Change in direction for Banksy protégé

Artist Eelus’ decision to move away from street art is creating quite a stir. He explains the reason behind his change in direction, the future of street art, and that papercut book cover design for London’s StolenSpace Gallery in association with Penguin…

You’ve said you are moving in new directions, why?

I’ve just been painting stencils for about seven or eight years now, full time for over three years, so I just feel like I want to branch out and try new things. I taught myself how to stencil. I’ve painted work I’m really proud of, I’ve released sell out prints off the back of my paintings so I kind of feel like I’ve done what I intended to do with that medium. I want to find new excitement through other mediums and techniques. I’ll probably always paint stencils to some degree but for the moment I just want to step back from that side of things. It’s just a natural step for any artist, you need to progress and keep moving forward otherwise you get bored and stale and this will always reflect in the work you’re producing. So I want to concentrate on my illustration skills and look at painting with acrylics and brushes instead of spray paint and stencils.

D*Face and Swoon have experimented with etchings and other more traditional techniques, is this something you would consider?

Well I’m looking at experimenting with paper cutting, which isn’t a million miles away from stenciling. My main focus for this will be on developing my illustration style both digitally and on other mediums and then hopefully tying it all back in to painting using acrylics, gouache and inks. I also really enjoy writing so I’d like to combine everything by making a comic, illustrated short stories and other printed stuff.

You did a paper-cut book cover for Stolen Space Gallery and Penguin, how was this?

I’m quite handy with a scalpel at this point but paper cuts are different to painting stencils. With stencils you can paint over a mistake, you can keep reworking anything you’re not happy with. But with paper cuts, if you make a mistake, you either have to start again or rethink the design. I really like the idea of thinking on your feet like that and having to work under that level of concentration, almost like meditation.

You’ve talked about not being very good at painting illegally, how did you first get into street art and why?

Yeah I’ve never worked well under that pressure. I started because I was a fan of the movement and just wanted to give it a go myself. I’ve always been into illustration and have always drawn and had sketchbooks on the go, stencils just seemed like a cool way of developing the work in my sketchbook and getting it out there for people to see. But as soon as I started I was getting invited to paint legally at certain events and before I knew it I was purely working in that way, without the pressures of rushing work illegally.

What’s the future for street art?

There are new artists and galleries popping up daily it seems. I think this will eventually die down, leaving the hard-core, really talented people that have always been involved, just getting on with things without making too much of a song and dance about things.

Why do you think it’s so popular worldwide?

The rising popularity of street art is coming from the fact that it’s open to all, free for everyone to have a go if they want to. There’s no galleries involved, no training necessary and people who feel the need to express themselves creatively are drawn to that.

This is an edited interview transcript for a commissioned feature