Since we launched our video featuring Lethal Bizzle last week, we've had a terrific response from street artists wanting to get involved in our very special collaboration with Foot Locker and Secret Walls. To give you more of an idea of what this opportunity could involve, we've spoken to the four artists who created the great artwork that's currently featured here on Umbro.com, and who will be mentoring the winning artists in our competition. ALFA, McBess, Conzo and Riff will each mentor one of the artists chosen from those that enter via our special Facebook app - the entrants will then take part in a special street art battle in London later this month, with the eventual winner having their designs used on Umbro's massive advertising space in London. There's no better way to get your artwork noticed! So what are we looking for? Here's what our four artists had to say....
What made you originally want to get interested in street art?
'In short it was just for that thirst for something more and different and a laugh. I have always been a keen doodler my whole life like most artists who draw past their teens. Where I was from originally ( a small, infamous, known for the wrong reasons town outside of Glasgow) as you would expect there was absolutely no scene at all. So I started off for the mischief of really freaking out the locals with something they have never seen beyond their televisions.'
Where do you tend to find your inspiration?
'A large chunk of my inspiration comes from my sense of (quite pessimistic) Glasgow humour, as well as people I have met from odd places and travels.'
Doing a piece on art under pressure must be tough, so why do it?
'Personally its a stressful experience for me each time, I never like anything I do under a harsh time limit. You're left with the cursed 'I could of done that better' or 'I missed out this guy's hand!' at the end. But, it's that in-between bit, you hit this certain area of surreal super focus like the world is going to end and you have to get this done and the music and everything around you gets muffled and time just flys by! This is pretty cool as it makes you think five steps ahead of each line you do, and how it will join onto something you haven't drawn yet. Plus its a challenge, you won't ever level up by playing it safe all the time. '
You've spent a lot of your life in Holland, what would you say is different about their attitude to street art compared to the UK?
'In Amsterdam the vibe is so much more positive and relaxed compared to the UK, in the UK it's not just a rat race for businessmen and the nine til fives, but its the same for artists; constantly under scrutiny and a lot of negativity to better / put each other down. In the Dam, its like a tight knitted (but welcoming) community of artists from all fields, who just want to party and make some decent art without the grumpy take things to serious little kids you get in the UK. So you feel more at ease to try new styles and just have a laugh with it.'
How has living there influenced your work?
'I still stand by my same core influences from Glasgow, but I was heavily influenced by Amsterdam to not be afraid to throw in a few mad(der) ideas into the mix and to always just focus on the positive, what makes you laugh attitude to my work.'
What advice would you give you to young artists looking to get started in street art?
'A few quick basics that I tell everyone who asks; get yourself a nice small sketchbook that can fit into your backpocket and keep it on you at all times, ideas and boredom can strike you at any time, so its good to be doodle safe! The best and most interesting kind of artists and doodlers out there are the ones whose work is basically their personality and the obvious one is, practice and obsess, it wont happen over night.'
How did you originally get interested in street art?
'Well I'm not a street artist per say but I've always been interested in street art, I've always been a fan of Kid Acne and Flying Fortress, seeing those bold and smooth lines done manually was fascinating for me.'
Your work features a lot of cartoon characters and tattoos, where would you say you get your inspiration from?
'I get my inspiration from a lot of old material, fleischer cartoons, black and white photographs. A lot of things come directly from my childhood and get mixed up with my current pleasures, like a car crash between a ice cream truck and a burger van.'
Do you think that people in different countries have different attitudes to street art?
'I find it pretty similar, but maybe I'm not aware of it too much. In East London it's massive, when you go to Berlin it's pretty much all over the space, I don't really know the right spots in Paris for it but I'm pretty sure it's the same, and the street artists that I meet are traveling around to paint everywhere so it's kinda losing the sens of geography.'
Do you think French artists have a particular style?
'Yup it's better, it's like a nicer kind of style, you can see the massive amount of incredible skills flowing out of the spray paint.'
What is the main challenge when working with other artists on a project like this?
'The challenge is that I don't really know how to hold a spray can, and I've been really lucky to meet Riff, ALFA and Conzo because they've been helping me a lot. Also the scale of the piece is like nothing I've done before, and the height of it, I will never draw this high ever again.'
You’ll be mentoring a young artist on this project, what kind of thing are you going to be looking for from the applicants?
'I hope she/he will be open minded and already very good so I don't have to do much, I've never done this before so I'm not yet sure what it'll be like. It's exciting.'
How did you originally get involved in street art?
'I dont really do street art but I've been interested in graffiti since I was a kid. Then I actually started painting about seven years ago when I moved to London. I was living with a bunch of my friends who all painted and so it seems like the right thing to do.'
You’ve spent a lot of time in Spain, how do you think that has influenced your work?
'I think its refreshing just being in a new city. It awakens new ideas and influences you in a different way. It's also good to remove yourself from your comfort zone once in a while. Sometimes London can get a bit stagnant and it was a nice change to go to Spain and really try to start over with my artwork. Try out new things that I wouldn't have been able to do in London.'
Is there a different attitude to street art in Spain than in the UK and elsewhere?
'I think its different anywhere you go. It all really depends how strong the scene is and how well the art work is received by the city.'
What would you say is your signature style?
'Hard lines. Lots of black.'
Is it exciting to do challenges such as this one for Umbro under pressure?
'I wouldn't say exciting so much as rewarding. It has been really fun to see this project come together so well in such a short space of time. All the artists really worked well together…the dream team!'
You’ll be mentoring a young artist – what kind of thing are you going to be looking out for from them?
'Just raw talent. Sometimes its easy to spot even if its very early on in someone's work. Secret Walls is a visually rich but also quite simple concept so if you know the right tricks you can make a piece look really hard hitting to a crowd. So it should be fairly straight forward mentoring the young artist. I hope :)'
How long have you been involved in street art?
'Seems like forever, but I guess I started getting proper illustration jobs about six years ago. Truth be told, when people ask if I do "street art" I don't even know whether to say yes or no, it's all just drawing to me...'
What made you want to get involved originally?
'I've always wanted to be involved in doing creative stuff in some shape or form, when I was younger I really wanted to make my own cartoons, but seeing as I suck at animation the more logical thing to do was to focus on the illustration side of things.'
What would you say is your signature style?
'I guess my signature style lies in the way I do my line-work, in terms of subject matter/characters I like to keep things fresh and make new things all the time and create little sub categories with my drawing styles. I don't like the idea of being pigeon-holed into drawing the same things over and over.'
What’s the main challenge when doing a piece under pressure like this?
'The main challenge was just the sheer scale of it! In terms of using spray paint and doing large pieces of work I'm not as experienced as some of the guys I was working with, that initial moment of being faced with a huge white canvas is always the worst, but once there's a few rough outlines on and everything is where it should be there's a lot less pressure.'
As a British artist, do you think the UK has a distinct style?
'I think in this day and age the world is getting smaller and smaller in terms of how we can connect with each other so much easier, so all these different styles are merging and becoming one big cluster of influences rather than one style for each area.'
You’ll also be mentoring a young artist – what advice would you give to any budding street artists?
'I'd say don't worry too much about trying to emulate someone else, just do your own thing, try as many drawing techniques as possible and play around with your drawing style. Keep a sketchbook and just fill it up as much as possible, keep old work around so you can see how you've improved over time, um, what else? Watch lots of cartoons.'
Thanks to all the artists for taking the time to speak to us - if you think you've got what it takes to win our special competition, head over to our Facebook page now.