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Alternative London Street Art Walking Tour

This weekend I spent a fantastic day on a walking tour of London street art followed by a workshop where we got to try out spray painting for ourselves. The tour was run by Alternative London (https://www.alternativeldn.co.uk/). The tour on its own costs £12 and is offered in English and French. The tour plus the workshop is £40. You can also book private tours.

We met at the white goat statue by Old Spitalfields Market. There was a large group for the French tour, but the rest of the people booked for the English group didn’t show up so I ended up having my own personal tour guide, which was amazing! Emilie was my guide and she was excellent. She was very familiar with the area and all the artwork, including who had done each one. I couldn’t keep up with her as there were so many names and styles.

We started off the tour discussing the history of the East End and how the immigration of several large groups had influenced the area. As we walked around Emilie showed me all the various forms of street art that appear in the city, some of them commissioned and some illegal. We not only looked at spray painted art from tags to full murals, but also stickers, wheatpasting (posters), casts and sculptures. And of course she took me to see a Banksy!

Some of my favourite pieces were bronze castings mounted on top of signposts by an artist called Jonesy. The theme of most of them is global warming and the environment. They are very subtle and unless you were on the look out for them they could very easily go unnoticed. Some of the more obvious street art is found at eye-level where it’s easy to access. There is a lot of politics and rivalry in the street art world and as a lot of it is about marking territory, to cross out or tag over someone else’s work makes a big statement.

One of the things I liked most about it was the organic nature of the work. It is a constantly evolving piece of art, which changes on an almost daily basis, whether that be someone else painting over part of it or the addition of stickers or posters. Once you are aware of it, it makes the whole city seem like a giant canvas covered in layers of art, just waiting for the next change.

We headed over to the Alternative London studio after grabbing some lunch, ready for the workshop. Some other people joined us for this section of the day. The first half of the workshop was dedicated to creating stencils. We had a look at existing stencils and explored the idea of negative space and bridging to keep the sections of the stencil together. Once we had drawn out our design we cut it out using a craft knife. I decided to do my bee logo so I had to create three separate stencils, one for each colour.

Once we had all finished cutting our stencils we took them outside where there was an area especially for graffitiing. First Emilie showed us how to attach the cap to the can and then the different ways to apply the paint to the wall to achieve various effects such as thin lines or filling in larger areas. We were then allowed to have a go creating our own tags. Tags are quick to do, usually just a couple of lines in one colour. I created one using my initials, CLD. We then had a go at ‘throw ups’, which are bubble writing usually consisting of one colour for the outline and another to fill it in. After this we moved on to our stencils. We tried them out both on the wall and on paper so we could take our artwork home. I used white for the wings, black for the outline, head and body and a mixture of yellow and orange for the stripes.

I was so pleased with my final piece! It was so much fun to create and it was such a great way to spend the day. I felt like I learnt a lot on the tour and I’d love to have another go at spray painting.

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