For the Dulwich Festival, artists displayed their works in people’s homes for visitors to enjoy during the Artists’ Open House event. Although most artists had their finished works on display, Stik came with paintbrushes and spray cans in hand and painted right in front of us on his favorite medium, the outside wall of a building (in this case, a house).
Ingrid Beazley opened up her house to all sorts of local artists to display their works of art all over her lovely house, and some displayed their beautiful, and often quirky, metal animal sculptures around her garden.
A geometric gorilla sculpture made of metal by Ian Nutting, painted in color blocks, crouched underneath a canopy, while wire birds with wacky plumage by Cathy Hart stood scattered around the shrubs and flowers. Adding a pleasant touch to the greenness of the garden were the painted flowers and birds by Jane Muir mounted on iron rods like quaint pinwheel sculptures.
Inside the house, there were paintings hung on the walls, jewellery, and sculptures in the main living areas. Painted portraits of regular people, paintings of harbors, sculptures of aliens from science fiction movies were displayed in the parlor and hallway. In the brightly lit living room, there were sculptures of faces and people, almost like modern busts with simplified figures and colorful adornments.
While I made my way out to the garden again, I spotted Stik, with his clothes covered in paint splatter (the typical artist look), setting up his paints and ladder by the outer wall of the house. I watched while he painted one of his stick figures, an image that has become famous around the streets of London, on the back wall of Ingrid’s house. The paintbrush was attached to a long metal rod that he carefully and accurately navigated on the white surface, leaving behind his mark.
Making use of the existing elements of the wall, Stik incorporated the drainpipe latched to the wall into the scene. Working at a steady pace, and making sure to take a step back to look at his work from a distance, Stik painted a stick figure version of Ingrid sitting on the drainpipe, looking down from above, legs dangling.
Out of curiosity, I asked him about his painting process – does he always plan out exactly what he is going to paint, or does he ever attack a wall spontaneously without planning? His response was no, he always sketches and plans his compositions before painting them. This makes sense – you have to paint as quickly as possible out on the streets so as to finish before the police show up. Making street art, I can imagine, must require a lot of planning and sneaky strategizing.
Having been continuously painting in Dulwich for six days, Stik was both happy and very tired. He was happy about painting in such a different area than where he usually paints – the openness and greenness of Dulwich was a welcome change from the more urban streets of East London. His new street paintings in Dulwich have caused quite a bit of excitement as he recreates 17th and 18th century masterpieces from Dulwich Picture Gallery and interprets them in his own contemporary, simplified style.
On my walk back to the train station, I noticed one other house on the street with Stik’s work on the outer wall. Stik’s graffiti art is making its way into the least likely places, and I really hope I continue to unexpectedly run into more of them during the rest of my stay in London.
Stik and Ingrid will be leading a walk around his Dulwich pieces on Sat 19 May and Sun 20 May at 2.30pm starting at Push Studios, Blackwater Court, Blackwater Street and ending at Dulwich Picture Gallery. More info on the Dulwich Festival website.