Most people’s first job involved burgers and fries. David walker’s first job was creating t-shirt designs for The Prodigy. After that, he started designing record sleeves and party art before running his own street wear label called “Subsurface” for five years. It was only three years ago that he started painting. (Pretty impressive he’s accomplished all of that considering he’s broken his hand over 10 times!)
Once a fan of only black and white (with a little bit of pink thrown in for good measure), David now paints with in explosions of colour following his discovery of a little treasure box of spraypaint tucked away in a studio. His portraits are realistically surreal – the sort of images that make you stare for ages.
Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity and how?
I like the randomness of cities and the anticipation that anything can happen (good or bad) and that in turn you can make things happen. I have lived in small towns where there is just not the same sense of possibility, so this is very inspirational for me. I feel privileged to be making art full time and the speed in which this city can move pushes me forward.
Faces are the main subject of your work. Who are the people you paint? Do you know them?
I don’t know them at all. I like that they’ve never met me and they don’t know they’re being painted. I use found photography, old magazines, the web, snapshots, anything that’s not staged by me. The fact that the subjects are unknown also allows people to make up there own narrative to the portraits.
Tell us about your approach to your work, your unique “no brushes” style and your choice of fantastic vibrant colours.
I’m drawn towards the idea of making something beautiful out of what could be classed as lo-brow materials and methods. I don’t use brushes because I want the pieces to raise a question about graffiti and traditional painting as there can be strong preconceived ideas about both. People are normally quite surprised the work is made from spray paint and I think many are also surprised they actually like the work when its outside on a wall; suddenly they have connected with a scene that they previously had no time for at all.
As for colours, I’ve gone from two extremes. For two years, I only painted in black, white and pink (as it was cheaper and allowed me to concentrate on the subject more), then I came across a box of random coloured spray paint that had been buried in the studio and started exploring as many colours as I could and all at once. It just felt right at the time and it’s been a lot of fun.
Favourite memory of painting on the walls of London?
Pretty much every time I paint outside, someone comes up to me at the end of the day and says “I saw you doing this earlier and I thought it was gonna be a right load of old crap, but I like it now. Nice one.” I think this is a great compliment.
Which piece are you most proud of at the moment and why?
I’m really happy with this one (above). There were probably at least ten times I wanted to throw it off the fire escape. It finally came together the night before it had to be delivered to a show, so I was glad she made it. It’s not been easy between me and her.
You’re part of the Scrawl Collective. Tell us about this group and how you contribute.
It’s a bunch of artists with different styles and practises. We all dip in and out of it I guess. We do shows here and there, projects come up or one of us might get an idea and get others involved or sometimes nothing happens at all… It’s the 10th anniversary soon, so there are rumours we may be getting something together.
Do you prefer exhibiting in galleries or on the street?
They both have there positives and negatives. Walls are great because you have room to be very expressive and lots of people get to see the painting. With gallery work you get to spend time developing techniques and immerse yourself without anyone watching you. I try to balance both but I need to get outside more next year.
Which other London-based artists do you admire?
So many for so many different reasons. At this very moment: Adam Neate, Will Barras, Polly Morgan, Christopher Moon, Arth Daniels
Any big plans for 2011?
I may be doing a major solo show late 2011. I’m still toying with the idea, so we’ll see what happens.
Interview by Stephanie Sadler from Little London Observationalist.
More of David Walker’s street art: http://www.artofdavidwalker.com/