I’m a graffiti artist

Twenty four year-old Eightball is not your typical graffiti artist. He paints images all over the streets of East London for the public to enjoy for free and runs a website promoting the art form. He tells The Mix how he started his career on the streets.

True Stories

graffiti artist

"It's hard not to break the law."

I started doing graffiti at a really young age, I think I was about 12 or 13. I really liked the idea of drawing on walls – it’s a great form of expression, so I started doing small bits of graffiti on the walls around my neighbourhood with a small black spray can. At first I enjoyed drawing little characters and portraits of myself that conveyed different emotions. I tried to reflect the emotions people feel during war or through suffering and I liked to use colour to emphasise this.

As I got older I started meeting more graffiti artists who taught me lots of different techniques. We didn’t just doodle or tag every wall and park bench we came across. We treated them all like a blank canvas and tried to create something that would make people stop and look at it like it was any other piece of art.

Getting graffiti inspiration

I get inspiration for my graffiti from everyday life, people, music and artists. If I see something that I like, something that I hate, or something that interests me I’ll graffiti about it. I love the work of Picasso, Ron English and Simon Bisley. These artists got me interested in painting and drawing because of their unique styles, so I try to emulate what they did in a more modern style on the streets for everyone to see. I don’t think art should be confined to galleries and exhibitions. Art should be everywhere you look and that is what I’m trying to promote. The Graffiti artist Mode 2 from London’s to me the originator of great style and characters.

I love graffiti because it’s open to everybody, not just the elite scene – you don’t have to be rich or educated. Anybody can admire a detailed colourful piece of graffiti. Graffiti is all about expression and it’s free for all to see. I started my website because I wanted to make my work accessible to more people. Not everyone will be able to find my work on the streets so I wanted a portal that people could use to see what I’m about and what I’m doing. It was pretty easy to set up and has gone down really well.

Bringing artists together

A lot of positive things come out of graffiti. I’ve been involved in many projects locally that promote awareness of graffiti in the community. These projects have brought lots of different people and cultures together to create incredible art. I think a lot more people should be educated about the art form. If people understood what we’re about and what we’re trying to do perhaps they’d appreciate it more. Defining art all depends on the individual. Some people may get involved in the illegal stuff and some may not, but that doesn’t mean that you should demonise the whole art form.

Advice to aspiring artists

Like most forms of art it’s always important to study the origins of what you do. You can learn a lot from the early pioneers of graffiti as well as the older graffiti artists who are on the streets. If you see a piece of graffiti you like then find out who made it, track them down and speak to them. A lot of older artists take on trainees and teach younger artists their style. This is probably the best way to get into it and improve your skills.

Graffiti and the law

I’ve had a few run-ins with the law but nothing too serious. This is the problem with the laws around graffiti, it’s so difficult to actually get your art across when there are so many barriers stopping people. There’s so much talent out there and I feel like it’s being held back by the powers that be.

In five years’ time I would hope that graffiti is more accessible to young people. It’s quite hard to get involved in it at the moment without breaking the law. I’d like to see workshops being held in community centres and more open walls where artists can create their own worlds. Artists like Banksy are definitely making the art form extremely popular and I think this will help to get younger people involved.

Photo of street artist by Shutterstock and posed by nodel

Next Steps




Updated on 29-Sep-2015