Maxwell Paternoster is one of the most creative and entertaining artists working in the custom scene. Here’s what makes him tick…
How long have you been into motorcycles?
I have been into bikes since I can remember, yeah!
When did you start painting helmets?
I actually painted my first helmet in 2012.
How, when and why did you become an artist?
I did drawing as a child, (as all kids do). I don’t know why, but I felt inclined to just focus on it, all the cartoons and comics seemed really fun. I just sort of kept doing it. It’s hard to explain, but yeah, I just leant towards the art side of things throughout school and after.
Give us a bit more background…
I was born in Ipswich, raised in rural countryside, riding on tractors as a child and surrounded by large bits of farm machinery that were juxtaposed against flat natural surroundings. Riding on tractors, driving cars and motorbikes as a child made me interested in the mechanical, technological aspect of the world. The farm had gigantic rusting machinery lying here and there. My father ran a pig-rearing unit so I saw slurry, silage, vomit, excrement, guts, gore and more. Also I saw pits fulls of decaying animal bodies from the weaker pigs that never survived.
Where does your inspiration come from?
All kinds of technology, dystopian representations and ideas about our future, comics, striving to draw things in a natural way and maintain certain nuances that probably only I would notice. And trying to make good use of certain abilities that I (and thousands of others) have to draw things, and not ignore those skills, but use them to live with. I realise that the best artist in the world might be working in Tesco having never ever realised their artistic abilities.
There’s a lot of chaotic scenes in your work. Is that from the urban lifestyle of London?
No, I think that stuff probably comes from my childhood programming – comics, cartoons, mad toys, rural upbringing, farm machinery and factories.
How would you describe your ‘style’?
Tricky question. I discussed this with a fellow artist who works in a similar style and we found it difficult to explain what we do. I suppose it’s sort of line-based illustration with a comic influence or something. But that’s not too accurate. I usually prefer to let people see it and make up their own minds. Why try to define it anyway? Wait till the person sees it so they can decide.
What’s in your shed or garage?
My shed is actually one of mother’s out-buildings, so each time I visit it has a new accumulation of empty cardboard boxes, various gardening-based items, carrier bags full of empty jam jars and copious amounts of rat faeces! But bike-wise, I have my 1974 Honda C70 with a 140cc YX pit bike engine, my BSA which has an M20 rigid frame and a B33 500cc engine, a 1989 Honda CR250 and a 1976 CG125.
What’s your ultimate road trip, and on what bike?
I always wanted to take off on one of those American roads that just go on forever into the distance like on Easy Rider or some shit like that. Not sure what bike but a gnarly one, but not too gnarly so it’s super painful and all that. Maybe a Harley Knuckle – but it would be nice to do it on something like a Yale or Pope or a Henderson. Or maybe a Brough? Yeah, something real old – British or American.
Which other illustrators or artists inspire you?
I have many contemporaries that I like to view, so many people work in a style that I like. I’ve been enjoying the styles of Paul Insect of late and I always like the line-work and character-based styles of Luke Ramsey, Jeremyville, and this Jesse Jacobs guy is mind meltingly good. But I’m also taking motivational inspiration from people I see who seem to be “on it” (for want of a better phrase) all the time, Skinner, Chet Zar, Tara McPherson etc etc.