A Guide to London’s Street Art Scene

I originally wrote this post about street artists for Town Fish, but I thought share it with you guys and add in a few more details that wouldn’t fit in a limited word count, plus more photos, of course.

Anyway, as you likely have realized by now, the once-underground phenomenon that is street art has gone mainstream. Walk into any design bookshop and you can pick up a guide to the latest artists to make their mark on London’s canvas walls. Take a stroll down Brick Lane, through Hackney, Shoreditch, Dalston and all around the East End and you’re bound to bump into a street art tour. And then there’s all of this Banksy auction business going on lately.

Temporary Pointless Sign - Mobstr
Photo: Random street art tour by LLO

So, what do you need to know? Who to watch? There are many more but here’s a handful of artists who regularly leave their mark:

AliCè. Independent women and relationships are key themes in Italian artist AliCè’s work. It can be spotted all over East London and abroad and features strong brushstrokes and a myriad of colours. I interviewed Alice for Street Art London in 2011: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2011/01/10/street-artist-interview-alic/

Alice on Blackall Street
Photo: Alice by LLO

BANKSY. Satirical, political stencilist who more or less kicked off the whole fuss around street art quite some time ago. This anonymous artist has been decorating walls since 1992 in Bristol, he’s been the subject of numerous books and his film Exit Through the Gift Shop debuted at Sundance Film Festival in 2010. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2011. He has had a long and prosperous career and the media loves it.

Photo: Banksy by Alex Ellison

BEN WILSON. Probably one of London’s most unique street artists, Ben uses a blowtorch to flatten down gobs of chewing gum on the pavements and turns them into mini canvases, painting intricate scenes with tiny brushes. I am itching to interview Ben and he knows it so fingers crossed our schedules match up soon! In the meantime, this post about his work got 171 comments: https://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/ben-wilsons-chewing-gum-art/#comments 

Ben Wilson's Chewing Gum Art
Photo: Ben Wilson by LLO

C215. French stencil artist C215 regularly produces very recognisable work all over Europe. He paints mainly faces of people forgotten by society – homeless, street kids, refugees. His daughter Nina features as well. I interviewed C215 for Street Art London in 2011: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2011/01/25/street-artist-interview-c215/

C215 in Plaza de la Vila de Gracia
Photo: C215 by LLO

CHRISTIAAN NAGEL. Christiaan’s speciality is gigantic mushrooms (or sometimes small ones) usually planted at the top of ordinary or semi-derelict buildings, especially around Shoreditch. They are brightly coloured and created from polyurethane ‘surfboard foam’, fiberglass and stainless steel.

Photo: Christiaan Nagel by LLO

CITYZEN KANE. More wall sculpture than paint or pasteups, Londoner Cityzen Kane creates details 3-D pieces from polymer clay. They are laborious to make; a large Lord Jagannath replica took about three months. He creates alien-like organic forms and sometimes creatures like fish or even toy guns. I interviewed Cityzen Kane for Street Art London in 2011: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2011/02/14/street-artist-interview-cityzen-kane/

Ampy 2010
Photo: Cityzen Kane by LLO

D7606. Ian create paste-ups of famous women from the past and present in iconic London phone boxes of a rainbow of colours. Prolific around East London lately and soon to feature in an interview on LLO. Stay tuned.

Phone Box Paste Ups
Photo: D7606 by LLO

DAVID WALKER. David’s brilliant portraits come to life in a multi-layered explosion of colour. They are inspired by found photography, strangers and magazine images and can be spotted all over East London. He uses no brushes or stencils, only spray paint. I interviewed David Walker on LLO in 2010: https://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/london-art-spot-david-walker/

David Walker
Photo: David Walker by LLO

DSCREET. With Dscreet, it’s all about owls. Cartoons influence him, so the creatures have an illustrated look about them. Symbolism of the owl around the world is also an important to this prolific artist.

Photo: Dscreet by LLO

EINE. Typography is the word that pops to mind at the mention of Eine, whose famous alphabet has appeared on many London shutters. Barack Obama once received an EINE painting as a gift from David Cameron and Eine was invited to design a 50th anniversary poster for Amnesty International.

RED by Eine
Photo: Eine by LLO

GAIA. Based in Baltimore, American artist Gaia, regularly paints while travelling and has recently created a series of large animal images in London.

Photo: Gaia by LLO

INVADER.  French artist Invader’s work is highly recognizable. You can’t miss the space invader tiles plastered all over London and throughout the world from Istanbul, to Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Mombasa and all over Europe.

Watching You
Photo: Invader by LLO

ISAAC CORDAL. Isaac is most known for his little people made of cement, tiny sculptures places strategically in the urban environment. His work is a comment on the overwhelming influence of consumerism and elimination of nature. I interviewed Isaac for Street Art London in 2011: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2011/03/28/street-artist-interview-isaac-cordal/

Isaac Cordal
Photo: Isaac Cordal by Alex Ellison

JANA & JS.  French-Austrian couple Jana & JS are paste-up, stencil artists whose work is influenced by their mutual love of photography, architecture and portraits. They live in Salzburg, but London’s been lucky to see a lot from them lately.

Girl in a Red Dress
Photo: Jana & JS by LLO

JIMMY C. Most of this Australian artist’s paintings are made from hundreds of thousands of little dots – a type of street art pointillism. He tends to paint portraits, mainly of people marginalized by society.

Jimmy C
Photo: Jimmy C by LLO

MALARKY.  Malarky monsters are nearly storybook illustrations – friendly monsters, angry ones and every type in between. Malarky also paints plenty of foxes too and you can recognize his work through his use of bright colours.

Malarky Monster
Photo: Malarky by LLO

MASAI. As you would expect from the name, Masai has an admiration for African tribes. A Rastafari with a love of nature, he paints only large incredible animals and in them, paints patterns found in man-made fabrics produced in the countries the animals originate from. He studied fine art in Cornwall and has painted around the UK as well as in Jamaica.

Save the Tigers
Photo: Masai by LLO

MILO TCHAIS. Brazilian artist Milo creates street art pieces and large murals that are abstract, swirling, other worldly and very colourful. They’re layer upon layer of movement, sometimes simply designs, other times creatures. He’s been working on walls for about 14 years. You may remember he painted one of the elephants in 2010’s Elephant Parade.

Masai & Milo Tchais
Photo: Masai and Milo Tchais by LLO

MIGHTY MO.  Mighty Mo of the Burning Candy Crew is synonymous with monkeys. He started off making his mark around Camden and North London, but now the best place to look is the East End.

Mighty Mo & Sweet Toof
Photo: Mighty Mo with Sweet Toof by LLO

MOBSTR. Based in Newcastle, the clever and often sarcastic Mobstr regularly creates work in London. His art is as simple as stenciling “Masterpiece” framed against a brick wall or “Booring” on a white space. It always makes you look twice.

Photo: Mobstr by LLO

MR. PENFOLD. Look for colourful, cartoon like characters from Mr. Penfold. They usually have exaggerated, hooked noses. Much of his inspiration came from early days working in a pub and chatting with the locals.

Jail Bird - Mr Penfold
Photo: Mr Penfold by LLO

NATHAN BOWEN. Working at a quick pace, his work is quite dynamic and full of energy. Nathan studied at Central Saint Martins so like a lot of these talented street artists these days he does have formal art training. Look for scribble-style illustration pieces from him.

Nathan Bowen
Photo: Nathan Bowen by LLO

OTTO SCHADE. An architect in daily life, Otto Schade’s technical skills transfer to the streets. Ribbons of paint are woven together to create a 3-D effect in faces with a surreal theme. I interviewed Otto Schade for Street Art London in 2011: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2010/12/22/street-artist-interview-otto-schade/

Bob Marley
Photo: Osch (Otto Schade) by LLO

PABLO DELGADO. Pablo’s work is tiny. His paste-ups of people and life scenes feature at the bottom edge of buildings with long black shadows stretching onto the pavement.

Pablo Delgado Was Here
Photo: Pablo Delgado by LLO

PAUL “DON” SMITH.  Don has been on the street scene since 1985 and you’ll spot his work everywhere from Portobello Market to South Bank to London’s East End.  His current street art focuses mainly on portraits (sometimes with a hint of sarcasm) of famous people like The Queen or literary figures like Charles Dickens. I interviewed DON on LLO last month: https://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/london-art-spot-paul-don-smith/

Photo: DON by LLO

PHLEGHM. Working often on a large scale, Phlegm has created a series of hybrid characters, using body parts from various animals. They are almost always painted in black Indian ink with dip pens.

Photo: Phlegm by LLO

ROA. Infamous for his intricate (usually black and white) paintings of rodents or animals native to the location where he’s painting (ie – in London, rats, hedgehogs, etc), this Belgian artist’s work can be found around the world. Sometimes he paints the just outside of an animal. Other times he exposes the inner workings of the body.

ROA pig
Photo: ROA by LLO

RONZO. Ronzo, who grew up in South Germany, is the monster guy, creating that lovable gap-toothed creature called Crunchy that showed up everywhere on the streets of The City during the big credit crunch. More recently, he’s changed focus to colourful blinged out pigeons.

Photo: Ronzo by LLO

RUN. For RUN, bigger is better and his work largely reflects that. An Italian artist based in London, his love of travel has taken his art around the world. You’ll spot his large paintings of nearly mythical creatures, angular faces and a fascination with fingers and hands. I interviewed RUN for Street Art London in 2011: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2011/03/22/street-artist-interview-run/

Graffiti (Run), Shoreditch, East London, England.
Photo: RUN by Joe O’Malley

SOPHIA FOX. Medium of choice? The humble light switch. Sophia creates workable happiness switches (and a few other types) that you can flick on and off if you find them in the streets. I interviewed Sophia Fox on LLO about a year ago: https://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/london-art-spot-sophia-fox/

Happiness Switch
Photo: Sophia Fox by LLO

STIK. Using only a few lines and a circle for the head, Stik paints very distinctive stick figures that portray emotion. In a few years, his work has taken him from life on the streets of London to having his own studio in the East End and art on the walls of people like Bono, The Duke of Kent and Antony Gormley. I’ve interviewed Stik on a few occasions for LLO, the latest of which is here: https://littlelondonobservationist.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/london-art-spot-stik-interview-part-1/

With Stik in his Pitfield Street studio this afternoon
Photo: Me with Stik in his studio on Pitfield Street

STINKFISH. A Mexican artist who grew up in Colombia, Stinkfish often paints in London. He uses his own street photography or found photography as inspiration. Brightly coloured faces are his specialty and yellow is often the primary colour. I interviewed Stinkfish for my Little Colombia Observationist blog when I was living in Colombia in 2011: http://www.littlecolombiaobservationist.com/street-art-colombia-stinkfish/

Stinkfish Face
Photo: Stinkfish by LLO

SWEET TOOF. With formal training at the Royal Academy behind him, Sweet Toof prefers the streets. You can’t miss the bright pink gums and shiny white teeth that adorn many of London’s walls.

Sweet Toof
Photo: Sweet Toof by LLO

SWOON. American artist Swoon has been on the street scene since 1999 and uses wheatpaste prints usually depicting people. She rustled up a bit of press in 2009 when she barged into the Venice Biennale with some friends on boats built from NYC rubbish.

Photo: Swoon by LLO

TEDDY BADEN. A bit of a cartoonish with a serious obsession with man’s best friend, Teddy is all about the dogs. They are quirky animals, wearing hats and snorkels and other gear, holding paintbrushes, etc.

Teddy Baden
Photo: Teddy Baden by LLO

THE TOASTER CREW. Does what it says on the tin. These guys create paste ups of toasters and they’ve been at it since 1999. They’re not even toast lovers. They are just experimenting with an internationally recognisable image, putting it up around the globe. I interviewed them for Street Art London in 2011: http://streetartlondon.co.uk/blog/2011/02/21/street-artist-interview-toasters/

The Toaster Crew
Photo: The Toaster Crew by LLO

Even with this long list there are so many more like Shepard Fairey, Ludo, Inkfetish, Part2ism, Conor Harrington,  Nychos, Gee, Bastardilla, Edwin, Thierry Noir, Smug, etc. and probably a lot I don’t even know! I love them all, but it is simply impossible to include all of them!

My current favourite at this very minute, which I’ve been debating about all night and is an incredibly tough decision among all of this talent is Masai.

Who are your favourite artists? Let me know in the comments! I’m curious!

11 comments on “A Guide to London’s Street Art Scene

  1. You are so right – I took my son over to Brick Lane / Truman Brewery 2 weeks ago as he wanted to see the ‘latest’ and there were tours everywhere! But its a great scene though.

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