I started out over a decade ago spraying the sort of thing most stencil artists cut their teeth on, which is running chopped up photos through a cocktail of Photoshop filters and spraying them with no regard for underspray or, indeed, overspray. I was painting dogs and cats before I was painting Pahnl dogs and cats but let’s take it back to the beginning. Here’s a snippet of some stencils from the early days…
I think we can all agree this is very edgy and brought great change to the world. Okay, it didn’t but stencil art is intrinsically linked with politics and before I had my own voice, it’s all too easy to ape what everyone else is doing. Nevermind all the underspray or blotchy torch.
Or how about the innocent kid with the kalashnikov? I guess it was good to get this stuff out of my system early but of course you learn new things from every piece. It’s all too easy to let the Photoshop filters spit out an image that’s still legible but soon you begin to tweak the image, evaluate each shape and decide whether it’s actually doing anything. That’s perhaps why I draw the way I do these days; presenting as much as possible with as few shapes as I can get away with.
Placement was, and still is, probably the most important part of street art to me. It should always try to interact, or at least nod, to it’s environment. It might be rough around the edges but I’m still quite pleased with this ‘No Fly Posting’ piece.
And so this harmless dog was the first piece I got up on the street that wasn’t a sticker. Situated under a bridge, one of the first columns had ‘BEWARE OF DOG’ sprayed on it and then the further in you get, you’d see this harmless little bulldog. Not a clue now why I sprayed a bin shaped white background for the dog but it was probably something to do with the all consuming adrenaline and forgetting how small the dog layer was.
Later on, I ended up adding a whole posse of ironically friendly looking puppies to the ‘BEWARE OF DOG’ underpass. Whilst you’d never mistake the stencils for actual dogs, I liked that (with a little suspension of disbelief) the dogs could reasonably be found in the street. They’re close to the ground (or as much as the stencil margins allowed at the time) and there’s a kind of painted alternative reality to them. To this day, I’m not a fan of characters that float in midair and I like to keep them grounded to some kind of plane.
After that, it was a natural progression to bring cats into the equation and have them at odds with the dogs, fighting a war in a manner we’re more familiar with. I wish I had more photos of this series but when I eventually began painting as ‘Pahnl’, the dogs and cats were some of the first things to be drawn in my style.
I generally don’t put too much importance on pieces that are completed. I might coo over them for a day or so if I really like them but once something is done, my mind is already onto the next project. I think I’d be prone to laziness and complacency if I looked at completed work too much. However it’s good to occasionally take stock and recognize the development that’s taken place, see where things have come from and how much things can change.
I can’t imagine how things will be different in five year’s time but it’s reason enough to carry on working!