Artist profile - Joe Forrest

Joe Forrest in his studio with a selection of work

Joe Forrest in his studio with a selection of work - Credit: Archant

Wirral artist Joe Forrest is demonstrating he’s much more than just a painter, as Rebekka O’Grady discovers

Joe Forrest with his David Bowie

Joe Forrest with his David Bowie - Credit: Archant

‘I like learning different skills as it challenges and enforces my knowledge. If you’re not always learning then there’s no point in doing it,’ said Wallasey fine artist Joe Forrest. The 32-year-old has been drawing and painting from a very young age and set up his own business two years ago.

Since then he has undertaken a number of major projects, including artwork at TV chef Simon Rimmer’s The Viking Pub and Bakehouse in West Kirby, and even had one celebrity portrait go semi-viral.

‘I did a one metre portrait of Bowie, which was commissioned shortly after he passed away,’ said Joe, who works from his studio in the Gostins Building on Hanover Street in Liverpool city centre. ‘Initially I was going to do a straightforward portrait but I decided to turn it into a bit of a showcase piece. It took around 100 hours to complete. I posted a photograph of it online and it reached 42,000 people on Facebook, which took me by surprise a bit.’

Joe’s love of art really began to blossom while he was studying at independent day school, Birkenhead School in Oxton. The natural ability he had developed as a child was nurtured by teachers and he became one of the best artists in the class.

Model Number 3

Model Number 3 - Credit: Archant

‘That really pushed me. When I left school, I went to study at the Merseyside Forum for Painting, Scultpture and Allied Crafts (The Forum), which was originally at the Bluecoat Chambers before they developed it into the space it is today,’ said Joe, who along with his elder brother Daniel, was mentored by acclaimed artist Terance McGunigle, who was classically trained at the Academia di Belle Arti in Florence.

‘The Forum was based in the former studio of Liverpool sculptor, Tyson Smith. It was amazing to continue a legacy that has over 100 years of history. We didn’t just train in painting, but in a range of traditional and contemporary art techniques including stone carving, restoration, clay modelling and resin sculptures.’

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After three years with Terance, Joe and Daniel set up their own business and undertook commissions for Vodka Revolution, Jamie Carragher’s 23 Foundation and even produced 5ft tall heads of Prince William and Kate Middleton to celebrate their wedding. However Daniel then moved to London so Joe decided to spend a few years working on graphic design and websites.

‘I didn’t pick up a pencil in three years. It was only when the former business owner of Vodka Revolution called me to say he was setting up a business with Simon Rimmer and asked if I would do a series of paintings. All of a sudden I was doing three large canvases and eight murals of local wildlife! It was off the back of that I got back into art.’

For two years now Joe has been running his own business where he not only creates portraits, bespoke artwork, landscapes and murals, but is using the talents he honed with Terance to undertake some interesting projects.

‘My first job of the year was restoring gold leaf lettering on an old plaque at a school, and I am in the middle of working with a friend on a project creating custom made kettle bells. I’ve done a rough plaster cast of a bull dog for him, so now he’s working on a mould to cast it out. I enjoy the variety, I don’t want to just paint.’