Speaker spotlight: Street art with Andy Council

Chalf Farm Qilin

How did you get into spray painting and mural art?
My link to spray painted mural work goes back to my college days where I became friends with a fellow student who was a graffiti artist. He showed me the ropes and had me help out on running workshops and painting murals from time to time. I gradually built up my skills from what he taught me and met other artists who I also learnt from. It was a very gradual process and I still consider myself to be learning.

What kind of commercial commissions do you get for your murals?
I paint murals for offices and educational establishments mainly, but there have have been all manner of places I have paintedhospitals, festival promotions, restaurants etc.

What process do you go through when you plan a mural?
The murals can sometimes be very complexed depending on whats wanted. With the city creature designs I usually spend a lot of time researching the area that is focused on looking at buildings and landmarks to include. I do this online and also by taking photos of the place. 

I then make sketches of the buildings and quite a few working drawings to figure out the puzzle of putting them into an animal form.  The final design is worked up based on photos and measurements of the wall space. I work out the colour scheme at the end which can be tricky. I need to think about what colours of spray paint I will need and how many cans. I always seem to have too many, but thats better than having not enough I guess!

What kind of painting techniques do you use?
I sometimes paint a background using emulsion paint and the rest in spray paint. I did use acrylic and brush for my outlines for a while as I liked the line quality and didn't trust my can skills. Now I am happy to use spray paint, it's so much quicker.

What’s your favourite mural that you’ve worked on and why?
I generally like the last one I have painted and get bored of previous ones. I just see the mistakes and want each one to be a progression.

With that in mind my favourite one at the moment is a very recent one. It is of a pheasant and on a wall near North Street in Bedminster, Bristol. I like it as it has a nicely painted background which is very atmospheric and the bird has lots of popping colours, shading and movement. It fits the shape of the wall space well.

It's part of a side project, for which I am aiming to fill North Street with as many poultry-based pieces as possible. So far I've got as far as doing a turkey, a rooster and this pheasant. 

Pheasant Of North St

Do you have any favourite kind of buildings or walls you like painting on?
Nice smooth flat primed wall surfaces are best. Horrible pebble dash type render is yuck and eats up the paint.

Why has Bristol such a vibrant street art scene?
The history of graffiti, hip hop and DIY punk culture goes back a long way in the city. It has attracted artists from all over and the city has thus far been tolerant towards it.  Not sure how that's going to be in the future, though.

What can people expect to take away from your workshop at Pixel Pioneers Bristol?
They will hear a few funny stories delivered in my West Country drawl and get a few tips on how to use the paint. Hopefully a few laughs and a sense of achievement too.

Andy Council will run a two-hour street art workshop on Friday, 23 June at The Island in Bristol as part of the inaugural Pixel Pioneers conference. Tickets for the workshop are £29 and on sale now. 

Here are a few more of Andy's works:

Blackpool Dragon

Blackpool Dragon (Spray paint mural, Blackpool, 2016) 
Painted as part of the Sand Sea & Spray Urban Art Festival. Made up of the illuminations of Blackpool, the piers, the tower and pleasure beach.

027 Elephant

Asian Elephant (2016, spray paint mural, London)
Painted as part of the Endangered 13 Mural project to highlight endangered animals at Mile End Cemetery Park, London.

034 Longma Web

Longma (2016, Spray paint and acrylic on canvas) 
Multi layered painting piece combining spray paint with brush paint detail. Based on the Chinese mythological creature the Longma, a kind of dragon horse. I painted this in the autumn and the colours reflect the season.

025 Andyc Chelsea 07

Chelsea Fox (2015, hand-drawn and digital illustration installed on vinyl)  
One of two large scale murals on the Medicinema in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital London. Both pieces features buildings and landmarks from the area surrounding the hospital.

002 Bristol Dinosaur

Bristol Dinosaur (2005, hand-drawn and digital illustration)
My first city dinosaur illustration is pretty much where it all started and is still my most popular image.