Simon Wells – Vintage Ephemera Collage and Pop Art Portraits



How long have you been creating these pieces of art? Where did the idea come from?

I like to keep my art topical. 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the audio cassette tape so I made a piece of art for an exhibition in Sheffield using only tape from different C90 cassettes. It’s amazing that each tape had a slightly different shade of brown/black depending on the quality of the tape (ferro-chrome or metal).  2014 marked the end of the paper tax disc after 90 years, so it was the obvious choice to keep my art topical. This year it ought to be Y-front underpants as it will be the 80th anniversary of their invention!

Did you already have an artistic background?

I have a performing arts background and have been a Drama teacher for 20 years. Directing and producing performances also meant having a visual eye for costume/set etc. I have also been making and exhibiting photographic collages for many years; namely of close-ups of architecture from around the world.

Why did you choose the tax disc?

Tax discs are an iconic visual image from our lives. We grew up recognising the disc and the colours are so vivid; changing yearly. The colours lend themselves to Hockney-esque landscapes which was the first piece of art I produced for the exhibition. After making landscapes I began to receive requests for vehicles made from tax discs – A VW Split-screen ‘splitty’ camper van and and F1 motorcar. It then seemed to snowball with more bespoke requests for Lambretta scooters, Beetles and Mini Coopers.

How do you source the tax discs?

From requests in articles such as this! I was featured in a local Sheffield paper on the day that tax discs became obsolete, and the discs came flooding in. So if you have any spare discs you can donate please contact me at or email me at . I also buy some hard to find discs from auction sites if I need a particular colour or year.

Do you use any other materials when creating these pieces?

I design my work on stretched canvas and add detail with black and white acrylic paint.  I’ve just bought some vintage 50s/60s UK road maps (The type you would get at a petrol station), and I’m considering using them as a background for future pieces. Recently I was given a selection of 80s Dandy/Beano comics and these have been used for my recent piece entitled ‘Violence is Golden’, I purposefully used instances of comic violence from the pages. I have also started to create POP ART portraits and have created a ‘pop-art selfie’ drinking at the Cutler’s Arms in Rotherham for the ROAR ‘Rotherham Notations’ project.

What is your favourite piece?

I like it when I get a new commission and I can try a new piece. I was recently sent a photograph of someone’s pride and joy – A Commer camper and had fun trying to get the shape right. The most popular commission I get is for VW campers or scooters. I like creating pieces specifically for a client, from a photograph so that it is unique to them. But my greatest joy is creating a piece of pop-art of a family member and seeing the appreciation on a client’s face.

Tell me about your paintings…

I paint using acrylics in a bold, expressionist style of iconic Hull buildings which have now disappeared such as Boothferry Park football stadium, or record shops in the lead up to Hull 2017 City of Culture. I also depict on canvas the street art I see on Sheffield walls, because of the transient nature of urban art: it is here today/buffed tomorrow and is ever-changing. This way I can immortalise some of the creative working on walls throughout the city. I also celebrate the lives of recently dead celebs on paper plates and leave them around the city in pubs and bars.