15th Jul 2012 4:31pm | By Carol Driver
It’s early morning when the Graffiti Life artists get to work on the larger-than-life TNT Magazine painting.
It’s early morning when the Graffiti Life artists get to work on the larger-than-life TNT Magazine painting. Something this detailed and of this proportion can take the lads hours to perfect, so, armed with various cans of coloured spray paint, Adam Brazier and David Speed are prepared for the long haul. They’ve located a just-waiting-to-be-graffitied white wall – the perfect blank canvas for their work of art. However, it appears that it might take longer than they expected – no sooner have they sprayed the first few marks, they’re interrupted by the screeches of a less-than-impressed woman who lives nearby. She’s unhappy that they’re “vandalising“ a wall within view of her house. She doesn’t want to have to look at “rubbish graffiti“, she wails. So the lads are forced to prove they’ll paint over the finished design by going to buy cans of emulsion.
Graffiti is illegal – despite the impression given by high-profile street art in the capital, and the numerous tours which are springing up, fuelled by the public’s desire to jump on the bandwagon the likes of Banksy have started. The illustrious artist has done wonders for putting what was once considered an eyesore on the agenda. But, for those not quite as famous, there’s still a way to go.
“Banksy works now get protected and covered with plexiglass, but if you’re a lesser-known name, you’ll be arrested,“ Speed, 29, explains. “This hypocrisy isn’t Banksy’s fault, but surely the law is the law, and he should be as accountable as a kid tagging a bus stop.“
Speed, known as ’B’, and Brazier are two of about 20 artists in the UK who form street art outfit Graffiti Life. Brought together by a love of what they did – sometimes illegally – they started off in 2008, offering murals, painting home interiors and exteriors. Now, the company is riding a wave of interest. From hosting events, such as the one in Boxpark in Shoreditch on July 29 – giving away 100 pieces of unique urban art – to running workshops and being sought-after by global brands, they've come a long way since the days of spraying while trying not to get caught.
“We all took very different paths to get to where we are now,“ Brazier, 23, admits. “Some of our artists painted illegally for many years and had frequent brushes with the law. Some of the crew went to art school and gained degrees and master’s in fine art. Some did both. Some are tattooists, some are graphic designers but the one common bond between us is graffiti art.“ B adds that despite the edgy, glamorous image associated with street art and the talent behind it today, as individual artists when Graffiti Life was first getting off the ground, they faced a crossroads.
“It got to the stage where we were seeing friends go to prison for graf – it was either carry on down that path or do something positive with the art,“ he says. “Graffiti is such a powerful medium, and it may sound dramatic, but I’ve seen it change people’s lives. It’s certainly changed mine.
“All of a sudden we were given the opportunity to make our living doing the same thing we’d been arrested for previously and promote graffiti as a positive artform along the way.“