You can’t always get what you want....
The perennial guessing game with the weather and the gripes about schedule and timing never being perfect aside, there is nothing more an artist or a gallery like mine loves than getting paint on the streets! Tabby looked at me as we drove back from Newcastle airport on an already dark and cold Monday night "we really need to start planning this shit in spring" he says! I know he means it but I know he only means it because failure is annoying and who gets excited about that right!
In fairness we had tracked the weather in advance and it was looking sweet all week, but this is England, Northern England in November, so who were we kidding! We had three walls all planned, scaffolding in place, all stencils prepped in Tabby’s Austrian studio, all we needed was a window. Plot spoiler, we did get the window but man did we have to work for it. We had a general catch up post Moniker and as the miles clicked down our minds turned to the job in hand. There was only one option, we were not going home tonight we had approximately 24 hours and then all kinds of liquid hell was going to break loose.
Straight to the gallery and it was now the business end of street art, stencils were rolled out and re rolled in order, cans prepped, IKEA bags filled with blades, tape, gloves the usual set up and we were gone out the door. The biggest gamble now was which order, the largest job that had taken the most setting up due to scaffolding, shared land issues and exposure was obviously the one to get done, however half done if the weather broke early we would have achieved little to nothing. So our game plan was set.
We wandered through town looking like any other people would on a Monday night...in the dark....with a collapsible ladder... dressed In black... with a massive bag or spray cans! Once there, we concealed ourself in plain site round the corner and set about prepping the wall. This 1st wall had two massive benefits, one it was as smooth as a mirror and the other was it was already painted in a good coat of grey. For this scale of work Tabby had decided to cut straight onto the wall, it takes longer but allows a greater feel for the piece and for any alterations to be made as it develops.
With blades in hand we both took out the body of the piece and then Tabby sprayed in the black and we let it dry before replacing the stencil the starting to cut out the detailing together. We had the usual enquiries of ‘Are you Banksy?’ And ‘whatcha doing?’ from Monday night drinkers, but as is always the way police, passers by, occupants of the building even were blissfully unaware. We worked quickly and efficiently and Tabby’s mastery of his craft made up for my lack of speed! 2 hours from start to finish and he was signing the piece while I shoved now redundant stencils deep in a Biffa bin, one down!
Off we trotted and would you believe it the next target was a pub...so we just caught last orders before all the lovely clientele remembered it was in fact a school night a toddled off back home. The lane was ours.
This piece was a different beast, more colour, more detail, ergo more cutting and the surface, well that was beautiful old scared red bricks...beautiful until you have to cut fine stencils out on them that is! Same plan, cut out the whole design then fill in the base layer, which in this case was fire engine red, and let it dry. Tabby gave several heavy coats to make sure the contrast between the piece and the wall was enough. Once dry we spray tacked the inside back, it was blades out and the unenviable task of cutting out fine detail on a sand paper rough pockmarked wall kneeling on cold cobbles among the fag butts...glamour! Tabby developed a ‘cutting upwards’ technique which I duly adopted as the apprentice! It was still awkward to control but better than bumping over the old reds.
The detailing went well, but the cutting on this one was very time consuming. As with any task like this we drifted in and out of quiet conversation as we focussed on the job in hand...suddenly a voice out of nowhere appeared, neither of us heard what it said but it seemed to utter something that was more like a statement than a question! I turned round to see an old guy sitting on a step the other side of the lane eating his chips and taking in, what to him, must have been a pretty bizarre scene! Engrossed as we were I didn't hear or see him appear, I said hello, he didn’t respond and after about 30 Mins, without a word he upped a left!
It was getting towards 3am when Tabby finished spraying the main body. We were both tired, cold and hands and cognitive skills were starting to leave us ... but we both know that the devil is in the detail so we re hung the main stencil and taped up the whole piece to create the final shadow layer which always makes Tabby’s work pop.
We were done in every sense of the word but really pleased with where we had got. 9hours after landing 2 down, home bed then a few hours sleep.
The next day I was on patrol with the crazy pair Bear and Scout (my 3 year old and 14 month year old!) so I was off the team, but Tabby was up and out the door at 8 and I had organised two trusty amigos Jay and Paul to help him on the scaffolding piece. I was treated to regular updates from the team and the BBC weather app was the most used app of the day while I rocked it at soft play! The weather was set to change at 2pm and this was a big piece which required a lot of up and down between high and low scaffolding checking positions before cutting and spraying. The wall was definitely the middle of the three for quality of cut, not nearly smooth but not nearly as bad as red brick alley!
The team were exceptional and Tabby said they were invaluable to making the weather enforced deadline. The last twenty minutes saw dark skies turn to light rain and then to the inevitable downpour. But by then it was tired bodies but smiling faces as it was done. All three up and looking amazing in 20 hours of landing!
So we now have a total of five amazing pieces by Tabby in The Great Border City. Make sure you check them all out in person. A video of the process will be dropped shortly on the site so keep your eyes peeled. Thanks to everyone who helped in the process, Tabby is done for the year now and back in his Austrian castle in the mountains planning world domination ( or maybe he is getting ready for his latest release of his unique concrete panel canvases, I never know!) but do you really think I am hanging up my planning hat for the year...don’t be silly, if the weather holds I predict another plane will be landing from a different destination and more paint will be on the streets before you hear Santa’s sleigh bells!
To check out Tabby’s original pieces that are for sale through the gallery click HERE