Brainwashed in London

Although I had the chance to check out Mr Brainwash‘s London show on Wednesday night, the official opening wasn’t until today. I heard on Saturday that the exhibition was opening at 2pm today, and that the first 250 people would receive signed prints. When I went on Wednesday, people didn’t start queuing until about an hour before, so this morning I got up and spent a lazy morning, thinking I would aim to get down to New Oxford Street at about 1pm. However… I was browsing Facebook while having my breakfast, when I noticed a picture on Mr Brainwash’s Facebook page showing that people were already lining up! It was only 9.40am…

I hesitated, but then figured I didn’t want to miss my chance and decided to get moving. I got to New Oxford Street at about 11.30 – two and a half hours before the doors were due to open.

Mr Brainwash

The Old Sorting Office, New Oxford Street

As I was leaving my house there was an almighty clap of thunder and it started to pour down. By the time I got to New Oxford Street it was raining really heavily and the weather was quite grim. I couldn’t believe people would really be waiting outside the Old Sorting Office in that weather, but they were, and they went right round the building! I followed the queue round and finally found the end, where I waited patiently, read, and chatted with the girls in front of me.

Just before 2pm Mr Brainwash came round to check out the queue:

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

He then Tweeted that there were at least 1,000 people in the queue!

I had no idea if I was in the first 250 or not, but people kept counting and saying 182, 210, 266… It seemed like the number of people in front of us was going up, and I really hoped the waiting was going to pay off.

Finally, at about 3.20pm, I got in… and I was number 237! Each person got given a Mr Brainwash spray can, which they could later exchange for a print (once Mr Brainwash had finished signing them all!).

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

I absolutely LOVE my print, and it was well worth waiting about four hours for! People are already selling them on ebay, but mine’s not going anywhere.

There were more pieces on display today than there were on Wednesday night, and the lighting was a bit better so I took a couple of hundred photos in the end. I don’t care what anyone says – I love Mr Brainwash’s work! Here are my top ten pieces, in no particular order:

Mr Brainwash

David Bowie

Mr Brainwash

David Bowie

Mr Brainwash

Starbucks spray can

Mr Brainwash

Salvador Dali meets McDonald’s

Mr Brainwash

Follow your dreams…

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash’s Banksy

Mr Brainwash

Art for Dummies – a take on Banksy’s famous ‘man throwing flowers’

Mr Brainwash

Life-size London taxi souvenier

Mr Brainwash

This is a clever twist on a classic painting by Edward Hopper (thanks ypldn for reminding me of the artist’s name!)

Mr Brainwash

Mural

Mr Brainwash was around the whole time, signing posters and postcards (and pretty much anything you put in front of him), but I just couldn’t bear to queue any more.

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

I hadn’t eaten, and they’d taken my water off me at the door (they also asked if I had any pens in my bag when I was searched at the door, but luckily they didn’t spot the ones I had stashed at the bottom – hey, I’m a writer!), so after a good look around I decided to call it a day. I think I’ll go back for another round when it’s a bit quieter though, as the exhibition is on until the end of August. You can see my photos from today here, and photos from Wednesday night here.

For more information about Mr Brainwash and his London exhibition, please visit: www.mrbrainwash.com.


Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party

If Andy Warhol is the king of pop art, I’d like to declare Mr Brainwash the king of ‘rave art’. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I really like what Mr Brainwash is doing, and his new exhibition at the Old Sorting Office in London is unmissable.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night of the show – a collaborative event by Mr Brainwash and musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be an exhibition and a simple private view with a bit of music in the background as I wandered around with a free glass of wine? Or was it going to be a full-on rave in a warehouse?

I’m still not sure what it was but, whatever it was, it was incredible (and my ears took a whole day to recover).

The entire ground floor was filled with huge Mr Brainwash artworks, ranging from “life-size” Star Wars figures made out of tyres to huge spray cans that looked like Campbell’s soup.

May the art be with you

Tomato Spray

As I entered the exhibition when the doors opened at 8pm, the first striking piece was a massive set of Olympic rings, made out of paint cans and stuck on the wall. Standing by the rings were men dressed up as members of the Queen’s Guard, and further along were more people dressed as Stormtroopers. Everyone was clutching Burn energy drinks, and judging by the dancing I saw from one of the soldiers later on, I expect they had quite a few! (The event was supported by Burn.)

Olympic Rings

Soldier

Stormtrooper

Club music was playing, and before long the DJ switched and Nicky Romero came on. People started to pay attention to the stage, but everyone was clearly waiting for Mr Brainwash’s co-star for the night, David Guetta, to take his place.

Nicky Romero

Nicky Romero

It was after 9pm when David Guetta came on – I lost track of time a bit actually, and it might have even been closer to 10pm – but he played right through until after midnight, when the event was supposed to end, playing just one more, and just one more – the crowd was relentless, and even I (not used to clubbing or staying out past 11pm) could have kept going.

David Guetta

David Guetta

Having been born at the beginning of the 1980s I was too young to appreciate ’80s pop and still slightly too young for the early ’90s rave scene. Instead I got stuck with the late ’90s and early 2000s – not the best period of music history. If I could choose to be 18 at a different time, I would almost definitely go for 1992 – the heart of the rave scene. On Wednesday night I felt I had come the closest to attending a real rave that I probably ever would. Even though the event was all aboveboard and commercially sponsored, I couldn’t help getting a rush of excitement and imaging I was doing something really underground. Not everyone got in – I heard there were around 1,700 people waiting to get in around 9pm and they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy – and I felt like I had been chosen to take part in something really special.

David Guetta, The Queen, Prince Philip & Mr Brainwash!

The whole event was filmed for David Guetta’s latest music video which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I do hope I might catch a glimpse of myself and my friends (we were at the front all night). Mr Brainwash was, of course, also filming and taking a lot of photographs. I actually saw him on the street before the event and took my picture with him.

Me & Mr Brainwash

Me & Mr Brainwash

I get irritated when people so easily dismiss Mr Brainwash’s work and say it’s rubbish. Often, the reasoning is based on the fact that he doesn’t produce a lot of the work himself (he has an army of people who do all the actual design and making – he’s just the ideas man), but I could name a lot of other artists who have teams working with them in the exact same way he does – Andy Warhol certainly did. The other thing people always say is that his work shows no originality, and that his ideas are clichéd, but that doesn’t bother me. His work is a bit clichéd I guess, but I like his messages – “life is beautiful”, “follow your dreams” and “you’re never too young to dream big”.

You're never too young to dream big...

For me, right now, this art is relevant. Mr Brainwash is telling us not to take our lives so seriously and to have a bit of fun while pursuing our dreams – what’s wrong with that? As for his images of famous people, such as the massive Kate Moss picture on the side of the Old Sorting Office , what’s not to like:

Mr Brainwash on the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street, London

Or a bit of David Bowie:

David Bowie

Or Obama dressed as Superman:

Superman Obama

Mr Brainwash’s work may not be the most original or groundbreaking art of all time, but it certainly gets your attention, if only due to the enormous scale of many of the pieces.

Mr Brainwash - David Guetta

This Artlyst review is worth a read, calling Mr Brainwash’s work “so bad it’s good” and “kitsch multiplied by twenty”. Whatever you think of Mr Brainwash and his art, I think you’d be a fool to miss this much-hyped exhibition, open from 5th – 31st August at the Old Sorting Office,  21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (you can’t miss it – the whole outside of the building is covered in his work!)

Life is Beautiful

And, when you’re feeling cynical and judgemental about what Mr Brainwash is doing, just try to keep one phrase in mind: life is beautiful…

Elephant heart


The best things in life are free…

London is absolutely buzzing with culture at the moment because the Olympics are in town and all eyes are focussed this way. I don’t really care for sport, but I’m happy to see so many cultural events going on at the moment. In fact, there’s so much going on that I’ve been getting a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) again, but I’m trying to remember to breathe, keep calm, and carry on. 😉

(Image source)

As usual, I’m totally skint. You would think that this might bring a downer on things – no money = nothing to do – but that’s never the case in London. Last weekend, I managed to have an absolutely fantastic time without spending hardly any money at all. In fact, all the good stuff I did was absolutely free.

I started my Saturday at Waterloo Station, waiting to meet my mum who was coming up for the day. A hug from my mum is always free, and priceless. We headed down to the river, and eventually along to Arigato in London – a festival of Japanese culture. You can read more about that on my blog Haikugirl’s Japan.

Arigato in London

Arigato in London opening ceremony

The whole event was free, and included taiko drumming from the fabulous Joji Hirota and his taiko ensemble.

Joji Hirota's Taiko Ensemble

Along by the river there is always a lot going on, and plenty of entertainment for free…

Gold Lady

Levitating man

Faceless

Punk?!

As we were walking along, we ran into some people wearing costumes. They gave us flyers for a Korean music concert which was part of the All Eyes on Korea event at the Southbank Centre. They said that we could exchange the flyer for a free ticket, even though the tickets originally cost £10. I guess they couldn’t sell enough tickets, which is a shame for them, but great news for us!

We had originally planned to do something else, but quickly decided to change our plans and attended GongMyong present ‘Walkabout’ in the Purcell Room at the Royal Festival Hall instead.

GongMyoung present "Walkabout"

I don’t know much at all about Korean culture or music, but I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and it made me interested in getting to know Korean culture better. It was the kind of music that makes you want to dance, and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the bits of Korean spoken between the songs because the music was in a universal language that everyone could understand. The musicians were very talented and creative, and used a variety of percussion instruments as well as random objects to make a carnivalesque sound. It was Korea meets Brazil, with a little bit of didgeridoo thrown in for good measure!

GongMyoung present "Walkabout"

GongMyoung present "Walkabout"

On Sunday, despite the very changeable weather, I found myself standing in line at BoxPark in Shoreditch waiting to get some free art. I had registered with the Graffiti Life event during the week, but didn’t really expect to be there early enough to be one of the first 100 people lucky enough to get a free box painted by a graffiti artist.

Graffiti Life: BoxArt @ BoxPark

Well, it turns out I was third in the line! I made some new friends in the line while waiting in the rain, concluding that we must all be a bit mad to spend our Sunday in such a way.

Graffiti Life: BoxArt @ BoxPark

But it was totally worth it to get this fabulous box painted by Adam Brazier, one of the founders of Graffiti Life.

My box, by Adam Brazier of Graffiti Life

When I got home on Sunday night there was just one more free thing to act as the cherry on my already very delicious cake… I got a free ticket to the opening night of Mr Brainwash‘s show in London!

The opening night was a collaboration between Mr Brainwash and the musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect, but was very, very excited! The opening party was last night… but more about that in another post! 😉

London really is a fantastic place to live, and you can have an incredible amount of fun without spending any money at all! To paraphrase the Mastercard advert: London rent? More than £700 a month. London experiences? Priceless!


The locks of love, part #3

You might remember that I wrote earlier this year about the growing trend for attaching locks to bridges to declare one’s love (see here and here) – well today I came across some more love locks. The love locks I found today were attached to a fence near Shoreditch High Street Station. There’s a lot of street art in that area, so I’m not sure if these are all actual declarations of love, or if some are just art, but they’re pretty cool…

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch


The Rise of the Non-Conformists

When I was a teenager I didn’t fit in. In fact, as soon as I realised that I wasn’t like most of the other kids, I actively tried to do everything I could do be different from “the norm”. I thought other people were sheep, and rebelled against wearing labels or doing anything that was seen as mainstream. I dyed my hair every colour you can imagine, and got quite a lot of piercings. For anyone who’s interested, I looked like this.

My friends and I used to talk about how one day the “freaks” like us would rise up against the rest of the people. I had dreams about people coming up out of the sea like an army of pirates, ready to stand together and do battle against the people who tried to put us down.

I know now that I was just being a teenager, for the most part, but there is still an element of the non-conformist in me.

Today I spent most of the day in Shoreditch, and I had two things on my agenda: to attend the Whitecross Street Party, and to see the Olympic Torch Relay.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I really don’t care much for the Olympics. However, I felt that, as I was going to be in the area, I really ought to try to make the effort to be interested and watch the torch go by. It was, after all, probably the only chance I would ever get. I arrived at Great Eastern Street about half an hour before the torch was due, and there were already people lining the streets. I tried to feel their excitement, but couldn’t quite get in the mood. People banged on Coca-Cola sponsored drum things that were being handed out, drank free Coca-Cola and waved flags.

Olympic Torch Relay, Shoreditch

Prior to arriving, I had been at the Whitecross Street Party, dubbed “The Rise of the Non-Conformists”.

Whitecross Street Party

I had wandered up and down the street, happily snapping photographs of street art and artists at work, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I chatted with the artist DON about his recent work and watched him stencilling a new piece out on the street.

DON

DON at work

Then I popped in a gallery and a lovely girl dabbed glitter on my face and took my photo to put on Facebook, and I felt like I belonged.

Standing waiting for the torch, I listened to some people talking next to me. They were full of almost obsessive excitement for the Olympics, and I felt like turning around and just asking them “why?”, but I didn’t. They wouldn’t have understood me any more than I understood them.

When the torch came by, it was all over in a flash and something of an anti-climax. I barely saw the guy who was carrying it, and didn’t have a clue who he was anyway.

There goes the Olympic torch - shame you can't see the guy carrying it!

There goes the Olympic torch – shame you can’t see the guy carrying it!

So I headed back to Whitecross Street, back to my people. When I got back there, the streets were buzzing with life, colour, good smells and great sounds. Eating a delicious chocolate brownie, I happily mingled with the non-conformists, and watched an artist called INKFETISH painting this somewhat anti-Olympics piece…

INKFETISH

INKFETISH

And another artist called FETCH painting this:

Whitecross Street Party

FETCH: Inspire a generation…

Enjoy the Olympics if that’s your thing, but these are my people, and this is where I’ll be.

“Belong to where you are” – Kemistry Gallery


Jubilee and FOMO

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a blight on London life. It is why your mate is checking his iPhone under the table every five seconds; it is why you agonise over what to have for dinner; it is probably why you have a Facebook account, too. In Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life (Hamish Hamilton) psychoanalyst Adam Phillips formulates an elegant argument about why what we don’t do is just as important as what we do do. Frustration is fundamental to satisfaction; regret is nourishing; not getting is good. I would have found it comforting if I didn’t have a hundred other books I could have been reading. (Richard Godwin, Evening Standard, 30th May 2012)

It was towards the end of last year when I first heard the term “FOMO”, or “fear of missing out”, and I’ve been meaning to write a post about it ever since. As soon as I heard the term I recognised it as the way I have been feeling not just since I’ve been back in London, but also while I was living in Japan. There’s just always so much going on, never enough time in the day, and no way I’ll be able to do everything no matter how organised I am and how many post-it notes I use (and believe me, my world is wallpapered with post-it notes!). Today, with the Jubilee weekend almost upon us, I seem more full of FOMO than ever.

In the same issue of the Evening Standard there was an article called Should I Stay or Should I Go? in which two writers were asked if the Jubilee holiday was a cause for celebration or a great chance for a four-day getaway.

Nirpal Dhaliwal responded saying that like many thousands of other Londoners he would be celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this weekend. He pointed out that it was a good time to get to know your neighbours and have a street party, and to celebrate being British (something people often regard as “somehow backwards or even sinister”). I agree that it would be nice to know the names of the people on my street but, as far as I know, no one is planning a street party (we could actually, and it would be lovely, as I live on a dead end street). If there were a street party going on I would no doubt pop down and join in, but I somehow can’t see it happening.

The other side of the argument in the article comes from Jasmine Gardner, the “Jubilee Jetsetter” who has worked out that this Jubilee weekend offers a “17 for the price of nine annual leave deal”. She has no qualms about leaving all the bunting behind and going off on holiday somewhere fuss-free, and I can’t say I blame her. If I had the money, I would be packing my bags for the airport to catch a flight to anywhere-but-here.

Sadly, I don’t have the money, which leaves me in London for the weekend. I’m sure if I was abroad somewhere, a little part of me would be wondering what I was missing out on back home, but I would be too excited by being in another country to really care. However, I’m here in England with no real distractions, left with this feeling of obligation that, seeing as I’m here, I really ought to join in. If I don’t do something for the Jubilee, will I regret it on Wednesday morning when I get back to the office and everyone is talking about what a jolly good time they had with their families and friends, or how amazing the flotilla was, or how many cupcakes they ate in the vintage village fete they attended? Will it haunt me forever that I wasn’t part of this historical event?

The fear has set in. I’m scared I’ll miss out on something good if I don’t join in some jubilee shenanigans, but actually I would love to have a quiet weekend at home catching up on blogs, tidying my flat, uploading photos, etc.

The next hurdle I stumble at is, if I do go out and do something, what should I do? Squeeze in with the rest of London (and half of the rest of the world, or so it seems) to watch some boats go along the Thames and hope for a glimpse of the Queen. Surely I’d get a better view (without the leg cramp) if I watched it on telly. Have a picnic with my friends in Hyde Park and watch the concert on screens? Er… isn’t that just like watching telly in the park (and it will probably rain…). The only event that might actually tempt me out of my cynicism is the event at Boxpark in Shoreditch, but only if the weather’s nice.

So, what are you doing for the Jubilee weekend? Do you have your bunting and Pimms at the ready? Have you already left the country? Will you be down at the Thames or in Hyde Park? Or are you going to hide from it all and just watch a bit of telly at home? Do let me know… because I’d hate to miss out on what you’re doing too! 😉

Union flags for the Diamond Jubilee


The locks of love, part #2

Do you remember back in January when I wrote about the “love locks” I found on Brooklyn Bridge in New York, and how they hailed from a tradition started by an Italian novelist, Federico Moccia? Well, it looks like the tradition has also made its way over to England…

You’ve got to keep your eyes open in London – there’s so much going on that it’s easy to miss the small things sometimes. Next time you’re walking over Hungerford Bridge or Tower Bridge have a look, because these bridges are covered in declarations of long-lasting love!

Love lock on Tower Bridge

Locks on Hungerford Bridge, London

Locks on Hungerford Bridge, London

Love lock on Tower Bridge

I’m glad to see this tradition being continued in loved-up London! What do you think of it? Would you declare your love in this way?


From graffiti to gallery…

There seems to be a growing trend for graffiti artists to make their way into galleries. I’ve seen a few exhibitions of street artists’ work in galleries recently, and still remain unsure as to whether or not I like it. In the case of the two artists I’m going to mention below, both are artists whose work I respect. Both work to large-scale and, for me, part of the joy in seeing their work is thinking “how on earth did they get away with that?”. Street art isn’t always about the most intricate detail or mastered technique – sometimes it’s about the time and place.

I’ll start with Stik. ‘Walk’ by Stik was an exhibition at the Imitate Modern in London which was held from 19th April – 10th May.

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern

Stik usually paints on walls and doors around London, and is famous for his simple stick man character and brightly coloured backgrounds.

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Stik

His work which was on display in the gallery was similar, but for me it lacked something.

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern

The character was the same, and the playfulness was certainly there, but the atmosphere of the gallery and the fact that these pieces were now considered pieces of art to be bought and sold, altered my impression of the work.

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern

Moving on to another artist, let’s look at ROA. ROA’s exhibition ‘Hypnagogia’ was on at the StolenSpace Gallery in London from 20th April – 6th May.

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

ROA usually paints huge-scale animals on the sides of buildings. In fact, the same day I went to the exhibition I happened to see him at work:

New ROA piece in progress, Chance Street

The exhibition consisted of pieces which the viewer was encouraged to touch and move. I liked this, but I found his work much less interesting than I had hoped.

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

The scale was, naturally, much smaller, but I found the quality lacking in these imaginative yet macabre pieces.

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

So, I’m still not sure what I think of graffiti artists presenting their work in gallery spaces. In a way, I think I prefer to see their work on the streets. I like the excitement of ‘discovering’ a new piece when I’m walking around Shoreditch, and that excitement is somewhat taken away when the work is in a gallery constrained by four walls. Another thing I like about the work on the streets is that it has this element of roughness about it. Often these pieces are illegal, and the artist has to rush a bit to get it finished before being caught. The pieces displayed in galleries are 100% legal, and that takes a bit of the fun away, doesn’t it? Also, the rough surfaces that graffiti artists often paint on bring something to the pieces – whether it’s a wall, a door, or something else, it becomes part of the art. In the case of Stik’s work, the smooth canvases almost ruin the piece for me. ROA has obviously tried to keep some of the roughness, but I’m not convinced it works.

What do you think? Would you rather see this:

Stik

Or this:

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern

This:

Ben Slow, ROA, Malarky...

Or this:

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

Have your say below, and don’t forget to leave a comment in the comments section!


Great Britain? It’s not bad…

Britain is very patriotic this year, what with the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. You can’t move for red white and blue right now, and everyone seems more proud than ever to be British.

It was with this in mind that I allowed myself to be persuaded to attend the Saint George’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square today.

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

I’ll admit that I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy myself. When I had gone down to Trafalgar Square for Chinese New Year it had been very crowded and uncomfortable, and I basically ran away (well, shuffled – it was impossible to run anywhere). However, what I found today was very different. The Saint George’s Day celebrations weren’t very well advertised, and so it wasn’t hugely crowded down at Trafalgar Square. The space did fill it, but it never became impossible to move, and I always felt like I had enough space.

My friend and I were met with a very quaint, English country garden atmosphere, complete with temporary flowers, fake grass, and plastic ducks and swans swimming in the fountains.

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

The event consisted of music…

Robbie Boyd Band

Robbie Boyd Band

Pearly Kings and Queens…

Brick Lane Music Hall

Brick Lane Music Hall

Living statues…

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

Flower arrangements…

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

And, of course, tea and scones…

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

I almost forgot I was in central London while I was in the tea tent, as it felt very Sussex-y, like I was in some country park somewhere.

I really enjoyed the music, especially ZeTrio:

And the Robbie Boyd Band:

The music hall performances from the Brick Lane Music Hall were fun, too.

The whole event got me thinking about how patriotic (or not) we Brit’s are. There was a smattering of red and white flag-clad, Stella-swilling football fans, and a few people dressed in red and white getting pretty into it, like these sweet ladies who let me take their picture:

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

Thanks ladies!

But overall it wasn’t too nationalistic. However, whenever there’s a chance to be proud to be British, there is always this slight feeling that “British pride = not open to other cultures”, which simply shouldn’t be the case. As a Londoner, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the St George’s Day celebrations just as much as the Chinese New Year, Japanese Matsuri, or any other festival.

I’m no royalist or nationalist, but I did really enjoy indulging in a little British culture today. It’s so easy to forget where you come from when you live in such a multicultural city. I spend so much of my time submerged in Japanese culture, even though I live in England, that I sometimes forget to enjoy my own country’s culture.

I think the Londoners and Brits at the event enjoyed it, and I do hope the tourists and people from other countries also enjoyed the taste of British culture displayed in London today. I’ve realised that British culture is perhaps not as sophisticated or mystical as some other cultures, but we certainly do know how to have a good knees up! 😉

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012


An interview with graffiti artist Paul “DON” Smith

Do you remember back in March when I had a chance encounter with one of my favourite graffiti artists Paul “DON” Smith? Well, he kindly agreed to do a quick interview with me by email, and it gives me great pleasure to share it with you today. Naturally, I’ve included a lot of images of his work, too. Enjoy!

Street art by DON

So, should I call you DON or Paul?
LOL. Don is great, but pauldonsmith.com could be better, so you know how to get hold of me.

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Don

How long have you been producing street art?
I have been an active graffiti artist for 25 years, but my recent street art, where I create images that I think an audience/people may like, has been a shorter time; say 5 years or so.

Legend of the Fall, Tom & Twiggy, by DON

Have you always worked with stencils, or do you ever use different techniques?
I have mostly been a freehand spraycan artist, but I am now a mixed medium artist, I have starved myself long enough, I am free.

DON in Shoreditch

Why do you choose to make street art, rather than painting on canvases and exhibiting in galleries?
LOL. I do both, but mostly its on the streets, for now I paint originals and paint original limited editions, through selected galleries or my website.

DON in Shoreditch

Have you ever got in trouble for painting somewhere you shouldn’t have? If so, what happened?
I used to get into a bit of trouble, but that has long gone; my teenage years, many years back. The police know of all my illegal work, as they offered me a clean slate if I could tell them of other works. It saved time them knocking at the door again, me time and them time, it’s called “taken into consideration” (TIC).

DON in Shoreditch

Do you have a “day job”?
Yes I am a self-employed graphic designer.

Street art by DON

Do you have any objections to your work being referred to as “graffiti”? Is there a difference between “graffiti” and “street art” as far as you’re concerned?
Not really, I am just more selective now on the locations. It’s all the same, it’s just if the audience can communicate with it or not, if it has a message or is it just ‘ME’ ‘ME’. The market has opened up with the wonderful success of Banksy and Blek.

Quee saved the God by DON and Our Diamond Queen by DON

You seem to paint a lot of portraits (which is why I love your work!). Is there a reason for this?
I think it’s a nice thing to see. One will identify with it quickly and may find it endearing. I tend to stick with portraits that influence myself and I am reaching out to see if others feel the same. Artists, musicians, actors, writers, thinkers, designers, distinguished characters, also portraits of individuals who the audience/people do not know and it’s interesting to place them on the world stage.

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Don

I’ve noticed a slight religious theme to your work recently. What’s that all about then?
Powerful images are amazing to paint. I do little twists too with this, like “Queen save the God” [below], I had not seen it reversed before and thought it was nice as the Queen/monarchy is head of the church. Keep the faith, it’s a great thing, like humans, we are powerful.

DON: Queen Saved the God

Which other artists do you admire?
Monet, Turner, Constable, Duster UA, Rodin, Hodgkin and many others.

Image courtesy of DON

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers about your work, or about street art in general?
More to come so watch this space!

This image is courtesy of DON

A big thank you to DON for taking the time to talk with me! For more information about DON’s work, please visit his website: pauldonsmith.com.

I hope to do more interviews like this and in person in the future, so watch this space and do get in touch if you’re an artist who would like to have a chat.