Since you guys were loving the Pictures in a Tunnel entry earlier this week and I love meeting street artists, I promised you an interview with one of the writers who was involved in that event on Leake Street.
Meet David. Down in the tunnel, he scrawled “40 years old and still writing on walls” in pink paint. And 41 in January! David’s been around on the graffiti scene for quite a while, creating his first piece nearly the same year I was born, so it’s fascinating to hear his take on how the scene has changed over the years.
Read on for the story about David’s first ever wall (with a photo), a moment that involved an incident with a statue of Queen Victoria that has stuck in his head to this day and his recommendation for the best place to see some impressive street art near his post code – a place I have not yet explored but will do soon!
My shot of David at work in the Leake Street tunnel from the Pictures in a Tunnel entry.
LLO: Give us a little 3-5 sentence introduction on who you are and what you do.
D: Born and raised in South london, I currently work for a well-known London newspaper (and no I’m not a journalist, just work for the distribution side of things…). I’m a self-taught artist who left school with no qualifications.
LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity?
D: What influences my creativity? I guess driving around London, seeing a lot of bland buildings (south bank anyone?) boring cinema posters for mediocre movies and boring bill board adverts just makes me want to throw a tonne of colour together and do something different.
LLO: Deep in the depths of the Leake Street tunnel, you wrote “40 years old and still writing on walls”. How old were you when you created your first piece? When and where was it?
D: I was 13 when I got into graffiti back in 1984. This new “trend” had come across from the U.S. calling itself hip hop and it was a combination of rap music, break-dancing and graffiti. Well I couldn’t spin on my head and rapping wasn’t a strong point either so I took graffiti to heart being quite a good artist. I think I was amazed at the colours, the style of lettering the Americans used, the characters etc… It all blew me away. My first piece was shortly afterwards when I was comissioned to paint the music room within our school! A forty foot long bare space that was all mine! But it turned into a bit of a disaster when I stupidly asked a few friends to get involved. With so many people involved, it turned into an artistic failure with no direction. But it was a good introduction to spray paint and at least the school paid for the paint!
The school wall.
LLO: How have both your attitude toward street art and your style changed and developed over the years?
D: My style hasn’t changed that much over the years actually! I still use the heavy thick and thin, blocky style of lettering, but with me it’s mostly about the colour, the fill-in which I hope comes through in some of my more recent pieces. My attitude on street art: right now it seems one can’t live without the other which can only be a good thing. Almost like one family! But street art can lift you up, make you laugh. My first experience of seeing street art, I suppose, was way back in the 70s. Driving along Hastings one day, we drove past a statue of Queen Victoria, looking all solemn and important, and I suppose someone the previous night in a drunken state decided to climb on top of the statue and place a traffic cone perfectly on her head. I’ll never forget my parents laughing like crazy at this image when we drove past her. Fast forward 25 years and Banksy and co. are going round doing the same kinda thing…
LLO: As a self-taught artist, what have you found to be your biggest artistic challenges along the way?
D: Biggest artistic challenge? Still waiting for it happen!
LLO: Do you prefer walls or canvas? Why?
D: I like both in equal messure. With canvas I can take my time (several days, a week maybe) plus I can use pen, brush etc.. With a wall, it’s very in the now, it has to be completed on the day within a few hours. A canvas lasts a lifetime, a wall painting may last a lifetime if it’s comissioned but otherwise it’ll be gone within a day or two.
LLO: Tell us about the piece you are most proud of creating.
D: My last wall piece down Leake street which I worked on with a few other guys is probably the piece I’m most pleased with as I didn’t sway off the original idea while painting it! When painting, I usually change everything halfway through (i.e colours, outline, background etc.) This one, however, I stuck to the plan and completed it as I had originally planned it out on paper. Most of the time I walk away thinking: shouldn’t have put that blue in there, shouldn’t have done blah blah blah.. But this one I walked away thinking positive!
LLO: Where can we find the best graffiti or street art nearest your postcode?
D: Check out the Stockwell Park Estate. It’s home to some of the best graffiti in London, only the best paint there.
LLO: In which ways have you seen the graffiti scene change over your lifetime?
D: The graffiti scene over the years seems to have calmed down a hell of a lot. Years ago in the 80s, you got your name up tagging it everywhere you went (lack of cctv back then made it so easy to hit tube stations!), painted trains if you had the know how, got involved with a crew maybe, stole your paint (you never told anyone your good paint stores either!) and battled other writers or crews. These days writers just seem to get together, paint, drink beer, listen to music while painting and create some great pieces of art. I’ve also seen the quality of work improve 10 fold over the years mainly due to the good quality paint now freely available. Years ago, there may have been about 20 colors; nowadays the colour pallet is a few hundred colours, so some artists these days are producing some amazing photo realistic pieces.
LLO: Tell us about one of your favorite London-based artists.
D: Right now I love what Love Pusher is doing. He does this amazing 3-dimensional lettering which I think has taken graffiti to the next level.
Keep up with David’s creative touches around London on his Flickr page.
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