Illustrator and mural artist Kid Crayon first moved to Bristol in the mid-2000s; inspired by Aardman, he studied animation at UWE.
Although still a fan of animation, he soon began to focus on painting outdoors, rather than just working on a computer screen.
As a pioneering street art city, living in Bristol played an important role in this creative decision. “Bristol has an incredibly rich history with graffiti and street art,” he told Bristol 24/7.
“I’m not sure I would have ventured down this path if it wasn’t for the fact that graffiti/street art was such an integral part of the city.
“I literally lived across from the Aryz mural on Nelson Street. I could see a mural of El Mac from my bedroom window.
“We forget how lucky we are to have these pieces as a gift in Bristol. I mean, what would North Street be like if Upfest had never existed?
The culmination of a project funded by Arts Council England, Kid Crayon opens its first exhibition in eight years at D-UNIT Gallery on March 4th.
Presentation of the work carried out during the past year, Cowabunga is a collection of 35 pieces, many of which were created using alcohol markers – a relatively new means of concentration for him – as well as canvas and art toys.
Thematically, the exhibit is 90s themed and is what Kid Crayon describes as “a mix of cartoon, graffiti, hip hop and skate culture”.
“The whole show is a tribute to my growing influences,” he reflects, citing cartoons, videos and toys, as well as strong influences from contemporary urban art, including Russian graffiti artists like Zmey Donsky, Sasha Sunches and Only Hap.
But how would he define his own visual aesthetic? “It’s very cartoony. Tom and Jerry, looney tunes and Dexter’s Laboratory completely influenced my style. However, I think most people would describe me as a “street artist”; even though I hate that term.
Visitors to the exhibition’s opening night will be treated to a soundtrack of “some 90s classics” and Kid Crayon will craft their signature rum punch. He will also publish several digital prints, the Cowabunga fanzine and limited edition cereal boxes – among his personal collection highlights.
“The cereal box is a tribute to the cereal boxes that we saw in the 90s,” he recalls. “Usually they came with a free toy and had puzzles and games on the back of the package.
“I wanted to make my own cereal strip, so I redesigned the ‘Frost Flakes’ box and made custom pogs, which are in every box. There are 50 boxes in total, and each contains a bag of cereal and a sticker inside.
Kid Crayon likes to associate with other artists as much as possible; an aspect of his work that is a “regular practice, if you paint walls”.
In this exhibition, there are three such collaborations: with Paul Monsters, on a small painting on wood; featuring origami street artist ‘Airborne Mark’, on the back panel of a denim jacket; and with London artist Choots, on a pair of custom sculptures.
Throughout his Cowabunga collection, Kid Crayon’s work is imbued with a papal sense of fun and nostalgia. But showing the pieces in an exhibition has another effect. Displaying the works side by side allowed Kid Crayon to add layers of connection between them.
“It’s almost like an Easter egg hunt,” he explains. “I thought it would be a smart way to get people to really look at all the details and have fun trying to figure out the ways the pieces are connected.
“For example, the cereal box can be spotted in my mighty max print. The mighty max print is then connected to one of my paintings. I have purposely left one or two pieces unconnected and there will be a prize for the person who will tell me which ones. I will also give some prints to the first finalists.
Cowabunga is at D-UNIT, Durnford St, Bristol, BS3 2AW from March 4-6 (doors open 6pm March 4).
Main picture: Sam Walsh
Read more: First exhibition of self-taught contemporary artist Kim Piffy
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