We caught up with one of the kings of the Glasgow Graffiti & Street Art scene, Rogue-one to talk letters, characters and support for street art in Glasgow city. Rogue’s been painting for a long time and we got an inside view of his art, his city and his newest street pieces.
You paint with fantastic realism, do you ever go back to letters?
It has been a few years since I last did a letters piece. I started with letters like most writers but my artistic side made me enjoy character work. Then the commissions of murals that came my way where all focused on character work. My graffiti crew friends are always having a go at me and telling me to get back into my letters, and I know I should.
You’ve been painting since the eighties, do you find there is more of a space around Glasgow for your art now?
I have been painting for a long time now and I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Glasgow/Scottish graffiti scene. When I started it was tag or bomb anywhere and find a quiet cool spot where I could spend the day doing a burner. Then there was a time when I was full of brass and daring and I’d walk up to any wall and do a burner and if police came along I’d just say I had permission. Sometimes if you’re going big and bold everyone thinks it must be a job. There was a time in the late 90’s that Glasgow had a few legal walls too. So plenty of painting was getting done, and plenty of writers where about, but then the council took the walls away from us. This left Glasgow with nothing and graffiti artists had to go back to tagging and bombing or finding abandoned walls to piece on. Things went quiet again. Now there are probably half the writers that there was, me and the crew have our abandoned spots we go to regularly to paint. The latest thing to happen is the council realised that some of us photo realistic artists would be useful for commission work on large murals. So I’ve found myself getting the chance to do some great big bits of artwork around the centre of town. No legal walls but the murals have made Glasgow look like a busy street art city. Me and the guys still go do quiet spots to paint productions together.
The underwater scene at Broomielaw, how did that come about?
The underwater painting at the Clydeside was one of the council funded murals, one of the first. The idea they came to me with was an under the Clyde river concept. I suggested old tyres and shopping trolleys but they said I could be more creative. So I made up a few different designs with different funny odd things underwater. The one that was confirmed was the one with the Dalek and elephants.
A lot of your subjects seem quite playful, what are your favourite things to paint?
I do try to keep my mural paintings quite funny and playful. I get people telling my to be more political or push some kind of message, but I don’t want to offend anyone. I want everyone good or bad to like my art so the easiest way to do that is just to be playful with a little bit of daring. Some of my favourite subjects to paint are animals and hands. Animal fur and eyes are great to paint and hands can be made to do and express many things.
Is there anything or anyone you really want to portray that you haven’t yet?
There isn’t any that I particularly want to portray, nothing that comes to mind right now. I tend to play around with designs and look at images and then something jumps out at me. If something makes me laugh or is something close to my heart then I usually decide to paint it because I know I will enjoy doing it, and if you enjoy doing it you do a good job of it.
What influences your creative process now?
Many things influence me. Sometimes just things I love: trends, great paintings by other artists, colours that work well together. Sometimes my painting is influenced by how I feel, whether I’m happy or angry. Sometimes I have a dark side and I just need to get out and paint something evil. Usually that’s because I’m painting happy playful images for the commissions, so I need to expel a bit of badness and get out and do a darker more evil bit of art.
You’re a prolific painter. Are you more selective about the walls and projects you take part in now?
I have found myself being more selective about the paintings and walls I do. After years of painting I have found I don’t want to just show up at a wall/event unaware of what the space is like or other people are painting. I now prefer to see the wall, know what I’m working with, prepare myself. The best bits of work are the ones that are planned.
Cowcaddens tunnel mural, it’s one long piece, is it hand, shadow, and some animals?
The Cowcaddens painting looks big in some photos but it was actually smaller and easier to paint than some of the murals I’ve done. Ground level, no heavy equipment needed, but it was painted in January, so it was freezing cold. It was a concept idea I had talked about for a while, and that wall seemed perfect. I took photos of my friends and family doing hand shadow animals, picked the best, and then painted them. While in the middle of doing it I thought it would be nice to juxtapose a real animal image doing a human shadow. So the rabbit doing the peace sign came about.
Who’s your favourite artist at the moment?
I’ve got loads of graffiti artist I like. Etam Cru, Rone, Odeith, Roa, Bart Smates, MTO, Fintan Magee, Mac, to name a few, and of course my friends, Ejek, Che, Vues, Akme, Spore, Smug, Rask and many more.
Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve seen lately?
One of the latest pieces I’ve seen that I love is by Whoamirony, a painting of a hand holding a can spraying fire across the length of the wall. I’ve also started to love the colourful letter pieces of Mosaikone.
Any big projects coming up this year?
I’ve been told about a few new big projects that are lined up for me this year. So I’m hoping they happen. I’m hoping this year is going to be as good as last year but last year is a hard year to beat. I love painting and will keep pushing myself either way. If there’s no commission work I’ll focus on hitting up some large bits of work on my own.
What does the future hold for Rogue-one?
Old age is getting to me, lol, so I don’t know what the future will hold for me. Sometimes I wonder when is too old to paint anymore. Can you be a 40-50 or more year old man spray painting? Maybe I’ll end up focusing more on painting my scale models, or maybe I’ll finally take one of my tattoo friends up on their offer to start tattooing.
Any New Year’s resolutions?
Get back into some lettering!! lol.