Hoakser: the Man behind the Murals

An incredibly talented and well-respected graff artist here in Brum and across the globe, Hoakser is just one of the guys behind this year’s “We’re In This Together” River Rea mural, so we sat down and asked him a few questions to find out a little bit more about the man behind the mural…

 

How did you get into graffiti art?

 

BrumSpirit - WITT-9
I’d always wanted to be some sort of artist as a kid and would always be drawing characters of my favorite stuff or making up monsters, zombies and robots..Sometime around 98,I went with some friends to check out a place called “Selly Oak graffiti park” and had my mind blown by something I’d never seen before and didn’t understand…Everywhere was covered in paintings and writing, there were cool characters on the walls and color everywhere..The main pieces I remember where by a crew called FKS..T-Bone,Korsa,Zooki,Crem, were some of the names that stood out to me that day and I knew I wanted to try spraying some of my characters on a wall.. From that point  I started seeing it everywhere and the more I practiced and studied it, the more my respect for the art form and culture grew..

 

Why did you choose graffiti art as opposed to any other medium?

 

There’s so many branches to graffiti and there’s so much to learn about it..From tagging to mural work, all of which is classed as graffiti, there’s a whole load of learning and  years of practice involved to be able to control the paint and create your own style to build your name.. The history of graffiti is a cool story full of myths and legends and as an art form developed by youngsters, mostly in the dark, it’s come a long way.. Every country and city around the world have their own scene,style, history and way of doing things so it’s always developing and inspiring new artists and techniques. When I first started I think it was how hard I found it, which pushed me to want to get better at it..Meeting other graffiti writers and going painting with them has made me some really good friends over the years.It’s kind of a social and anti social culture, where most graffiti is painted for other people who do graffiti to love or hate and can have a life span of minutes or years depending where or what it is..  Graffiti incorporates so many skills from tagging (which is like a form of calligraphy), to painting huge letter pieces (which is a kind of typography)..painting and designing characters takes some cartoon/illustrator skills and spraying paint is such a fun way to practice them all..

 

What inspires your art?

 

Most things really.. From everything I was into as a kid to the amount of paint, space and time I’ve got to work with. I get inspired by loads of artists who make me want to try new stuff out in my own way..My graffiti letters and characters have been developed over the years and their technical difficulty increases as my skills with a can improve. I used to like painting models and sculpting when I was younger, so after seeing a few graffiti artists from overseas design toys several years ago, I wanted to see my character as an object you can hold..So I did that.. I’ll always be into spraying my name on a wall but the idea of my work being displayed in collections and looked after, rather than painted over is pretty cool.. Canvas work and sculpts are approached differently to walls, but all of them kind of inspire each other in a way..

 

Do you prefer to work on big public art murals, like the River Rea mural, or on smaller canvases and private commissions? Why?

hoakser2

I think I like them both the same but for different reasons.. Public murals are usually hard work but fun to paint, and it’s interesting hearing what people think before it’s even been finished.This can sometimes spark new ideas and help with the mural…It’s nice to have their support and encouraging words shouted at you from passing cars but it can take much longer to paint as you have to keep explaining your not a famous stencil artist and you did this all free hand.. Painting on the River was great and everyone was really supportive of what we were doing..Leaving such a big piece of artwork out in public is so different to working on a piece that will hang in one persons house..The fact that someone is willing to spend their hard earned money and invite a piece of my work into their home is really cool, but on a different level..

 

What was it like to collaborate with Ashekman and Zooki on the River Rea mural?
It was interesting and nice, and the wall came out really cool I think.. Having Zooki as one of my earliest inspirations in our graffiti scene makes it a pleasure to paint with him.. Over the years we’ve painted together a few times on walls at graffiti jams, so it was cool to get him involved with this mural, as he grew up around the area.His character designs and painting skills are amazing and it’s always an honor to paint with him.. Ashekman really came through and after having no sleep on day one, due to travelling, they still got busy and left us with a really cool piece in their calligraphy style..It was cool spending some time with them and hearing about what the scene in Beirut is like. It’s a shame they couldn’t stay for longer but hopefully one day we’ll get another wall done together..It was really nice to meet those guys and paint, and I think what they put up really fits in well with the message of the mural..

 

How does the mural tie in with the central messages of Brum Spirit?

 

As one passer by said while we were working on the piece “We’re in this together For peace on Earth is so fitting for the state of the world right now”.. That probably says it all.. It was cool to see some of the local kids who can read Arabic working out what Ashekman’s piece said and as a collaborative cultural exchange it came out really well.. It can be difficult coming up with a wall concept and designing it into something we can all work on while keeping the public,council and everyone else happy..Especially when you’ve never met the people you’ll be painting with. But as always, Tessa’s hard work and theme choice made it all click together and we managed to paint something that’s had nothing but positive comments…

 

What other community projects and public art murals have you worked on?

 

welcome to kings heath mural
There’s the Welcome To Kings Heath wall that we worked on 3 years ago for BrumSpirit with Ficore from Brazil.Then the year after I was lucky enough to be able to paint the front of PST nightclub in Digbeth with RCF1 from France for Brum Spirit.. In Acocks Green at Millennium Green there’s a long wall I was asked to paint around a nature reserve/dog walking area..It’s a quite a long wall and fun to paint because it has all four seasons, goes from day to night and includes almost every animal you might see there. Another favourite from last year is a school I painted in Selly Oak.. It’s not really public as it’s a school, but the 40ish walls I painted around the outside of every Porta-cabin classroom around the grounds,definitely brightened the place up..They were a depressing grey before, and now they have lots of color and helpful learning phrases with positive words etc suited to each lesson and classroom..I can imagine that would have a huge impact on any child, especially one with learning disabilities and it’s cool to think how lots of kids over the years might remember something, because they saw it on a painting every day..

 

What do you hope people will take from your work, particularly your public art murals?

 

It’s nice to be able to change peoples perceptions about what they might have thought graffiti was or can be, before seeing something they can relate to and understand..I hope it inspires some people to try and become artists and it’s a weird feeling when you’re on a bus going past something you did and you hear a kid say “coool” and start pointing at it..They all kind of serve a different purpose and it’d be nice if they appeal to people if different ways..
What does this year’s Brum Spirit’s theme, “We’re In This Together”, mean to you as an artist?

 

As a theme for a wall it had so much scope to where we could have taken it. As I said in another answer, a passer by commented on how fitting it was for the state of the world, I think we started painting this a few days after all that Brexit madness..As someone who lives in the area we painted the wall, which has lots of nationalities and religions living side by side, it’s nice to leave a positive piece up for everyone to take something from which will always mean something, depending on how you decide to read it..

 

Where can we find out more about your work?

 

My website hoakser.com which I build myself has all the important links and info on… I use Instagram @hoakser  and occasionally twitter @hoaksergraffiti .. and i have a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/hoaksercom-214180528665043/?ref=bookmarks  which you should like to catch up with me on there 🙂

 

You can check out more pictures of the “We’re In This Together” River Rea by Hoakser, Ashekman and Zooki here.

We’re In This Together: River Rea Mural

Have you been passed the River Rea recently in Basall Heath? If so you will have seen our latest public art mural, We’re In This Together!

The mural called on the expertise of the team behind the well known ‘Welcome To Kings Heath’ mural, created back in 2013 by local talent Hoakser, who at the time teamed up with visiting Brazilian artist Ficore.

river rea mural

This year our commission has transformed an over-looked wall on the banks of the river Rea when Hoakser team up with Lebanese duo AshekMan.

Hoakser’s work ranges from public artworks to private commissions, which are currently held in collections in 13 countries across five continents. Most recently he was called on by Ebay to feature in a short film about his work.

Birmingham graffiti legend Zooki grew up in Balsall Heath, the site of this years Brum Spirit mural. He has been painting for well over 20 years, and his style is very distinctive.

For those who know their graff culture, Zooki is in FKS, NHS and INS crews to name a few.

His sharp style contrasts smooth graphic lines with old school references to graffitis roots, with characters straight out of a Bronx block party transposed into brightly contrasting everyday settings. Collectors can currently get a hold of his prints, T shirts and canvases at Graffiti Artist, in the heart of Digbeths Custard Factory.

ashkeman

Ashekman traveled to Birmingham from Lebanon for a flying visit to bring their well know Arabic Calligraffiti style of work to the mural.

AshekMan are identical twins and are most known for commissions for the likes of Nike, Coca Cola, MTV, and even celebrities such as Snoop Dogg have purchased pieces!

Ashekman have their featured character the Grendizer at the centre of the mural with the words ‘Peace on Earth’ in arabic, which is the 2nd most spoken language of the area. 

The theme of the mural is to honour people across the world who have made Balsall Heath their home, and to celebrate what the local community have achieved together.

We were able to pull Ashekman away from the wall for a couple of minutes to get a couple of words from them:

 

Have you ever worked in Birmingham before?

No but weve visited lots of places in the UK before. Weve been to London, Liverpool, Manchester all over really apart from Birmingham!

 

Whats it like being in Birmingham? What do you think of the city so far?

People are very welcoming here, the people are very cool. We come from a city between Beirut and Dubai, and its a concrete jungle, but Birmingham is the opposite. Its actually very relaxed and quiet here. We love how Birmingham culture is one big melting pot, theres so many different religion and races all living in harmony, and thats what its like in Beirut.

 

Whats it like working with Birmingham artists?

Very cool! Our styles are quite different our style of art is caligrafitti, is inspired by Arabic, which weve been doing for 10-15 years, but Hoakser and Zookis art is more like old school, traditional, pure graffiti, so our work is completely different to theirs and its a nice contrast.

 

Whats the inspiration behind the mural?

The mural is inspired by the city and the people who live in it. Where we come from, we write messages on the walls thats our main mission to spread a positive message –  so Hoakser wrote in latin were in this togetherand we wrote in Arabic For peace on earth.At home, we use the image of Grendizer, the Japanese manga superhero, who has become a good guy icon.Its important to mention that lots of people might think its vandalism, but its not, its about spreading peace and positivity.

RIVER REA MURA

People Stand Together Mural ft. Hoakser and RCF1 (Paris)

So folks, we told you this year’s community mural would take pride of place on our favourite underground venue, PST. Well it’s done, it’s happened, it’s in the bag, and it looks wicked. Brum based graffiti artist Hoakser collaborated with Parisian veteran RCF1, for a meeting of styles in true homage to this venue’s rich musical heritage. Watch this video by Brumterritory to see what went down.

 

Q & A With HOAKSER

In 2013 we worked with the talented HOAKSER to bring you the  ‘Welcome To Kings Heath’ graffiti mural. The idea behind the mural was to develop a sense of local pride, and with suggestions from the local community  flowing in HOAKSER teamed up with visiting Brazilian artist Ficore to incorporate all the great things that gave the local community pride in Kings Heath.

We are pleased to announce our next community inspired mural will take place August 4th – 10th and will be lead by HOAKSER, in collaboration with French artist RCF1. The mural entitled People Stand Together, will emblazon the walls of PST, on Lombard street, and will depict the history, culture and local community of  Digbeth!

We caught up with HOAKSER ahead of the collaboration to talk all things #BrumSpirit!

HoakserName: HOAKSER 

Occupation: Self employed graffiti artist

From: Birmingham

Q) Tell us about your job? 

My job varies from week to week or day to day, depending what I’m working on. I’ve spent years working on walls with spray paint and have developed my own style with lettering, wild styles and characters to become established in the Birmingham graffiti scene. That was a job in itself! I’ve been practicing graffiti for around 15 years and have been self employed as an artist for 9.

My work involves so many different aspects these days, which is why my job varies so much. Most of my spray paint work comes in the form of a commissioned piece that is designed to fit the clients needs..Large scale murals, bedroom wall artwork, sign-writing on shop shutters and teaching at graffiti workshops are just some work I might be doing.

I also sell my work online which involves photographing, documenting, and marketing my creations as and when I make them.

Canvasses, prints, custom recycled spray cans, toys and sculptures are always being added to the store on a weekly basis along with one of a kind printed t-shirts and other stuff to weird to explain.

Being self employed has made me learn lots of other work roles too… things like how to make and maintain my own website, blog and online stores meant developing graphics skills and learning how to use certain bits of software. Packaging and posting sold artwork is a skill in itself which is something I love and hate doing. The two solo exhibitions I’ve had were a whole new learning experience in terms of framing, picture hanging and organising. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still learning everything I’ve just mentioned! My job is hard work, fun, stressful, relaxing, rewarding and I enjoy it loads but sometimes hate it too.

liberty4Hoakser

 

farmersHoakser

 

Q)How and why did you get into doing what you do?

I’d always be drawing as a kid and only ever wanted to be an artist. I got into graffiti after seeing some friends doing it and wanted to try it for myself. I’d always drawn stuff and copied my favourite cartoon characters on paper but trying to tag with style or draw letters in spray paint was completely new to me. When I found out how hard it was, I just wanted to get better. Graffiti wasn’t something you could learn at school, no one had ever shown me this before and the more I learnt the more I realised how much there was still to learn. There are so many branches to graffiti. From tagging to doing murals on the sides of buildings, there’s a whole heap of practice and knowledge that goes behind that. And yet it’s still called “Graffiti”. With anything, the more you learn the better you get, but for me graffiti seems to be endless. I find it as interesting now as I did when I dropped my first tag.

 

Q) What is your professional highlight to date?

Not just because you’re doing this interview..but probably the Kings Heath mural from last years Brum Spirit ( formerly  Espirito Brum )

Having lived in Kings Heath forever, it was really cool to be given such a big wall on the main high street to paint in the place I grew up in. Working with Brazilian artist Ficore who I’d never met and who didn’t speak English was an extra added challenge, without the pressure of everyone in Kings Heath hating what we painted. The mural started coming together after a few days and the public really seemed to enjoy watching it. The artwork became a piece for the people of Kings Heath and after popular demand I included local hero “Sam the Monkey Man”. The wall then made local news and it wasn’t even finished, which was cool for us and Sam the Monkey Man..

Due to the size and location of the wall, it was very difficult to paint at times. Being a busy car park, there were always cars parked where I needed to be, which again made it even more challenging but rewarding once finished.

The response, support and conversations I kept having from the passing public also slowed things down but made it even more special in terms of achieving something to be proud of that everyone supported..

On a personal note, I met so many people whilst painting that wall…One in particular was a young kid called Tame…He loved graffiti and would stop and chat on his way home from work. Tame sadly died pursuing his love of graffiti soon after we met, which was a sad time for our scene, not to mention for his family and friends. I put his name up on that wall, which is something I know he would have liked. For me that wall has other attachments other than just being a piece of art.  Also having recently moved out of Kings Heath down the road to Balsall Heath, it’s nice to know I left something decent and permanent behind which will stay there for an unknown amount of time.

 

Q) What do you have bubbling away creatively this year?

There’s always something being cooked up in the studio… I’m about to try out some more sculpted wildstyle pieces at some point. I’ll be bringing out a limited edition resin figure of my masked man character later on in the year, the sculpt for him is almost finished. There’s the new Brum Spirit project we are working on too, that’s going to be cool, and it’s happening soon!

 

Q) What is the best part about working in Birmingham?

It’s not London in terms of prices and traffic! There’s a lot happening in the city and apart from all the obvious stuff like my family and friends being around, it’s where I grew up.

 

Q) The worst?

Can’t really think of a good answer for this. Birmingham’s treated me well so far.

 

Q) What is your favourite place in Birmingham?

Kings Heath. That’ll always feel like home, along with Selly Oak, Moseley and Digbeth, that’s where I’ve emptied most of my cans over the years.

 

Q) What makes you proud about living in Birmingham?

Putting words in my mouth now… haha… maybe not our accent. I don’t know… but keep making me proud Birmingham!

 

Q) What one thing would you change about the city? 

The lack of independent shops and businesses we have in the city. We have so many empty shops and too many cheap chicken and phone shops. I’d like to see Birmingham looking a bit more like Brighton.

 

Q) What one thing you would champion?

If I had time, more custom art toy shows in the UK. We are a few years behind some of the world with this scene in terms of exhibitions and shops.

 

Q) Where do you take your friends when they visit you in Birmingham? 

Either painting, eating or drinking in no particular order, around my favourite places.

 

Q)How do you see the city 20 years from now?

We’ll probably have even more cctv, hardly any shops. Hopefully everyone will have hover boards by then, I hope I can look back on this in twenty years and high five myself for being right…

 

If you want to know more about HOAKSER then check out his website, blog, or give him a little follow here! If you would like to make a suggestion of something that gives you pride in Digbeth  you can either email directly [info@brumspirit.org] or simply head over to our competition and tell us your favourite place in Birmingham – which could also see you winning a lovely Brum Spirit T-shirt!

“EARTH WITHOUT ART IS JUST EH”

Earth without art really is just ‘eh’, and we truly believe this at Espirito Brum. That’s why this year, the city’s favourite cross cultural celebration has embraced all things art and has teamed up with a few of Brazil’s finest creators to deliver you some amazing artistic events this summer!

I Love KH

If you haven’t spotted it already, keep your eye out for the spectacular graffiti mural on the side of Mariano’s Cornish Café. The poignant piece is a creation by the wonderful visiting Brazilian artist Ficore and Kings Heath home body Hoakser, who have joined forces to mark the arrival of the cultural exchange in the bohemian suburb. If you want to get a look at this creation head to the Facebook page 🙂

The community inspired work of art explores the merging cultures of Birmingham and Brazil, and we think it’s fab!  The artists have even placed a focus on suggestions from local residents about their favourite things in Kings Heath, including the famous Kings Heath monkey man, who visited the mural the day before his 60th Birthday!

"Monkey Man"

Here at Espirito Brum we’re also really excited to tell you about another creative collaboration in Kings Heath. Graffiti painter Ficore is going to be working together with our favourite independent clothing boutique People Shop, painting fabric to be made into a bespoke dress by in-house designer Mr.Christian!

We were so excited to speak to Allison Saddler from the People Shop about this one of a kind opportunity, who told us: “We are really looking forward to working with Ficore and being a part of Espirito Brum. Shops like ours need to work together and to collaborate with other organisations on interesting projects more often. This keeps the excitement alive.”

Following this, Espirito Brum will be keeping its creativity flowing right through to the very end of the programme, and our final event is set to close the festivities in true artistic style! We have got together with Project U-Neek to organise an art trail around Kings Heath BID. We’re going to be putting prints of the exhibited works online for sale and at a special charity auction held in Loco Lounge August 8th, with all profits will be divided between the exhibiting artists and two amazing charities, find out more here.

Hand in hand, Espirito Brum 2013’s arts events work to inspire a community and showcase emerging artistic talents in a way that it has never been done before. As you can see, Kings Heath is Birmingham’s place to be this summer, and this is not one to be missed!