We are kind of feeling like the coolest nonprofit on the block at the moment because we were lucky enough to get street artist Nick Walker to collaborate with us on a beautiful wood-lasered iPhone and Galaxy case. The best part? A portion of the profits will be used to help us build new schools in Africa.
If you don’t know Nick, he’s one of the world’s best known street artists and a major figure in the contemporary art world (his new solo gallery opened in New York last week, as you might have read in The Gothamist). As a forerunner of the British graffiti phenomenon, Nick’s work has become a blueprint for hundreds of emerging artists. He was selected by the late Stanley Kubrick to work on his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, where he created the artwork of the streets of New York on the film’s outdoor sets. Nick‘s iconic “Vandal” character was also featured in the Black Eyed Peas’ music video “I Gotta Feeling” which has been seen by over 160 million viewers on YouTube alone.
Below, Nick chats with us about his work, why he wanted to collaborate on this project, and what he thinks is the best street art city in the world:
What’s one of your most favorite pieces you’ve done? Where is it and why does it mean a lot to you?
I think it’s the ‘Giraffiti’ piece in Williamsburg in Brooklyn back in 2008. It took all night and we ended up having to get a longer ladder in the end to reach the paintbrush coming out of the giraffe’s mouth. If we had gotten the longer ladder the first time I think we would’ve finished earlier, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to meet [graffiti artist] Futura, who happened to be in the area getting his early morning coffee. It was the perfect end to a crazy night of painting.
What is one of your most favorite collaborations/commissioned projects you’ve done and why?
I’m really proud of my collaboration with Royal Doulton on a figurine due out in January 2015. It’s the first time Royal Doulton has used 3D scanning technology in their 200-year history and the figure will be included in their 200-year anniversary celebration.
What was the most challenging/craziest/funniest experience you’ve had either trying to install a piece, or the behind-the-scenes work leading up to it?
There’s been a few but a memorable one was painting the shutters on Gansevoort street in the Meatpacking District. The chef from the restaurant next door decided he was going to test his 15-course meal on us and ply us with Mojitos all day for free.
Why did you want to do a collaboration for the Hope School project from Good Neighbors? What about the project is interesting?
If I can help build a school for children who otherwise might not have any access to an education, that’s a really cool thing. I think this project is really cool.
What city in the world seems to embrace street art culture the most and why?
I could be wrong, but my guess is New York City—it’s where it began and it’s still going strong. Anyone who has grown up in that city has seen the art form evolve over the years. The people, the museums, and even a handful of cops have embraced it. It’s crazy the different kinds of people from all walks of life that stop in the street and pay compliments.
What is the inspiration/story behind the Vandal character?
I first came up with the Vandal concept back in 2005. I was walking through London and I saw one of those massive golfing umbrellas on the ground and on second glance I saw that there was someone underneath it lighting up a pipe. It stuck in my head and I got to thinking that umbrellas act as the perfect smoke screen for pretty much anything you like, especially graffiti, which is how the Vandal Triptych print came about. The second decoy is the outfit and someone dressed as a quintessential Englishman donning a bowler hat–someone you would expect to be doing graffiti!
The Vandal has one mission and, having heard the term “paint the town red,” he decided to take it to the extreme and paint it every color imaginable. But not just the town, the world!
Why did you pick this particular piece for the PrinkTech collaboration?
I wanted to pick this image because the Vandal is in pouring mode and I wanted to experiment with the design within the paint flow and make it more detailed, rather than a flat colour.
When you were an emerging artist, what about street art was appealing to you to focus on this particular medium/genre?
When I was younger, the art was just known as Graffiti Art. I was strongly influenced by the graffiti on the side of the subway trains in the ’80s in NYC. The artist back then painted whole subway cars and it blew me away.
What was the weirdest/most odd thing said about your art?
I’m not sure, but one of my paintings did once bring a lady to tears!
Where can people see your work around the world?
Sao Paulo, Paris, NYC, London, Bristol, Los Angeles, Spain, Berlin, Tokyo, Osaka, and Shiga. I forget the names of the streets, though! I am represented by Brugier Rigail gallery in Paris and I have a solo show there in March 2015. My upcoming show will be in New York City this month, opening on October 16th and running for one week.
What’s the most unexpected thing/event/person/etc. that has inspired one of your pieces?
The former president of France (Nicolas Sarcozy) decided to ban the burka in Paris, so I ended up painting six women in burkas doing the cancan. It didn’t last that long though, because political elections were happening at the time and any kind of anti-government graffiti or posters were getting white-washed. You can see a video of it here.
What has been your favorite place to install your artwork so far?
New York. The energy of the city is great! Strangers pop up and offer you ladders and stuff–that kind of thing never happens anywhere else.