The once-underground phenomenon that is street art has gone mainstream. Walk into any design bookshop and you can pick up a guide to the latest artists to make their mark on London’s canvas walls. Take a stroll down Brick Lane, through Hackney and Shoreditch and you’re bound to bump into a street art tour. Who to watch? There are many more but here’s a handful of artists who regularly create street art in London:
Probably one of London’s most unique street artists, Ben uses a blowtorch to flatten down gobs of chewing gum on the pavements and turns them into mini canvases, painting intricate scenes with tiny brushes.
French stencil artist C215 regularly produces very recognisable work all over Europe. He paints mainly faces of people forgotten by society – homeless, street kids, refugees. His daughter Nina features as well.
More wall sculpture than paint or pasteups, Londoner Cityzen Kane creates details 3-D pieces from polymer clay. They are laborious to make; a large Lord Jagannath replica took about three months. He creates alien-like organic forms and sometimes creatures like fish or even toy guns.
Christiaan’s speciality is gigantic mushrooms (or sometimes small ones) usually planted at the top of ordinary or semi-derelict buildings, especially around Shoreditch. They are brightly coloured and created from polyurethane ‘surfboard foam’, fiberglass and stainless steel.
David’s brilliant portraits come to life in a multi-layered explosion of colour. They are inspired by found photography, strangers and magazine images and can be spotted all over East London. He uses no brushes or stencils, only spray paint.
With Dscreet, it’s all about owls. Cartoons influence him, so the creatures have an illustrated look about them. Symbolism of the owl around the world is also an important to this prolific artist.
Typography is the word that pops to mind at the mention of Eine, whose famous alphabet has appeared on many London shutters. Barack Obama once received an EINE painting as a gift from David Cameron and Eine was invited to design a 50th anniversary poster for Amnesty International.
Based in Baltimore, American artist Gaia, regularly paints while travelling and has recently created a series of large animal images in London.
French artist Invader’s work is highly recognizable. You can’t miss the space invader tiles plastered all over London and throughout the world from Istanbul, to Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Mombasa and all over Europe.
JANA & JS
French-Austrian couple Jana & JS are paste-up, stencil artists whose work is influenced by their mutual love of photography, architecture and portraits. They live in Salzburg, but London’s been lucky to see a lot from them lately.
Most of this Australian artist’s paintings are made from hundreds of thousands of little dots – a type of street art pointillism. He tends to paint portraits, mainly of people marginalized by society.
Malarky monsters are nearly storybook illustrations – friendly monsters, angry ones and every type in between. Malarky also paints plenty of foxes too and you can recognize his work through his use of bright colours.
Mighty Mo of the Burning Candy Crew is synonymous with monkeys. He started off making his mark around Camden and North London, but now the best place to look is the East End.
Based in Newcastle, the clever and often sarcastic Mobstr regularly creates work in London. His art is as simple as stenciling “Masterpiece” framed against a brick wall or “Booring” on a white space. It always makes you look twice.
Look for colourful, cartoon like characters from Mr. Penfold. They usually have exaggerated, hooked noses. Much of his inspiration came from early days working in a pub and chatting with the locals.
An architect in daily life, Otto Schade’s technical skills transfer to the streets. Ribbons of paint are woven together to create a 3-D effect in faces with a surreal theme.
Pablo’s work is tiny. His paste-ups of people and life scenes feature at the bottom edge of buildings with long black shadows stretching onto the pavement.
PAUL “DON” SMITH
Don has been on the street scene since 1985 and you’ll spot his work everywhere from Portobello Market to South Bank to London’s East End. His current street art focuses mainly on portraits (sometimes with a hint of sarcasm) of famous people like The Queen or literary figures like Charles Dickens.
Working often on a large scale, Phlegm has created a series of hybrid characters, using body parts from various animals. They are almost always painted in black Indian ink with dip pens.
Infamous for his intricate (usually black and white) paintings of rodents or animals native to the location where he’s painting (ie – in London, rats, hedgehogs, etc), this Belgian artist’s work can be found around the world. Sometimes he paints the just outside of an animal. Other times he exposes the inner workings of the body.
For RUN, bigger is better and his work largely reflects that. An Italian artist based in London, his love of travel has taken his art around the world. You’ll spot his large paintings of nearly mythical creatures, angular faces and a fascination with fingers and hands.
Using only a few lines and a circle for the head, Stik paints very distinctive stick figures that portray emotion. In a few years, his work has taken him from life on the streets of London to having his own studio in the East End and art on the walls of people like Bono, The Duke of Kent and Antony Gormley.
Colombian artist Stinkfish often paints in London. He uses his own street photography or found photography as inspiration. Brightly coloured faces are his specialty and yellow is often the primary colour.
With formal training at the Royal Academy behind him, Sweet Toof prefers the streets. You can’t miss the bright pink gums and shiny white teeth that adorn many of London’s walls.
American artist Swoon has been on the street scene since 1999 and uses wheatpaste prints usually depicting people. She rustled up a bit of press in 2009 when she barged into the Venice Biennale with some friends on boats built from NYC rubbish.
By Stephanie Sadler of Little London Observationist