It is highly likely that you are familiar with the work of FunnyTummy even if you don't know it yet - the artist has produced mixtape covers for the likes of Sway, Blade Brown, Marvell and Scorcher to name a few. He is the man that musicians go to in order to have their music represented through his iconic signature style, with his portraits now sought after by the music world’s biggest stars. The Wrap Up's James Walsh caught up with the artist to discuss his creative process and being hunted down by Rihanna...
The Wrap Up: First off, I have to ask you about the name - why FunnyTummy?
FunnyTummy: [Laughs] When I first started doing art I wanted a name everyone would remember; something that was hard to forget. Without sounding arrogant or cocky I thought I was a sick artist and when you're sick you get a funny tummy [laughs]. I wanted something catchy too and think it fits the bill.
TWU: How did you go from creating art to making mixtape covers within the urban music scene?
FunnyTummy: It was maybe about three years ago, back in the MySpace days, when S.A.S messaged me asking me to do them a cover. They liked my style and wanted me to do one for 'Euro Gang Vol. 2', which was my first ever mixtape cover. That cover kind of got my name out there and it's been building ever since.
TWU: Who inspires you artistically and when did you first realize you could make a career out of being an artist?
FunnyTummy: There's an artist from Nottingham called Jon Burgerman whose work I love. He inspired me to want to be an artist. I realized I ended up spending a lot of money on his artwork and I thought if he's making all this money, why can't I? I'm from the West Midlands and while Jon's very well known in the art scene, he's a local guy and so it helped make it feel like what I wanted to do was realistic.
TWU: You've done some amazing mixtape covers, from Tinie Tempah's 'Happy Birthday' to G FRsh's 'Purgatory'. Can you talk us through the creative process when doing a mixtape cover?
FunnyTummy: With Tinie, he had a specific image in his mind as to how he wanted it to look. Other artists aren't always too sure and so that's when I'll step in and offer my artistic advice. I tend to go back and forth over email with an artist with a few ideas, let them know what I think's best and then build on that.
TWU: You also do a lot of great portraits of musicians. I've heard a pretty cool story about the portrait of Rihanna you did?
FunnyTummy: It was a conscious thought to make the transition from covers to portraits and other bits of art, as with the mixtapes I'm still told what to do, in a sense. I actually did [the Rihanna portrait] ages ago and had it uploaded [online] for about five months. Then one day my phone started having a seizure; everyone on Facebook and Twitter was telling me that Rihanna was looking for me because of the portrait. I thought it was an elaborate hoax at first, but my twitter followers pretty much doubled and I had to join instagram the same day as so many people were creating fake Funny Tummy account's - it was crazy! I eventually realised it was serious, started following her and she DM'd me saying she loved the piece and wanted me to drop it off at her hotel the same day as she was off to Paris in the morning.
TWU: That's a big look! Is it always your favourite artists' who you draw?
FunnyTummy: I usually end up drawing something which looks good artistically. With the Rihanna piece, it was from a picture in Vogue that my sister had lying around and I loved the way her red hair complimented the green background. I did a Beyonce one recently; I was actually looking to draw someone wearing glasses with their hair in a bun and then the next day I saw the image of Beyonce. If I was painting my very favourite artists, it would be Jay-Z or Kanye West. If they ever commission me to do a piece for them it would be like, ‘where do I go from here?’
TWU: Any word from Beyonce on the portrait as yet?
FunnyTummy: [Laughs] Not yet, but I'm working on trying to get it over to her as we speak.
TWU: You may not be far from that Jay-Z commission after all then! What's next for FunnyTummy?
FunnyTummy: The next goal that I'm looking to achieve is to hold an exhibition of my work in 2013. By the end of next year I also want to have designed my first bit of furniture. I've recently been commissioned by Tinie Tempah to do a few art pieces which are on his blog, and I have some more pieces of art that Rihanna wants too!
Check out FunnyTummy's work over at his website.
Stay up to date with FunnyTummy on Twitter.
Words: James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)