We could not have been more fortunate with the people we were with in LA and SF, from the beautiful Natalie and her equally beautiful husband James who put us up for the entire trip in the rather swanky Beverley Hills area, through to the lovable idiots that are Cyrcle who found us a wall, let us use their space freely and force far too much tequila down our throats.
The first wall was on the side of Cyrcle’s studio on Hollywood Blvd. It was a nice size and probably one of the largest walls I had painted to date. The piece is slightly tucked away from the road so you don’t really see it until the last minute.
I was keen to use subtle colour in the piece. Colour is something I have stayed away from for a long time, but when used in the right way it can add a whole new level to the work and is something I will be exploring a lot more. This was also the first time I attempted to sit the face back with the swirl effect you see in the image. It is a slightly more daunting prospect doing so on such a large scale when before I had only done so with my canvas work.
As much as I am proud of the piece, it did reiterate to me how important it is for me to have substance with my work. I have learnt over the last few years how much more I take away from a piece when it is dealing with an issue I am interested in so I was keen to focus more on that idea with the final two walls.
It just so happened that my next wall was to be collaboration with a certain Mear One on Sunset Junction in Silverlake. When it comes to political artists, there are not as many that come near to Mear so I was confident my need to get my teeth into something a little juicier was about to happen.
I have been a big fan of Mears work for some time now and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him when he was in London last year so when it was suggested we collaborate, I was obviously keen.
Initially I was not sure how easily our work would come together which is why I actually hit on the idea of using the idea of the bank note and money green with me painting the main figure and he the background. In the end it came out even better than that with us both taking an individual we both despised and joining them in a union we dubbed the gruesome twosome.
This piece made me realise just how important a good background is, something I will most certainly be working on in the future. It also allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself. I even painted more than just a face this time around! Now I will be known as Ben Slow, painter of faces and of all things, snakes.
LA for 10 days was nowhere near long enough time. There are just so many cool people around, too many big walls to paint and generally just so much to do that I am already planning my next trip back and this time around I will make sure that before anything else, I make it onto the beach this time!
Whilst there I also experienced the most glamorous assistant anyone is likely to ever have, I just wish I would have had my camera to hand. On our way to a night out deemed posh enough for the lady to put on her best little black dress I spotted a great rooftop spot on Melrose for a paste up. Undeterred that she was in her glad rags she proceeded to join me on the roof and even held onto my legs whilst I dangled over the edge to get the prime spot. I’m a lucky man indeed!
The amazing hospitality we enjoyed in LA continued as a friend of a friend we had never met took us in and made us feel right at home. We really were blessed throughout this trip.
The guys at White Walls Gallery were nice enough to sort me a wall a few blocks down the road from the gallery in the Tenderloin. This was by far the largest I have ever painted. I am not the quickest painter as those who know me will testify and it seems that’s was always going to be the case considering I was unfortunate enough to be christened Benjamin SLOW.
Fortunately I was put in contact with a fantastic Oakland based artist called David Polka to collaborate with on the piece and later on Evan Wilson. His beautiful hand style just took it to another level, a real nice mix of portraiture, geometric shapes and calligraphy that worked together really well.
The Tender is a very unique place and in the words of the great Dave Chappelle “There ain’t anything tender about that mutherfucker at all, that shits rough”. Nowhere have I ever seen so many people living on the street (or so openly smoke crack) I guess it’s the weather but it really seems to be a haven for such unfortunate souls. Saying that, 99% of them were very polite and friendly and made for a fun few days.
I decided for this mural to take on the issue of homelessness. An issue which is very apparent to us all but most people block it out and pretend not to see it, I guess its easier that way.
I came across the work of this incredible portrait photographer called Tom Stone a few years ago and he agreed for me to use one of his images. He captures individuals in such a striking manner. As beautiful as these images are, they are just as harrowing.
The story of the woman in the image is so sad but all too common in such a place and by putting her face up on such a wall in such a location would hopefully make people stop and think, maybe feel some of her pain. I only had 2 days which was nowhere near enough time to do such an image justice so I decided to focus on the eyes. The eyes have always been a very important feature in my work and with such a striking, sad pair of eyes like these, I hope that people will see them and know what it is I am trying to portray.