For part 2 of my ‘Scots on Walls’ blog feature, I managed to catch up with Conzo Throb, the Scottish artist/illustrator whose work, especially those in Glasgow, will instantly recognise.
After a busy start to 2013 I was pleased that Conzo found time to knock out some very entertaining chit chat on big topics such as what he has planned for the year, inspiration from London heavyweights like MaLarky and Mr Penfold, developing as an artist, and the multi-use Scottish call to action – ‘TAPS AFF!’
Keeping the mood light, I dug a bit deeper into the phrase that has appeared in his work – his Dudebox toy and animated .gif on his e-mail signature, to name two. Does the man behind the work live by the topless mantra?
“Full honesty, if I go ‘taps aff’ seagulls and pigeons fall from the sky from the powerful rays reflected from my Tippex mimicking skin. So I can’t say I live by it fully and often enough.” Not surprising really, it takes a certain type of person to declare a ‘taps aff!’ scenario in Scotland’s nut-numbing temperatures.
“I find it to be such a brilliant phrase when it is used in a real moment, at a party or sunny day in the park. Taking your top off and swinging it around and letting the sweat sneeze off your tee into gentlefolks beers!”
With so many artists now taking to Facebook and Twitter to publicise their work and plans, one of Conzo’s latest online illustrative pieces, tells the story of his tentative foray into Twitter. After this initial unfortunate incident, I was keen to follow up and find out if he was now back on speaking terms with the social network…
“Sadly not into it still, feels like a forced arranged wedding.”
“I don’t get it, verbal spam, but it’s funny for Frankie Boyle updates. I am a visual guy, words can be boring especially ones about people enjoying a coffee and talking about how they apparently hate X-Factor, yet help promote it by talking about it…”
Think we’ve all seen those updates at one time or another…
So, a little more on his art. He gives a brief overview of his work on his website, considering himself as part of the ‘Jackass generation’, citing influences like Rent & Stimpy and South Park as opposed to the traditional (and predictable) ‘4 elements’ often given by writers and graff artists.
“I am an Illustrator and big wall-doodler and avoider of paragraph art. Growing up in a very well-known and infamous sectarian Scottish town – it was hardly the 5 points in NY. So I worked with what I had, I love making fun of idiots so there was a lot to play with. My style developed from not trying to be NY or mainland Europe style, but just having a laugh.”
“Even if no-one else gets it (yet) I do it all to entertain myself. It will make me live longer…possibly.”
Having had lots of work down in London i.e. the massive collaborative Secret Walls piece near Old St. and working alongside the likes of Mr Penfold / Malarky at Streetfest, do these guys help to progress his work?
“I am big fan of MaLarky and Mr Penfold, nice solid instantly recognisable style who knock out a mountain of work regularly. So yeah, gents like these do raise the bar and help get your finger out. But they also make me want a fellow mad-man with similar aim to paint with up here…”
“I have spoken to Malarky a few times when I catch him in London, he sounds genuinely up for coming to Scotland to cause a bit of mischief, so you will hopefully see a bit of this soon.”
Exciting stuff for those of us in Scotland, I think I can speak for nearly everyone when I say I would love to see Conzo / MaLarky collab pieces flying up in our cities!
He continues; “I go by a level up system in my head, so I am never truly happy with anything I do and I constantly aim to do better and bigger. My stuff has the same feel as it did years ago, but you won’t really see me post anything I did before 2010 as I feel even in that 3 year gap my old stuff is not up to the same level as my current work.”
Conzo’s work frequently includes Scottish-isms and references such as ‘young teams’, ‘chebs’ (and in particular ‘terror chebs’, an altogether different and distressing cheb proposition) and the sickly sweet tipple brewed by those mischievous Devonshire monks – ‘Buckfast’. It’s the inclusion of these (probably baffling to many) references that adds to the fun of his work. It gives him a chuckle when trying to describe to someone a painting that he is doing – I can definitely see why he gets a kick out of it.
Having touched on his Secret Walls escapades earlier – I remember reading about him mentoring the highly skilled Spaniard DYOX in London, and wanted to find out how he got on in this position. Was it more of a two-way swapping of ideas, as opposed to him simply mentoring DYOX? Is it something he’d get involved with again?
“DYOX was brilliant. He is from Barcelona so I would never expect anything less. His talent destroyed me, ha! I was more his ‘calm down, it’s just a wee battle and laugh’ guy. He came with sketches already made and was on the ball. I would be happy to be involved again, though I would prefer to just paint with him.”
Another deadly collaboration contender to keep an eye out for…perhaps. Check DYOX’s work to find out why this would be an epic partnership!
Will we be seeing him compete again in Secret Walls, or as part of Team Glasgow? It would be great to see another Edinburgh v/s Glasgow battle (Edinburgh won the first bout, but only due to the crowd vote – the crowd largely consisting of east-coasters. The Glasgow team strolled it, including some quality references in the wake of ‘Hurricane Bawbag’. Remember “ohmygawd – trampoline?!’)
“This year, I am at the cross roads of wanting to do Secret Walls again but also I am the one who would have to organise and set it up (as if I don’t, no one else will in Glasgow) so I wouldn’t be making same mistake as 2011 where I was the organiser and then I had to step in and compete as an artist dropped out. It was stressful having to organise everything and be responsible in getting judges to take care of things when I battled, so it was fair.”
With the success of SW, the legal wall on New Street and projects like ‘Barnstormers’ popping up (a project borne out of the lack of legal painting space “sometimes you have to paint in the most unlikely of places and this is the start of a movement of Farm Jams, so put the pitchforks down and grab yer paints, its Barn Stormers!”) has his view of the Scottish scene as a “bit of a perpetual struggle” still the same, or with another year gone has there been much change?
“Yeah, it was a good move to see Edinburgh get that wall but I am not sure what the opinions of others are though. Being a sulking nation I am sure it’s got the New-Era cap kids hating, ha! Hopefully will see Barnstormers return this summer. But I am definitely not someone who can speak for any scene, as I am a solo guy working on my own thing.”
He certainly does his own thing, so much so that I wonder if it’s important to be in a massive creative hub like Berlin / New York, or if staying in Scotland is vital since so much of his work relates to Scottish culture, phrases & news etc. Would he like to try and cultivate the scene here?
“Well I haven’t lived outside of Scotland yet (but I’ve been about in some amazing places). Living somewhere like Berlin / New York / L.A. / London / Amsterdam / Melbourne would be such a dream, growing up and creating your style from your country / city is what adds to your own branded sauce but going to an actual scene where its full of sound people who encourage and scare you into levelling up is how you go big.”
“Glasgow should be better than it is. I love the place, it’s the perfect city for it. My grumpy opinion is simple and tends to offend people who really shouldn’t be. A lot of Scottish folk are just stubborn and stuck in love with routine, anything new can scare them where other cities just shrug their shoulders and let things grow. Just got to wait for that older generation to die out and hope by 2030 things are a bit better and open…”
Without wishing to wipe out an entire generation of Scots, I can see where he is coming from. For those of us growing up with street art, and noting changing its perception, it’s exciting to wonder where we will be in 10-20 years.
So, 2012 has been a massive one for Conzo with the launch of his Dudebox toy, and lots of other work. What has he got in store for 2013? Are there any plans in place for that massive wall? He had spoken about a desire to get involved in some animation in another interview I read. Further down the line I could see the idea of a Scottish animation based on the mad characters he creates being a massive success. I’m thinking a mix between South Park/King of the Hill/Chewin’ the Fat with additional mad b@stards and chubby Scottish policemen!
“Time is being a wido at the moment I have to say. I have a list of things I want to do, but require learning completely new things and software and relying on 10 year old Japanese kids on YouTube showing you how it’s done.”
“It’s very time consuming. At the moment its dealing with chopping down and finishing off a big workload backed up from 2 months ago. Then I can restock paint, focus and destroy. So a lot of painting, more collabs and hopefully I find my way to that dream big wall!
“Oh and get these tee’s officially out I made a good while ago! Will be plenty coming in 2013.”
UKBImages from UKB, Conzo & Street Art London