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“Meet the Londoner” continues with Gary Alford – an artist and illustrator based in London. Gary is a self-taught, freelance artist and all his art is hand drawn and/or painted.
Earlier this year I saw his painting on Instagram showing Kiefer Sutherland as vampire David from “Lost Boys”. This movie is one of my favourites and the painting just astonishing! I contacted Gary and he made me my own Kiefer. We adjusted the colours and replaced the brown coat with a black one. Did you know that Kiefer has a green and a blue eye? Well, I didn’t! Until Gary told me that he has, and he painted the eyes in the real colours.
I am super proud to have Gary in the latest episode of “Meet the Londoner”!
Interview with artist and illustrator Gary Alford
Who are you?
My name is Gary Alford and I am an artist and illustrator living in Shoreditch, East London. I grew up in a South East London borough called Bromley which was home to Siouxsie Sioux and the Bromley Contingent punks. Rumour has it that my father played lawn bowls with Billy Idols parents. Bromley is near to where an absolute hero of mine grew up, fellow South East Londoner Kate Bush. I attended the nearby Ravensbourne College Of Design And Communication in 1999. Other, maybe slightly more famous alumni include: David Bowie, mural artist Brian Barnes, Tim Pope who directed music videos by THE THE, Neil Young and directed The Crow 2, Dinos Chapman, record producer John Leckie, Stella McCartney and many more inspirational artsy types.
I completed my art degree in Graphic Fine Art at the University Of East London, Beckton.
I don’t have any pets. I used to have a dog and he is irreplaceable. As Tim Westwood once said to me in respect of his passing: “R.I.P my man, Speedy.”
I know dear Tim by the same route that a lot of people discovered my work and that is through New York’s Hip-Hop giants The Wu-Tang Clan whom I have worked with for the past 14 years. In this time I have created a number of album covers and CD inlay artwork for Wu members and extended family affiliates including 9th Prince, Dom PaChino, Christbearer, Ancient COINS, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and most notably the man who created the Wu-Tang empire and scored films for Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog) and Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill 1 and 2): The RZA. Work is ongoing with these guys and I have 2 big projects with RZA currently on the table. This is a great achievement for me as RZA has been the biggest inspiration in my life since my early teens and I’m now 37. I enjoyed guiding RZA on a walk through the streets of Shoreditch a couple of years ago.
Outside of the Wu-Tang sphere I have created numerous artworks for acts such as Shaggy 2 Dope of The Insane Clown Posse (FTFOMF) and Ray Davies of The Kinks. Non-art wise I have recently been helping another inspiration of mine, Matt Johnson of THE THE at home and on tour. I have been very lucky to have been able to work with such fantastic artists.
Do you also do street art? If yes, which is your favourite city to paint in?
I am mainly a home-based illustrator but do enjoy creating murals in spraypaint and acrylic. Mainly these paintings have taken place in London with the exception of the fantastic Cheltenham Paint Festival near The Cotswolds.
I am currently in the process of completing work in a bar in Leake Street tunnel which is below Waterloo Station. The tunnel is a legal spraypaint and graffiti zone where artists of all levels paint side by side in a safe and friendly atmosphere with one main rule: you’ll get painted over and that’s just how it goes. The graffiti started there when Banksy opened The Cans Festival in May 2008. The bar, Rat Bar, has secured a rather large original Banksy rat piece and I was commissioned to create rat themed artworks around it.
What makes London special to you?
What makes London special to me is that foremost it’s my home and where the people I love live. My father moved here from a tiny village in Wales and I thank him that I am able to call London my home. I love the countless variations of architecture albeit to the detriment of the tree population over he years.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from memories and London walks. The various religious buildings and multitude of Masonic architecture and symbols in London are an obsession at the moment. Mainly my inspiration comes from music. I interpret the feelings I get from the music I hear into images on paper. It’s my way of transferring that energy so it’s quite amazing I get to work with some of my musical heroes. I want to start getting my premonitions painted, see what comes of that.
What is your favourite movie?
I will refuse the temptation to drop a title of a very artsy film in to make me look cool but as anyone who knows me knows: Jaws is my favourite movie. I love the relationship between the truly believable characters and each one of the main three characters’ struggle to be heard and validated. Also it takes me right back to being a child every time I see it as I was always allowed to stay up and watch it.
Which is your favourite colour?
How long does it take to get an idea out of your head and onto the canvas/wall?
I have ideas from my teens that are still waiting to be realised and I have artworks that have been created on the spot. I keep written notes and very basic sketches now rather than rely on my memory. I like to work quickly now as I am usually five ideas ahead of the one I am manifesting on paper at the time.
Which material are you working with?
I prefer pen and ink these days as the results are quick.
When did you start painting?
I have been painting for as long as I can remember, since childhood. Jaws was a main theme. Professionally I have been an artists full time since 2008 and part time since graduation 2003.
Gary on London
What is your favourite time of the day to meet for food? Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?
If I do venture out, generally locally, to eat, it’s lunch at 12
Where do you recommend going to have some nice food?
I really like The Premises on Hackney Road for a full english. It’s a great Turkish run restaurant with a great menu above The Premises recording studio. It’s walls are covered with signed photos of celebs who eat there between takes. I like to sit under Nick Cave if I can.
For a great Sunday pizza I go to the Stringray/Globe on famous Columbia road.
Which is the best bar in London?
The Rat Bar which I mentioned above.
Which sight or attraction should be on a tourist’s must-see list?
The Priory of St . Bartholemew-The-Great. Smithfield, is a great place to visit. They filmed Four Weddings And A Funeral there but don’t let that put you off.
Where is your favourite spot in London?
The Guildhall, Gresham Street is just down the road and is a fantastic place to visit.
Some fun stuff about Gary
- Milk in first or milk in last? Last
- Marmite – love it or hate it? Love it!
- Gin & Tonic or Pimm’s? In my drinking days it would have been Gin
- Favourite ice-cream? Chocolate by whoever
Gary Alford on Social Media
Latest news about Gary’s works can be found on the Gary Alford homepage.
You can also follow hin on Instagram (@garyalfordart).
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