Sometimes life deals you a curve ball that turns out to be the best thing that could have happened. That’s certainly the case for Roy Tyson, whose miniature figures collectively known as Roy’s People have captured the attention of people all over the world. We caught up with Roy to find out more about his wonderful creations and creative journey…
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you made art your fulltime career? After leaving school I completed an apprenticeship as a car mechanic at Ford where I spent 4 years before then changing career and becoming a pharmaceutical sales representative for 5 years. At the end of my time in the Pharmaceutical industry I was made redundant due to a company restructure and was given 3 months gardening leave.
For a few months earlier I had been taking photos of miniature figures just for fun and during my gardening leave I decided to push this intrigue and see what I could do with these figures to make some money. It all started with a couple of friends and family wanting to buy my photos, so of course I obliged and then turned to eBay to sell my pictures. I knew a little about limited editions and the street art world so I created a couple of print editions and to my amazement sold them all on eBay.
Completely driven by this small success I then approached every gallery in London via email (yeah I know everyone will say an artist should never do that) but it worked a treat for me joining up with Curious Duke Gallery as a result and within a few weeks my work was in shows and art fairs and people were starting to collect my work. This was all within my 3 months gardening leave, so by the end of my gardening I decided to take a huge punt and give myself another 6 months focusing on art, and it worked.
Your work has been featured all over the world, when did it first go viral and how did that feel? I think it was August 2013 when Daily Mail online did a feature on me and linked my Facebook page. I picked up thousands of followers overnight whilst also seeing sales and enquiries increase.
Each Roy’s People creation you produce feels like a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ piece. Where do your ideas come from? The best ideas come when you don’t think about it. I am always looking at human life at the same time I am looking at objects in a way of ‘how can I use that’ so over time ideas just come into my head.
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created? Generally it’s every new piece that I create 😊
How long does it take to produce a piece, can you tell us a little about the process? It can take anything from a couple of hours to months and months. Sometimes I’ll get an idea, be able to get the figures done and then go and shoot it on the same day. However if I go to shoot it and it looks crap, I then have to shoot again, and again, and again, it can take months.
Along with Sam Peacock, you set up Roy’s People art fair. Can you tell us a bit more about this? We set up the art fair as a reaction to our experience exhibiting at art fairs. We felt that we could run an art fair that truly supports artists of all levels, giving them not just somewhere to show their work but a process that everyone can learn from, gain experience and generally progress their exhibiting skills. As artists ourselves, It’s all about working with artists closely and we love it.
How have you found the last 12 months, has covid had an impact on you and your creativity? COVID has had a huge impact in many ways. Since 2017 I had found that organising the art fair had become a full time job, therefore my artwork had taken a backseat. Whilst I was making works for galleries when required and doing a couple of marketing projects I hadn’t given my art the attention that all artists need to give their work in order for it to evolve.
When COVID hit, the art fair was the first thing to take a big old knockout blow, with just 2 weeks until we were due to hold an event we had to cancel it because of Lockdown 1. The financial impact was huge, along with the impact on the 3 of us that organise the fair not having any work. This initially took about 1 month for the dust to settle. So I turned back to my art.
During that first lockdown I never stopped, I always started work at 7am and was never tempted to do what a lot of people seemed to do, sit around watching Netflix during work hours. I made art relentlessly and completely rejuvenated my love for making. As a result for my work and drive I was also able to reach new collectors and my galleries were selling well. Since then I haven’t stopped and now art fairs are coming back I have decided to ensure that the organising does not take over and I continue to make art and do what I really love.
Which artists do you admire, who do you think is killing it at the moment? So much art to choose from!! I’ve just been to Cornwall and spent a fair amount of time in potteries, a form of art I really didn’t know much about. So my new found admiration is Sally Tully. I also really enjoy the work of Steven Buckler.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to make art their career? Start, and don’t stop. Just keep going. Don’t seek justification from anyone, don’t be driven by how many likes or followers you do/don’t get, just make art and believe in the process. Focus on improving, evolving and as David Bowie said ‘never play to the gallery’
What’s next for Roy’s People? It’s always hard to know. I believe in hard work, which comes from my days of doing a paper round as a boy to working as a car mechanic. Work hard and things will happen, let’s see, exciting isn’t it?