Paul Curtis is a Liverpool-based artist specialising in street art and large murals. In the 3 years he has been active as an artist, he has created more than 150 public pieces, largely in Liverpool and Wirral, but also in locations across the UK.
He wasn't always an artist, it was a redundancy in 2015 and an extended period of unemployment that led to him picking up his brushes. He was a geologist in the oil industry for 15 years and holds an MSC in Petroleum Geoscience from the University of Aberdeen in 2001 and a BSc in Geology and Physical Geography for the University of Liverpool. He left Liverpool in 2000 to live in Aberdeen for 10 years and then moved to London for 5 years. He moved back to Liverpool in 2016. At that point he had no idea where his life was going….
Paul came prominence with his very first piece of street art, "For All Liverpool's Liver Birds" (aka "The Liver Bird Wings"). This piece was an instant success with queues of people eager to have the picture taken with the wings, forcing the council to temporarily close the road. The piece has since become part of Liverpool's fabric and continues to attract tourists to Jamaica Street to become a Liver Bird themselves. Many famous people have done just that, including HRH Camilla Parker-Bowles, Jamie Carragher, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Bianca Walkden. In 2018, the mural was the 19th most geotagged place in the UK, nestled between Stone Henge and Abbey Road on the list.
From this launch pad, Paul was able to turn professional and demand for his work steadily increased. He was beginning to attract attention from the media and larger clients. One of his first commissions was a 40-metre wide detailed mural of Liverpool painted for Liverpool Shopping Park in Edge Lane. He had just a month to create this piece consisting of 32 individual landmarks, working solo – undoubtably a huge challenge, but one that proved Paul to be a capable large-scale muralist. The colourful style of this mural proved very popular and as luck would have it, film director, Danny Boyle, stumbled upon this mural and hired Paul to paint a similar mural for use his Beatles film, Yesterday.
2018 was to be the year of building on the initial success. Keen to show there was more to come and that his work was not a one hit wonder (he had already adopted a “no more wings” policy!), Paul selected work that gave him the opportunity to show an increased range of artwork and styles.
Some highlights from 2018 include:
By 2019, less than 18 months since starting as an artist, Paul was now firmly established. The Liverpool Echo had included him in a list of the 21 people who make Merseyside happy. Indeed, his media presence was growing fast. His work was appearing regularly on regional and national TV, such as Sky Sports, The One Show and The Voice as well as in the national press. A big factor in this was the Royal visit to Liverpool for which Paul received a phone call from Clarence House. Whilst Prince Charles was visiting the Albert Dock, HRH Camilla Parker-Bowles had been keen to get a photo with the Liver Bird Wings. This iconic photo made every national newspaper and UK TV news report the following day.
A key partnership with Tranmere Rovers developed in 2019. Paul painted a large street art piece of Tranmere legends, Ian Muir and Ray Mathias. Many more TRFC murals have followed as the partnership has proven successful for all involved.
Probably the most popular street art piece of that year for Paul, was the Abbey Road scene. A collaboration with The Beatles Story Museum, the mural marked the 50th anniversary of the Abbey Road album. The mural was hugely popular and remains so for those wanting to be a Beatle for a few moments!
Paul had now been named as 4th Top Street Artist in the North of the UK - quite an achievement for someone who had only been doing it for 2 years!
One of the sad stories of 2019 was the burning down of Club 53 in Liverpool. The owners have been big supporters of Paul’s work and continue to commission him for their other locations (namely Abbey Road and Harrison’s (which has a host of Paul’s murals)). There were 5 of Paul’s murals in Club 53 that were lost in the blaze, but obviously this is nothing compared to the loss that the owners’ experienced.
Other notable murals in 2019 include:
Audrey Hepburn Mural in Southport
By 2020, Paul was well established and had never been more in demand, but the year started in controversy. A simple Tranmere Rovers coat of arms would bring a media storm to the Birkenhead suburb of Oxton. The controversy was totally unexpected but fortunately turned out to benefit Paul massively, leading to much more demand for his work on the Wirral. A huge artwork commission for Gallagher’s pub in Birkenhead quickly followed: a depiction of HMS Birkenhead – a piece which became Paul’s most popular Wirral artwork.
Paul began a partnership with Anfield Road Primary School and working with the art teacher on concepts for the school has led to some beautiful large scale artworks for the kids such as, Harry Potter Liverpool, Peter Rabbit, The Globe and a David Attenborough Tribute.
Paul also painted a tribute to the late great Sir Ken Dodd on Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre. The two murals were unveiled by Lady Anne Dodd to a large press gathering. On the heels of those murals was Paul’s biggest mural to date: A huge 200 m2 tribute to Grand National hero, Red Rum. Painted in Southport in association with Sefton Council, it was supposed to coincide with the 2020 Grand National. And then….. Covid 19.
Lockdown came just as Paul was really beginning to gain momentum. However, there was an unusual positive effect: demand for murals began to build up as people reassessed businesses and decor. So much so, that as soon as lockdown lifted, there was a long list of commissions waiting to be painted. The biggest of these was the New Ferry Project. This was a scheme that consisted of 5 large murals and was part of a larger redevelopment of the area following the terrible explosion in 2017. The Cows and Pigs murals formed the centre piiece and the whole project was so successful that the local council immediately commissioned a second phase. The project received much media interest, including a slot on BBC North West Tonight.
After that was his famous tribute to Liverpool FC past and present. A piece sponsored by Revilo Properties depicted Jordan Henderson and Alan Hansen both lifting their respective league title trophies. This was to be the first public LFC street art that Paul would paint.
Paul's strong ties with Tranmere Rovers continued and three more murals would be painted before 2020 ended. One of these would be a tribute to the vital work that TRFC and its supporters did for the community during lockdown. Another, particularly poignant mural, was a portrait of the late, great Johnny King, painted on the Johnny King stand and opened by his widow,
Paul had time to restore and repaint the famous Beatles Mural in Seaforth in 2020. And he also was able to paint a commission piece for the University of Liverpool to be reprinted as a gift for the Year of 2020 graduates who were unfortunate in not being able to have a graduation ceremony (despite Boris et al partying throughout lockdown!).
Despite a difficult year with the shadow of coronavirus always looming in the background, Paul was able to achieve a rich diversity of artwork: 27 outdoor murals 13 interior murals 5 canvases 2 marathons 1 award 1 UK record
2021 started well for Paul. Early in the year he was shortlisted for and then ultimately won the Liverpool City Region Artist of the Year for 2020. The mural work came thick and fast.
In spring, Phase 2 of the New Ferry mural project kicked off which, when completed, meant that Paul now had 18 street art murals in the village of New Ferry, Wirral.
In May, Paul designed and painted the largest mural in Liverpool city centre. An underwater baby on the side of Abbey Road Pub which represented the rebirth of the city after the multiple Covid restrictions that had impacted many businesses in the city. Paul also announced that he had been made an Ambassador for Liverpool for the World Gymnastics Championships that will be held in Liverpool in November 2022. His peer ambassadors include Max Whitlock and Beth Tweddle.
The summer saw two key pieces: The Away Days trainers and Red Rum murals. The Aways Days mural was done for Tranmere Rovers FC on the side of Prenton Park. It was taken from the cult football film of the same name. The still was actually part of the movie's promotional material taken by renowned photographer, Johno Johnson. The Red Rum mural is actually Paul's third Red Rum piece, however this was the first time Paul had ever been invited to display work in an art gallery, namely The Atkinson in Southport.
The stand out piece of the year (and in all likelihood his career to date) kicked off in August. It took almost two months to complete and measured almost 1000 square metres in area. "Ainsley and Dale" are two huge sand lizards painted at Toad Hall in Ainsdale, Lancashire. During the two months, Paul had to break away for a few days to paint a tribute to the heroic Hillsborough campaigner, Anne Williams. This is one of his proudest pieces of work. Towards the end of the year, a real honour was bestowed on Paul when he was added to the Museum of Liverpool's "wall of fame". This is a photo wall of people who have been important to Liverpool's history and cultural impact.
Paul's work goes from strength to strength. The future will be exciting for him as he embarks on more and more high-profile pieces and ever larger scales. His prolific work rate ensures that this article will be out of date in just a few days! To keep up to date with his work, follow him on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.