Following the release of ‘Prince – Purple Reign‘, a mug shot print by Russell Marshall that captures that raw vulnerable moment in the pop legend’s life, we chat to the Beautiful Crime artist about his work and why icons of the past make him tick.

Prince mugshot – R. Marshall (courtesy of Beautiful Crime)

So, Russell, how did you come close to screen printing?

Well, I guess it’s my way of using the skills I’ve been practicing for the last 25 years. My background is newspapers. I started off with words and then moved over to the production side. Designing and laying out newspaper and magazine pages, eventually I became Art Director for a national daily tabloid. I’ve seen the evolution of design and print pretty much from hot metal to digital – and everything in between.There are many nods to this in my work. Choice of images, use of colour and the design and production techniques I use are to give that retro feel.

Gun Elvis Cheque – R. Marshall (courtesy of Beautiful Crime)

What is your technique?

Mainly screen printing. It’s a wonderfully disciplined, dirty, mechanical way of hand-printing that requires great skill and precision to pull off. And it’s a skill we very nearly lost when everything went clean and digital.

I’m fascinated by halftone dots. Look up close and it’s a random series of meaningless dots; pull away and your brain interprets these dots as a photographic image. And I like to play with the four primary printing colours: they produce the full colour effect of pretty much most printed things you see.

The Clash – R. Marshall, Photo by Adrian Boot / Urbanimage.tv

Why do you primarily focus on past celebrities?

I feel that celebrities of today are little more watered down. There’s more mystery and intrigue behind the legends of yesteryear. In the past you had to visit a cinema to get to see your favourite film star – it was an event! Nowadays you can probably see a picture of your favourite pop star’s breakfast before you’ve even had yours. Celebrities are not so special anymore.

Collection of mugshots – R. Marshall (courtesy of Beautiful Crime)

What is about mugshots that interests you?

Celebrities’ mugshots fascinate me because represent their darker side. But they also come with a story – and that’s what I love about them, maybe because of my newspaper background.

Steve McQueen earned his police mugshot for drink driving. His wheel spun his way along 4th Avenue in Anchorage, Alaska pulling donuts and handbrake turns. When the cops pulled him over asked him to walk the white line, he performed a somersault! And there’s the bad boy aspect that many find attractive and alluring.

Steve McQueen mugshot – R. Marshall (courtesy of Beautiful Crime)

You can find (and buy) his work here!