Very Nearly Almost
Some things are classic. No matter how styles or fashions change they will always seem original. The Chanel LBD. Adidas Superstars. True classics that have lasted through all the trends to remain on top of the pile.
Street art too has been through some real phases but the cream has always risen to the top. Walk round any area that’s become synonymous with street art and generally your eyes will be assaulted by wall after wall of generic stencils, some well executed, others looking like they were placed by a blind dog on PCP.
This, in a hugely roundabout way, brings me to my admiration of The London Police, who for over ten years have been decorating streets globally with what has now become an iconic character, The Lad. From London via Amsterdam, they’ve hit everywhere from Tokyo to New York with simple yet visually compelling work adorning many walls both public and private.
Not that you’d find them bragging about what they’ve achieved. I was lucky enough to catch up with Chaz the last time he was in London to ask about The Lad and the street art ‘scene’ he’s witnessed develop since their formation.
“I really wanted to be a graffiti artist but I was rubbish. I could never do anything that well aside from being good at copying Mode2! It was never something I could see myself doing. So we started doing photo exhibits and for the flyer I started doodling what would become The Lad, this little smiley faced thing and would put him on flyers for our shows and work. About the same time I met a graffiti artist and he said ‘you should start putting this up around the place’. It felt like a strong character – you could love it, hate it, ignore it – whatever – and young and old people seemed to like it.
“If I had a pound for every time I’d been asked how I draw a perfect circle… Well… I’d have two whole pounds today. The broad tip marker is key in all of it. You need to imagine it like a clock and break the circle into quarters. Do the first outline and go over with a marker… Then if it looks a little bumpy at around 3 o’clock you have to correct it. But then if it looks bumpier at 8 you do it again… I just try and draw it as smoothly as possible and use the left edge of the tip of the marker as a guide.
“The Lad was a very simple doodle. And I mean simple, it was essentially a stick man with a round head that I’d draw. Now people look at it and think ‘that’s easy, could do that in Illustrator in 2 minutes’, but when it started it was really primitive. Then I noticed whenever I tried to draw the same guy twice it would never come out the same. There were always differences, so I moved from using pens on to fatter markers so it was easier to draw and cover any mistakes. Since then it’s changed and became this bold character. Bodies started to swing, I drew different heads, there were totem-style Lads, then the dog came along.
“All I know is that it was so pure for us just hitting the streets in Amsterdam getting our thing out there not thinking about notoriety, money, our next print run, websites – any of that. Just being out there and doing it and covering the city! Then we started to sell a few paintings which was cool. Because I was never good at graffiti, it was my chance to get out there with this thing I could do well and be a part of this thing with all these artists. Flying around the world meeting people I admired like Faile, D*Face and people that were doing stuff, that had a similar outlook.
“As for the money thing and auctions, I try not to care and just do my own thing. I keep up and see what’s new but I’m not too concerned by trends, fads or what’s ‘hot’. I just have fun and keep enjoying it.”
Words: Geoff Whitehouse