I first came across My Dog Sighs (MDS) at Upfest 2009 and in 2010 I stumbled across MDS in the street outside Bristol’s creative hub, the Tobacco Factory, where he was painting bubbles.
I asked him how long he had been painting on walls and where.
MDS: I first started working on the street in around 2004. My first son had been born and I needed to do something that wasn’t grown up, that rebelled against the mortgages and pension plans I was heading into. I was too old to be territorial pissing but loved the urban decay and lack of curation. That’s how FreeArtFriday started. I could be a street artist but without damaging property. I was working in complete isolation from the scene in my home town of Portsmouth on the south coast. In about 2008 I met Farkfk who persuaded me to pick up a spray can and start painting walls.
Upfest gave me the opportunity to cut my teeth with wall painting and painting in public. It was the first time I’d ever experienced an audience actively seeking an opportunity to watch paint dry.
In 2011 you visited Blackpool for the first Sand Sea and Spray. What attracted you to the event?
The honest answer? The fact you asked me. I thought you must have the wrong guy. There were far too many talented artists to ever imagine anyone would choose me.
Blackpool has now embraced you in such an amazing way, why do you think that happened?
I’m truly humbled at the way Blackpool has embraced my work. Every visit I have opens me to such wonderful open-hearted and friendly people. I seem to make new friends every time I visit. Why me? I don’t know. People of Blackpool have a tough exterior but a soft heart. Maybe it’s the melancholy of a seaside town that connects to the melancholy of my work.
You have always painted on just about anything and when you can. In Blackpool, your piece was on the back of a club and a door nearby. Why the diversity of your work?
I like to have different approaches to suit my mood and the surface I have. Sometimes it’s tiny faces on tin cans and other times people offer me massive walls so I can play and throw primary colours and childlike scribbles around.
I was lucky enough to be working with Blackpool Illuminations and you were alongside three other artists creating for the first time in 100 years original art on board. These were placed on the North Shore and lit brilliantly by the Illuminations crew. How did you find the experience of the spray booth?
There I was amongst graffiti legends in the biggest spray booth in Europe but at the time my ability to control a spray can was shaky to say the least. I was expecting to be found out for the fraud I felt I was. There was only one option. Finger paint the entire wall. You should have seen the look on Inkie’s face when I started dipping my hand in the paint and smearing it on the wall. I’m still regularly tagged by visitors to Blackpool who spot the pieces lit up along the seafront so it can’t be that bad.
‘Cans’ began to appear and now are sought after. Where on earth did that come from?
The cans came from my FreeArtFriday project. Every week I paint something and leave it out on the street for someone to find. I was skint (a down side of giving it all away) so couldn’t afford to put out canvases. I was also bothered about being seen to be littering the place I lived in and visited. I started finding rubbish on the street, painting it and putting it back out where I found it.
One day I kicked a squashed bean tin across the floor. When I looked at it, it seemed to have done half the job for me. It had a head shape and sad sloping shoulders. It was unloved and discarded. All I needed to do was paint a face on it and a new narrative had started for it. A new opportunity to be taken in and loved. It was never meant to be more than a personal project from a guy old enough to know better but still wanting to get in on the excitement of street art. Could I imagine it would become a worldwide art movement? Pah! Never. I love the inclusivity and generosity of it. A beautiful altruistic act in a world that is too often neither of those things.
I went to your first London show at Pure Evil Gallery and I must admit it was such a pleasure to be there and later I visited your West Bank Show and saw your progression. You are now shown worldwide but still manage to fit Sand Sea and Spray into your calendar. What is it about the festival that brings you back? Chips, candy floss and rock?
The people. The great walls. The calibre of artists that I’m surrounded by. The atmosphere and the great hidden spots I can wander round and find to leave my mark. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world painting but Blackpool is still up there as my favourite place to paint.
When you became a full time artist how scary was that?
I gave up a secure job in education and have a family and all the responsibilities that entails but I have an incredible wife who returned to work to give me the opportunity to give it a try. Life is too short not to follow your dream. Every day I wake up and pinch myself. I am actually living my (and many other artists’) dream. But I’m also a realist. I’m on a wonderful wave at the moment and I’m riding it like a boss. But at some point it will pick up another lucky soul and will put me down. I’ll just go back to teaching for a living and paint for the love.
Any other comments?
I just want to say a genuine thank you to the people of Blackpool who’ve supported me and continue to do so. And to you Robin for taking a chance with a chancer like me. Your passion and drive really has altered lives. I’m living proof.
Humbled is not the word to describe a friendship and amazing support from an artist who is so real.
So glad I asked.
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