Stik at work in the studio
I just want to give a big thanks to Stik for giving me so much of his time, letting me ask loads of questions and taking me into his studio that so many people take pictures of from the outside.
Stik is a real inspiration to me, the way he’s managed (like so many of us would love to be able to do) to take his passion and turn it into a career (and not only a career but a career that encourages other people as well). It amazes me that just over three years ago he was homeless and now people like Bono, The Duke of Kent and Antony Gormley have his art on their walls. Makes my head spin.
And so, the final words from Stik.
The original studio door pieces. Photo by Gautier Houba.
LLO: How many pieces do you have in the “Walk” exhibition?
Stik: Six big canvases, one sculpture, some traffic lights depending on how many bread and a whole load of prints.
LLO: How long have you been working on these pieces?
Stik: All winter.
LLO: So what’s the price range?
Stik: We haven’t decided that yet. But that’s important. That’s like my inner dialogue shown on the piece on the front of my studio, carrying the painting thinking, “Do I sell it? Do I give it away? Gotta pay the rent. Gotta buy paint…” I’m trying to not cut people out of the equation, but also keep myself in the equation.
LLO: You have two studios now?
Stik: Yes, one on Well Street and this one on Pitfield Street which is just for my canvases.
LLO: So far in 2012, what would you say is your favourite piece?
Stik: My favourite piece would be the piece on the front of the studio (see part 1 for photo). That was my most meaningful piece. It was a two stage piece and when the second one came out, my style was different. The heads were smaller, the legs were longer and there’s more expression in the body.
LLO: So since our last interview, in what other ways would you say your style has changed?
Stik: I’ve elongated them. They’re more curvy. Still only five lines, a circle and two dots for eyes. They’re very compound curves. I’ve got some nice long words. Compound curves is when a curve takes more than one turn. I like that. It’s like when you’re singing a certain note, it goes from one note to the next but you can take a meander. I like to have the curve of the shoulder and drawing in of the back, the hip, the thigh coming out, the back of the knee, the calf, the kick of the ankle and the tuck of the foot. That’s all just one line but it’s got like six different bends in it. There’s something really addictive about having that focus.
LLO: Do you work from photographs or memory?
Stik: Sometimes the memory of a photograph, but I like to work from life, get a gist of people. Then they look at it and say, “Oh my god, it’s me!”
LLO: You should make me a Little London Observationist mascot.
Stik: Yea sure. Yea, I’ll do that.
Photo: Off Laurel Street, E8, by Alex Ellison
LLO: Tell me about the Dulwich Festival project where you’ve been commissioned to paint graffiti versions of some classical era paintings.
Stik: I’m getting coaching from an art historian, Ingrid. I didn’t go to art school so I didn’t really know about the history of art. The project is with Dulwich Festival but the pieces I’m using to work from are in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. I’m taking six of the classical era paintings, people like Rubens and Gainsborough. I’m studying the originals. I’ll go into the gallery and draw them. Ingrid’s showing me what the people are looking at, what they’re thinking, where they’re going, where they’ve been, what their social status is. It’s really fascinating. It’s all about mannerisms. I’m doing Stik versions of the figures with my usual very simple line drawings and block colour backgrounds. We’re going to take people around on a walk, do a little talk about it as well.
LLO: Where did your interest in the project stem from?
Stik: It’s taking the gallery art to the street. I’ve spent the last year taking street art to the galleries. A lot of people don’t ever go to galleries so street art may be a lot of people’s first experience of art. The Picture Gallery was the first national gallery in England. The gallery is for the people. This is bringing it out even further and sharing it amongst the people. Once you get past the layers and age of the old paintings, it’s still just some bloke or woman, just normal people in a baker shop or down the pub. It’s nice to strip away that veneer of classicism that makes it feel like it has nothing to do with us because actually it does. It’s just people, just about humans. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Next question!
LLO: I heard you were sketching on the “front line” of the London Riots.
Stik: Yea! It was pretty real. Pretty real. It was a revolt. They were riots and they were real like the riots in Brixton and other such riots and they can’t be ignored. I wanted to go and document them in a neutral way.
Photo by Alex Ellison
LLO: What happened to those pieces?
Stik: I turned them into a mural on Clarence Mews in Clapham. It’s a nice little backstreet and I did a piece with kids and flames. Kids and flames. That symbol really epitomizes where kids are at the moment. It’s very volatile. Kids aren’t in a good place today.
LLO: Yea, like we were talking about earlier.
Stik: Ah, yea, I’m sorry. I’ve had three interviews today and can’t remember what I’ve said to you or to somebody else (laughs).
LLO: That’s okay.
Stik: (puts on a lisp) Oh, you’re nothing special, just one of the many (laughs again).
LLO: Thanks Stik. I appreciate it. I’m telling Jayd what you said.
Stik: Hahaha. Listen to me. I’m only joking.
LLO: Well, you’re famous now so it’s to be expected.
Stik: Yea, I’m so famous I can’t keep track of who people are. I’m sorry. Who are you again?
LLO: I see where this is going. Soon you won’t talk to me at all.
Stik: Aw, shut up. Yea, I’ll be like “Oh, I haven’t got the time. I’ll put you through to my PR.” I’ve already done that. I feel like such an asshole doing that. Nah, there’s always time for the Little London Observationist. (grins)
Photo: Mare Street by Alex Ellison
LLO: Good news. So, you were saying? The riots?
Stik: It was a revolt. It was something really uncanny, really strange. I wanted to document it because I wanted to show it was the thing that happened and there was so much hype around it. This happened here and it was from us. We as a people made this happen. This is my way of engaging, my way of explaining the world to myself. Mainly it has to be perfect for me. Oh, what is that word? Cohesion! There’s another grammatical form of it. Coalesce? Yea, that’s it. It has to coalesce.
(Stik glances back out the window. “Wow! Was that a horse? No, a combination of a bike going by and horse-like music in the caff. Wow, have you seen a psychiatrist lately? No, just horses…”)
LLO: (laughs and rolls eyes) So, you were actually sitting on the street while the riots happened?
Stik: Yea, I was actually there on the “front line” drawing. People asked what I was doing and I said, “I’m drawing a picture of you. Is that alright?” They were like, “Yea, whatever”.
LLO: Did anyone try to steal your pictures?
Stik: No, they just said, “Oh. You. It’s you. Well, that’s alright.”
LLO: What happens after “Walk”?
Stik: Then the Dulwich Festival and then I’m going to Paris to paint a wall. I’ve got a mate with some walls. Someone secretive. We do that for each other, street artists. We say, I’ve got a nice wall for you. Won’t work for my stuff but it’s good for you. I always get the verticals, the columns. I try not to get more than one painting on a street as well. It’s self-censorship. I don’t want people to get sick of my stuff. Sometimes I go and change the eyes in different directions so people don’t get bored of it.
LLO: So apart from yourself, who’s the biggest artist on the streets of London right now?
Stik: ROA is brilliant. I like ROA. He’s a mate. Very elusive, but back in town. Also, I like RUN. He’s a good bloke. And I like the people who write their names on trains as well. There’s something quite primal about that. It is a bit naughty though. And I really like Zomby. He’s a mate as well.
LLO: Excellent, thanks Stik. Anything you’d like to add?
Stik: Pinch of salt. And let’s get a hug now. (Hugs!)
WALK – Exhibition Details:
Dates: 19 April, 2012 – 10 May, 2012
Venue: Intimate Modern, 27a Devonshire Street, London W1G 6PN
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm
Phone: +44 207 486 9927
Other Interesting Information: The gallery will also host the long awaited launch of Stik’s new print also entitled ‘Walk’, produced by Squarity.