http://blog.onebigfreakshow.com/On the last day of the Gambia project we sat around the fire pit and I silently watched my stencils burn as the fire cast shadows that seemed to dance around us in ritualistic celebration. Each one took hours to make, yet blackened and fell to ash in just minutes. And as I sat and watched this symbolic act, a silent decision was made. When I returned home, I would put the gears into motion that would lead my creative career away from the world of stencil art.
Stencils have been a good friend over the last 7 years, they’ve pulled me through financial problems, given me focus through difficult times in my life and allowed me to express myself in a way I didn’t know possible. When I painted my first stencil, it was the first thing I’d painted since college, and it felt good. The spray can took away the need to know how to mix colours, the stencil forgave me for having no technique or skills with a paintbrush. Back then stencils were perfect for me, they allowed me to become part of a scene that I was really into and get the ideas out of my head and seen by others as I painted them around East London. But it soon became more than just a hobby as painting quickly became my whole life.
Realising it was possible to make a living from my images, I set myself up with a studio and did what I needed to do to make sure I had time and space to paint stencils all day every day. I gave up painting on the streets, not that I ever did much to start with, and began to enjoy working slowly and patiently within the safety of my studio. I’m not very good at painting illegally. I panic, fluster, flap about and make mistakes. I rush and stumble and was never ever happy with anything I painted under the cover of night. So with that in mind, I often questioned why I was relying on stencils so much. Why paint using a technique and medium that was developed primarily to paint quickly outside without getting caught?
For over 3 years now, stencils have been responsible for 100% of my income. And don’t get me wrong, it’s been amazing and I’ve loved every minute, but my growing frustrations with the limitations you have with stencils have become too much. I’ve grown bored and realised that having all my stenciled eggs in one manilla basket is probably not a good idea for the longevity of my creative career. I’m tired of the days of preparation that goes into making 1 stencil. Frustrated over the complexity, precision and planning needed to paint one piece. It’s time to move forward with new ideas and techniques, and I’m excited, but terrified.
I’m not saying I’ll never paint a stencil again because I know that isn’t true, I just need a break, a long break. I have a few pieces I need to get out of my system first that I’ve been meaning to paint for a while, but after that, who knows. The plan is to branch out and learn as much as I can and develop my illustration style instead of using photography and computers as such a creative crutch. With a new found excitement and head full of ideas I feel ready to throw myself into this and see where it goes. All I know is that I don’t want to paint stencils for the rest of my life, and for some reason, painting out in The Gambia really made me realise that. Maybe it was watching the freeness of Lucy McLauchlan intuitively filling a wall with her organic and flowing brush strokes. Or was it watching Xenz fill a wall with incredible can control in the same time it’s taken me to flap around with 1 layer of a tiled stencil? Who knows. All I know now is that after calling myself an ‘artist’ for over 3 years, I feel like I should really know how to properly mix colours and have total control of a paintbrush instead of relying on colour from a can and cutting printed detail from a computer.
So here we go, wish me luck and watch this space.
As I said on another forum, I think in the long run this will make him a better artist. Exploring more mediums and different avenues will logically only lead to evolution of his style and work. It may be frustrating at first when the first non stencil pieces come as we have a preconceived interpretation of what E's work is like. I am pretty excited to see where this leads him and hope that when he does return to stencils he brings his new tools and mediums with him. Hopefully this won't effect releasing Gambia Raven Haired or Iccarus.