equipment first contacted me with their unusual project, I was excited but after past experiences with some companies, I was doubtful it would take off. I was delighted when the first paintings were finished and everything had worked out perfectly. It’s been a unique experience and I’m grateful to AE for the opportunity.
How has your experience been working with AE after so many years?
It’s been a joy working with Affiliated Equipment, I couldn’t have wished for better collaborators. Some of the projects have been a real challenge and a little bit scary, it can be difficult putting someone else’s dreams onto canvas but Brian, Ross and the team have always been understanding, patient and supportive.
What is your favourite painting that you have done for AE to date?
I’ve really enjoyed all the paintings but my favourite is AE4, the Space Girl. Ross was very detailed with his instructions and it all fell into place, the pose, the outfit and the colours, it looks very eye catching on the truck. I also love the simplicity of Angel, she makes a great logo. I must add that painting Dave the tortoise was incredible because of the challenge, it’s not everyday you get asked to paint a Pin-up with a tortoise, I also love the CARP girl with the Wood Turtle, I don’t often paint animals and it was a revelation.
How does knowing your artwork is on vehicles driving around the city of Toronto and surrounding areas make you feel?
It feels amazing knowing my artwork is on a fleet of vehicles, it’s like having my own personal moving gallery. I have friends in Toronto and one of them photographed a truck outside his work studio and asked ‘is it one of yours’?, it was, it was Ross’s father playing football, I was so proud.
FIONA STEPHENSON PAINTINGS
COMMISSIONED BY AFFILIATED EQUIPMENT IN ORDER