This Life: Buckling down to art

BALDRICK Buckle is a Leeds artist and sculptor who is considered to be a rising star of the Dutch art scene.

In 1990, he quit an art and design course at the Jacob Kramer College of Art, now known as the Leeds College of Art and Design, to spend six months trying to become a musician in America.

He eventually moved to Europe in 'Bertha', an old British Army truck which he converted into a mobile home, and earned a living as a pavement artist. In 1997, Buckle co-founded the Dutch sand sculpture collective Sandaholics Anonymous, which succeeded in 'selling sand to the Arabs' when they created the largest sand sculpture ever built in the Middle East.

The 38-year-old, whose real name is Richard, grew up in Meanwood and went to Stainbeck High School.He now lives in Amsterdam with his Dutch girfriend Susanne. Interview by Grant Woodward.

The best advice I've ever received was when I was 16 and an art teacher heard me mention I couldn't afford any oil paint to paint with. He suggested I try pavement art to earn some money for the paints. So the next Saturday I went into the centre of Leeds with some pastels and drew a replica of the Mona Lisa on the pavement just outside the St John's centre, next to the bronze sculpture of the fat guy with the barrel. I was so nervous I didn't dare look up the whole day. At five o'clock I finished my painting and went home and counted the loot. I had made just over 40 quid in small change. Unbelievable.Since that day I've never looked back and have always found a way to avoid getting a real job.

My art is based on my ironic interpretation of where we, as human beings, are right here and now. It's often socially or politically charged but I try to keep a sense of humour about it. A lot of my work is sculptural or installational, but that's not always the case. Materials and form are often decided because of the concept of the work.

So sometimes I might use bread, sometimes iron, sometimes jigsaw pieces. It depends what I'm trying to say.

My first job was with a guy called Mike who videoed weddings on Saturdays. I was his assistant but was fairly hopeless at it. I kept on leaving his video equipment in random places and would forget to put it back in the car. He'd have to drive all over the country picking things up on Sunday mornings.

Sand sculpting is a really great way to be paid to make sculpture. Its commercial angle can be frustrating but it keeps me and my studio ticking over nicely without having to worry about pleasing gallerists or collectors or whoever would otherwise be responsible for keeping me in tea and samosas. It's also a small group of people who work professionally as sand sculptors so it's like a family feeling on the events when we meet up in different places around the world.

It's a nice community to be part of, I feel very lucky.

Inspiration's a funny thing, sometimes something will just click or make sense, or two objects suddenly have a relationship with each other you never noticed or understood before. From there it's often possible to begin playing with ideas. There is so much going on everywhere that it's impossible not to be inspired a lot of the time, the problem is often choosing which ideas to follow and which to leave in the sketch book.

The thing I'm most proud of is the fact that I stopped drinking four years ago. I had to, I was killing myself with the booze. I was a daily drinker going through roughly a bottle of whisky a day. It was the beginning of November and I woke up from a week-long drinking binge and realised that I hadn't actually done anything since September.

It's a similar story for a lot of alcoholics, there comes a moment when you think enough is enough and you have to go and get help. So I did.

I sobered up and have stayed sober since that day. It was hard and every day is still hard, but the benefit is I can do a lot more with my life and that's worth a lot to me.

The best thing about being an artist is the constant challenge to make something great and the immense satisfaction when that occasionally happens.

The one thing I couldn't live without is Google – I'm addicted to information and accessing anything and everything. As for the internet itself, I think they have yet to invent an adjective that adequately describes its genius. Maybe I should Google one. Tim Berners Lee will go down as one of the most influential people the human race has ever seen. The information revolution has and will continue to have such an mammoth effect on the human race. We haven't even begun to see the tip of the iceberg.

Only in the coming few years when the youth of today, who have never known a world without the internet, begin to break through into industry we will see the most spectacular developments.

My childhood was grim, like everyone else's who grew up in the 70s and early 80s in the industrial north. Leeds has obviously been transformed since I was growing up. Leeds is nicer, but a lot of places are; it's just the natural progression of things.

My first real love was a Dutch girl called Maaike. I met her while travelling when I was 19 and we spent the next five years together 24/7. Sadly, after 10 years together we drifted apart.

I don't tend to relax. I'll do that when I'm dead. Right now there's just too much to do.

My philosophy on life is that you only get one chance of life, in my opinion, so make the most of it. Do stuff that makes you happy and don't be afraid to try something new or make a fresh start.

Life's too short to do things that make you miserable.

The person, living or dead, I would most like to meet is Damien Hirst. I think probably because of his influence, but perhaps more so because of his savvy. He's obviously doing something right and I wonder how much is down to Damien Hirst the individual and how much is manufactured hype. Maybe a tte--tte with the bloke might help me understand more about what I'm doing. I hope he would have something devastatingly interesting to say.

The last time I cried was when my girlfriend and I nearly broke up a while back.

The thing that would surprise people about me is that I've been sober for over four years. Although I guess it would only surprise you if you knew me more than four years ago. But boy, would it surprise you then.

The best thing about Leeds right now is Leeds United... Magic! But otherwise everything.

Yorkshire folk are champion, the countryside is the best in the world. I love the way it's instantly recognisable when you see it on the TV. If I could afford to buy a house somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales I'd move back tomorrow. Oh, and Wensleydale cheese.

My favourite joke is one someone told me yesterday.Where do you find paw-paws?

On the end of dogs-dogs legs-legs.

FAVOURITE THINGS

Food: I had a mean vegetable madras in the Kashmir in Bradford last time I was there. Food just doesn't get much better than that

Book: The Wrong Boy by Willy Russell, a fantastic book

Movie: The Commitments, I think I've seen it 20 times or more

Holiday: 1990-1997... only joking. Snowboarding in the Alps

Artists: Emily Jaquir and Francis Alys

Star sign: Cancer

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