Offensive postcards to strangers? A Venn diagram of a Venn diagram? Superfans hoping he’ll die so his artwork will become more collectible? Sounds like Mr Bingo (self-proclaimed artist, speaker and tw@t) came to York Design Week.
A few of the team went along to listen to 17 things the provocative artist has learned since his explosion onto the creative scene with what he calls ‘art by mistake’. Here are five of the best.
Mr Bingo created Valentine’s cards for single people, saying: “Single people on Valentine’s Day are a bit like homeless people on Christmas day, it’s a day to be reminded of what you don’t have.”
Purchasers had to choose one of three categories: romantic, creepy and filthy and the cards offered them the chance to go for a pint together. He never believed it would happen but 50 people went to a Wetherspoons in London on Valentine’s Day and got talking. That’s the power of art.
This handmade concrete gravestone is a signature in Mr Bingo’s collection, a nod to just how fleeting life is. One Bingo fan even asked him to mix their dad’s ashes into the concrete plaster cast as a one-off. Of course he did.
Another found a furious message on the neighbourhood WhatsApp group berating her husband’s drunken behaviour the night before, with pictures. A special commission entitled ‘f*cking disgrace’ followed.
Anecdote after anecdote followed. Like the time he went to an art fair alone, made a quick sign that said, ‘Gone for a p*ss, back in two mins’. When he uploaded it to his Instagram story, within 10 seconds, a fan asked him to sell it to her.
Or the time he wasn’t happy with a drawing, threw it in the fire and someone paid him £20 for the ashes (it’s high concept art).
But that wasn’t enough. He thought, ‘How far can I take this?’, and now sells the concept of nothing for 80p. The website description is clear: you literally get nothing.
At the height of toilet roll paranoia in the pandemic, where people were searching for connection, belonging and meaning in their lives, Mr Bingo drew Pablo Escobar on a toilet roll and sold it for £250. Sure, he was down to his last three, but he had £250. And that was just the start.
After leaving the world of advertising and making the big leap from illustrator (in his words, someone who helps companies sell pointless things) to artist (peak happiness by making stuff nobody asked them to do), Mr Bingo still feels stress. “No one’s asking me to do anything these days but I’m conscientious about what I do – and I like to do it right. But still, I’m drawing a giant penis crushing someone to death – it’s meant to be fun.”
“I came away wanting the cat print – Mr Bingo’s point about people wanting to see relatable stuff hit home. You love your cat, right, but they can also have you under their paw when it comes to cupboard love and bedtime routines. That’s why I talk about constructive journalism so much. There’s no point sugar coating and expecting your people to believe fairies fly out of the CEO’s mouth every time they speak. So make your content relatable.”
“It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day job and take work too seriously; we forget that work should be fun. Yes, Mr Bingo takes that to the next level in his work, but it’s still something that really resonates with me and something I’ll always look to bring into the work we produce as a creative team; people are strange, fun is what engages us and his talk showed that. I’ll definitely take that away with me, that and the genital plants, it’s hard to look at a plant the same way.”
“Don’t forgot to have fun. It’s so easy to lose sight of this and in the end the thing that’ll suffer is our creative output. It was interesting to find out Mr Bingo posts ideas on social channels to gauge interest before turning them into artwork. Which is very similar to when we send 15 second test animations to our clients – to gauge reaction.”
“Mr Bingo’s real talent is taking topical subjects and translating them in a way that allows everyone to relate to them while having a bloody good chuckle at the same time. I spent the entirety of the talk with a huge smile on my face asking myself ‘why doesn’t everyone approach life like this guy?!’. His journey from freelance illustrator to artist is hugely inspirational and shows how social media can help creatives find their audience as well as be inspired by them.”