Graffiti Life Company: Spraying the Way to Success
Graffiti Life Company started life as a group of graffiti artists collaborating together to make something positive out of a stigmatised art form. Since its formation in 2010 Graffiti Life Company has produced art for corporations including Disney and X-Box, completed live artwork on live television shows and shared their skills with the community.
Youth Arts Online finds out more about the Graffiti Life Team and their projects by speaking to 24 year old Director and Artist, Adam.
How did you get in to graffiti art and when did it become a career for you? What are your specialities?
I have always been interested in art and was constantly drawing as a kid – I never really thought that it would become a career. I became friends with a few graffiti artists and started experimenting with spraypaint. I picked it up quite quickly and started painting more and more. Eventually I decided that I wanted to do something positive with the art form and that was when the idea of creating a collective and a business came around.
How many artists work for Graffiti Life Company and what skills are represented?
There are six of us in the core team, three girls and three guys, every person brings a different skill set as we’re all from such diverse backgrounds. I would say our skills include but aren’t limited to; traditional graffiti, realistic painting, stencil work, calligraphy and marker pen work. We’ve also had to learn how to run a business along the way.
What has been your personal highlight whilst working at Graffiti Life Company?
Watching the company grow, even though we’re only three years old we’ve worked with massive names like Disney and Nike. And opening our new gallery – The Graffiti Life Gallery just off of Brick Lane on Cheshire Street, has been a huge milestone.
Is promoting graffiti as a positive art form a challenge? How has the company helped change the perception of graffiti art?
We thought it would be… we’re aware that the word ‘graffiti’ can have negative connotations to certain people so we were expecting an uphill struggle, but strangely everything has been really positive.
We try to show the artistic side to graffiti, and we’re always open when people want to chat to us, I think the more the public understand what we do the more accepting they will be.
Live art work at events sounds extremely fun. How much improvisation goes in to a live event and where do you draw inspiration?
Live art is really fun. We get to meet completely different people each time and it’s one of the things that makes this job so fun. Planning our work varies, sometimes we will plan something really detailed – especially if it’s for a sponsor and we have a brief. Sometimes you’ll see us freestyling and using our phones to find photo references, making it up as we go along!
Is graffiti art a difficult thing to teach someone in the time span of a workshop?
It can take years to master using a spraycan, it’s a tricky medium but in terms of the basics we only need 90 minutes to teach someone enough to produce a piece of work they can be proud of. We’ve developed a teaching method that leads you through the basic steps and helps you to learn the right way really fast.
Out of the murals you have completed, which ones are you most proud of?
It’s difficult to choose… I love the Back To The Future wall we did for Gymbox and the 10 metre long Halo wall in the Xbox London office.
Out of the TV features you have been a part of, which did you enjoy the most and what did you do?
TV stuff is always so surreal, sometimes you get to a set and just have a camera shoved in your face straight away and it can be pretty intense. I think the most enjoyable was with Gok Wan a few months back, the show hasn’t aired yet so I’m not sure what they’ll use, so it’ll be interesting to watch. We were asked to paint a backdrop for a catwalk show and he saw us painting and ran over, we gave him a quick graffiti workshop and it all got filmed. It was really random and he’s a funny character. He was super excited to be painting, as I’m sure you can imagine….
How has Graffiti Life impacted young people?
We’ve done a lot of workshops with young people. I think they can relate to the art and it’s always good getting new ideas from other generations. We did a big community mural earlier this year with a bunch of guys and girls that where out of employment, education and training and it was a massive success, I know some of the participants have carried on painting and they come to our gallery every now and then and show us photos of their work and how they’re progressing, which is really cool.
What advice would you give to young people interested in graffiti art?
Years ago when some of our team were painting in the streets the consequences weren’t as harsh as they are now. It would be hypocritical to say “don’t paint illegally” but I would say – be aware of the risks, including jail time, if it’s something you want to do. I’d say sketch all the time, refine your work on paper before you try to put it on the wall. Study other artists, their techniques and styles, and learn what you can from artists you respect.
What current projects are Graffiti Life working on?
We’re painting some big murals across the UK for o2’s Campus Party, we’ve also got a big project in the pipeline for Converse, as well as planning for our next gallery show – we put a new show on every month so it takes some organising. Keep your eyes on our blog for all our news.