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!

Slow London: An interview with Hayley Cull

Last week, Hayley sent me a copy of Slow London, a London guide for locals co-written with journalist Robin Barton with gorgeous black and white photography by Mark Chilvers. It’s perfectly in tune to Little London Observationist, about taking the time to appreciate the little things in London life. It “invites readers to rise up – in their own time, of course – against the culture of speed, fad and uniformity, and instead, revel in the things that make living in this corner of the world unique.”

Inspired by her positive approach to London life that can too often seem hectic, I asked her if she’d like to tell us a bit about taking it easy in the city. She gladly set aside some time to share stories about Londoners who are living fulfilling lives, how and where she enjoys the slow life and gave us a sneak peak at a couple of Mark’s photos from the book.

Slow London hits bookshops around London today and is well worth a read.

LLO: Tell us about a Londoner you’ve met who most exemplifies the fulfilling approach to life emphasized in Slow London.
I wish I could pick one! But one of the things I’ve noticed is that, just as the people in this city are so diverse, so too are their ways of slowing down and getting the most out of life here. From the volunteers in my favourite charity shop who are always chatting to each other about the amazing food and music they’ve been enjoying that week, to my friend who’ll sketch cityscapes as a way of making sure she’s seeing the details, it seems there are so many ways to find your natural rhythm. I’ve met a woman who was leaving packets of seeds around her housing estate so people might be inspired to plant wildflowers; been led down new bike paths under the effusive advice of a man who cycles absolutely everywhere; and learnt about a new form of yoga just last week when a girl on the bus struck up a conversation because she liked my scarf.

LLO: What is the best way to take it easy in your postcode?
I live way down in SW19 – right around the corner from Merton Abbey Mills. Tucked into a crook of the River Wandle, there’s this beautiful little market every weekend with fresh food, local art and strange old knickknacks. Fishermen while away the hours as women in fraying layers chat to the people selling them veggies, and it’s all capped off with a pint at the William Morris pub, sitting out on the balcony watching the kingfishers dart between branches draping over the river. I love this village atmosphere, the local side of London that draws us in and makes us feel at home.

LLO: Favourite way to savour a Saturday in London?
A lazy home-cooked breakfast listening to the radio, followed by a long walk. Doesn’t matter where – it might be around the quiet park near home or winding right through the middle of town to Brick Lane. A visit to my local farmers’ market, an hour or so in the garden, and then a long and laid-back dinner with good friends.

LLO: There’s a section in your book called “Be”, broken down into categories – See, Hear, Smell, Taste, Touch. What’s your favourite thing the capital has to offer in each category?
There’s so much art to see! Whether it’s the graffitied walls of East London, the creativity rising up from the markets, or the masterpieces at the National Gallery, there’s always something waiting to take you out of yourself. Aside from the phenomenal music venues, I love the sound of the dawn chorus, and birdsong in general – I’m amazed that wherever you are in London, whatever time of day, you’ll pretty much always hear it mingling with the traffic, a constant reminder that the city isn’t as relentless as it might seem. Smell would have to be Columbia Road Flower Market, but I’ll admit that the sound of the traders’ cries are a big part of that too. Marylebone Farmers’ Market or Borough for taste, and the way the stallholders are so passionate about their produce that they love to tell you all about it as you taste and wander, wander and taste. And touch, I’d say the feeling of laying in the grass in any central London park, staring at the sky and knowing that I’m part of it all.

LLO: What makes Slow London different from other London guides?
City guides tend to encourage seeing as much as possible, but as soon as you do that, you end up rushing it all and not seeing things properly. Slow London is completely different in that it’s a lifestyle guide for locals. It’s about quality over quantity; focuses on the lesser-known people, places and events rather than what’s necessarily trendy and popular; and replaces the usual guidebook formality with a tendency to go off-track now and then, to follow a few stray musical notes or divert down a particularly enchanting side street.

LLO: Share a favourite “slow London” image?
Please can I have two? These are not my photos; they were taken by Mark Chilvers, who took all the photos throughout the book. I love Battersea Power Station: it’s like a lonely old giant, languishing there under the weight of its chimneys, proudly and purposelessly lording over the slow-flowing Thames. This view feels so privileged, like peering into the secrets of a different time. And the second photo is just so ‘whatever’.

LLO: I hear you spend a lot of time in bookshops. Which ones are your favourites? Any you recommend that still have that messy-basement-musty-good-book-smell appeal?
For that appeal, it would have to be a secondhand bookshop, wouldn’t it? There’s just something about the smell of old ink and dusty pages. The messy old Copperfield’s in Wimbledon and the little place opposite Balham station have the added bonus of seemingly flouting all sense of order – so much the better for rummaging. John Sandoe Books in Chelsea strikes a perfect balance in stacking new and old side by side, making it one of the most delightfully chaotic bookshops around.

LLO: Best place in London to enjoy a laid back meal without feeling rushed?
Does afternoon tea count as a meal? I love Rosie’s Deli in Brixton Market, and not only for the carrot cake that absorbs entire afternoons. I always find myself staying for one more tea, and another, and oh go on, just one more.

LLO: Best place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city on a rainy day?
Sitting upstairs on a random bus for a one-pound sightseeing tour of some obscure part of town, enjoying the misty grey light that makes the whole city look like a romantic old black and white film. Better still, curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea, watching the rain.

LLO: Where can we pick up a copy of Slow London?
All ‘good’ bookshops (the not-so-good ones can still order it in). Otherwise, although it’s not half as much fun as browsing the shelves, you can order it online at www.slowguides.com/london

Thanks Hayley!