Ron English is a father, a husband, a full time artist, a part time vandal and 24/7 American. When he says that he’s been busy in London, he means it. In addition to his work at the London Pleasure Gardens, Ron is in town for a show. Letters From America opens in London today, July 4th (America’s Independence Day), at Corey Helford Gallery in conjunction with Black Rat Projects, and features Ron’s work with the work of other American artists: TrustoCorp, Risk and Saber. With a numerous ongoing projects in London, a family to take care of, and a street reputation to maintain, Ron has no time to waste and of course, neither do you. So here is Ron getting straight to the point of questions that I thought about for a long time.
Caroline: Letters From America includes four talented American artists, two with backgrounds in street art and two with backgrounds in graffiti. Do you feel that the distinction between street art and graffiti is an important one once the art is put in a gallery setting?
Ron: Once it’s in the gallery it is no longer street art or graffiti, it’s just plain old art.
Caroline: You seem to have made an effort to include your children in numerous aspects of your art career; from being the subjects of some of your paintings, to being given stickers to put up around Detroit, to your son Mars having a painting included in the South Park-themed art show you curated. How do you believe they feel about your work and growing up in the fine art/street art world?
Ron: They are mostly bored by it and a little puzzled by people who have tattoos of them on their bodies.
Caroline: Besides the fact of the London Pleasure Gardens being just a short distance from the 2012 Olympic events, do you have any plans for more work relating to the Olympics this year?
Caroline: When you were a kid, did you find Frosty Flakes and McDonald’s delicious?
Ron: Yes, I also like the toys.
Caroline: Did you enjoy Disney cartoons?
Ron: Still do.
Caroline: To what extent were the subjects you use in your art now apart of your childhood and when did you become aware of those icons on a critical level?
Ron: When I was six I made a painting of Charlie Brown and another kid said I was in big trouble for stealing a copyrighted character.
Caroline: What was it like painting the nose cone of a jumbo jet for the London Pleasure Gardens? Did that present any challenges?
Ron: It was pretty easy. The only challenge was the alleged Bansky on the other side, I was asked to paint it over but I was uncomfortable doing that. The problem was solved by some midnight whitewasher.
Caroline: Why continue to illegally put up work and risk arrest when you don’t need to, from a career standpoint and particularly since you have a family?
Ron: Getting permission is such a hassle.
Caroline: Do you find a difference in how your work is received in England compared with the U.S.?
Ron: They actually have street art tours here.
Caroline: Have you run into any legal issues with copyright infringement?
Ron: No, my work is parody, not infringement.
Caroline: Have you ever been on the other end of an infringement situation, where people were stealing or appropriating your work?
Caroline: Living in Beacon, New York seems an unexpected choice for a street artist. Why do you choose to live there rather than a city?
Ron: My kids like it there, plus fewer billboards means less temptation.
Caroline: Any plans in the works for future projects that you can talk about?
Ron: I just released a new record with The Electric Illuminati called Songs in English. It’s on iTunes.