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With Unskilled Worker, every flaw is deliberate. In fact, it is celebrated. The painter continuously explores unconventional forms of beauty and values character over perfection in a world obsessed with surface. I catch up with the modest artist who chooses to remain anonymous.

You once said you’re not a fashion illustrator – are you more drawn into that world today? What is it about fashion that appeals to you?

I don’t see myself as a fashion illustrator. I’m not sure where I fit in or if I even want to be defined. I am very happy that people are enjoying my work, whoever they are. I do find fashion intriguing. It is a powerful tool in trying to take control of our little slice of life. We make ourselves up as we go along, our choices in what we wear is part of that.

How did your name Unskilled Worker come about?

Because I’ve had no formal education, I’m self-taught and use materials in an improper, instinctive way; a mixture of control and accident. I like to create imperfections and warmth I feel is missing. I’m looking through thousands of images a day, mostly of an unattainable idea of beauty. Why can’t girls with spots look happy? A combination we’re told can’t exist. The unskilled way is messy, a little bit gnarly and closer to the truth, I hope.

You’ve been described an ‘Instagram sensation’, how does that make you feel? Can you describe your relationship with social media?

I don’t feel sensational. But very fortunate that my work has been able to reach such a large audience. Primarily my integral account is for me. I can put my work into a vacuum. I like how it exists inside Instagram. My paintings live in there, alongside Picasso’s and Snoopy. I don’t think about how many people are looking, and anyway nobody looks at my account as much as I do!

What would you like to say to artists who are struggling to find their visual identity?

When I started painting, Freya Pocklington told me to paint when it’s good and paint when it’s bad, so that’s what I do. The only way it works for me is to stay close to who I am. I look at a lot of artwork and sometimes I wish I could be a different artist, more minimal and grown up, but my paintings only really work when I’m being me. I met The Flower Guy, an NYC street artist, and his work is exactly him in paint! The same with Alessandro Michele, Gucci‘s new creative director, his beautiful clothes are him in cloth. So I suppose it’s to stay close to who you are and you will find your creative identity.

Who are the kind of characters that captivate you to paint a portrait of them?

I’m not sure what it is that makes me want to paint. I think, maybe, this is why I paint. It can’t be put into words. It’s something indefinable; an emotional response to an image.

Who, living or not, would attend your fantasy dinner?

I would like to chat for a few hours with my ancestors going back in a direct line from my mother to see if there are repeated patterns. Then maybe 1976 Elvis and Queen Elizabeth l could drop in for pudding.

What was the latest exhibition you’ve visited in London and what did you think of it?

Marlene Dumas at the Tate. So eerie and unsettling; astoundingly beautiful. It was difficult to leave.

Nada Abdul Ghaffar

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