Rocky Horror Show

Street Artist Kid 30 on His Latest Exhbition Misspelt Youth

5 April 19 interview: Cleo Asabre-Holt

You might not know his name, but if you’ve ever walked around Nottingham, you’ll definitely be familiar with his work. Whether dominating Hopkinson by the station, covering the outside wall of Brass Monkey or brightening up The Avenues in Sneinton, Kid30’s bold, iconic cartoon characters have helped shape the visual landscape of the city. We caught up with the street artist to talk about his latest exhibition, Misspelt Youth

Your Misspelt Youth pieces merge well-known cartoon characters together. Tell us about this…
It’s based on growing up in the eighties without a TV. I’d pretend I’d watched shows but really had no idea. I was more into illustration, like Tintin and Asterix. I paint original characters but picked this style because of my three-year-old and reliving cartoons through him.  It’s taken two years of watching, hunting and hacking characters up to see what happens.

How did you source all the figurines for Misspelt Youth?
OCD! Car boots mostly. The Krusty’s came from eBay. I once cut up a figure of Bender from Futurama that I then saw selling for £100 on eBay. That’s cursed me. I wasn’t even happy with the figure I’d hacked up.

Did you get many people buying at the exhibition?
I sold half. The most I’ve ever sold a piece for was at Misspelt Youth. People focus too much on monetary value though. I do shows where nothing’s for sale: you just have to be happy with what you do.

Tell us about Spit & Sawdust on Mansfield Road...
The shop that never opens. Myself and Boaster set it up as a junk shop selling ‘high-end tat’. It’s also a studio and storage space. It’s had pop-ups and Blue Barrel Cider nights. We had UKYA paintings, which were really good. It’s run as a weird organic thing.

When did you start doing street art?
I always drew as a kid. In the eighties there wasn’t graffiti culture like there is now. There was the New York scene and a few books. I copied pictures, but was a late starter with spray cans. It wasn’t until I moved to Notts and Coverage opened (now Montana shop) that I got the bug.

You’re not from Nottingham?
No. Down south, near Oxford. There wasn’t much to paint on there – just a lot of trees. The rave era’s why I moved to Nottingham; I enjoyed the culture and doing flyers for big raves like Detonate.

Is that how things moved from hobby to job?
Yeah. It took a while to become full-time. I was part of Oxygen Thieves, then we started getting private and festival commissions.  

Are there messages within your public murals?
My stuff is light-hearted. Sometimes there are personal themes but I just want people to relate – even just recognising characters.

Tell us about the conflict between legal and illegal graffiti…
If you’re not allowed to paint somewhere then it’s illegal. There’s tolerated spaces like skate parks. There’s “halls of fame”, where you learn by going over each other’s stuff. There’s politics to each environment. I like to keep myself to myself so often hunt out my own spots.

Has anyone ever painted over your work?
Yeah, loads! That’s the ever-changing nature of graffiti. Unless it’s commercial work or the spot isn’t a regular graffiti spot, then it’s bad form.

Is the commercialisation of street art good or bad for the scene?
Both. The more exposure to the general public, the less they feel threatened by it. This opens opportunities, which makes the scene grow. But when things become mainstream they can become watered down, removing some truer aspects of the form.

I once cut up a figure of Bender from Futurama that I then saw selling for £100 on eBay. That’s cursed me. I wasn’t even happy with the figure I’d hacked up.

How do people respond to your work?
I don’t see reactions because I just do, then exit. I got really good responses to Misspelt Youth. I was buzzing. People write lots of positive posts, but there’s negative press too.

What can we expect from the upcoming Cell Colour exhibition at Hung Up Gallery?
It’s a group show curated by Onga, featuring works from Boaster, Toddjerm, Emily Catherine, Onga and myself. Each artist will be showing a collection of recent paintings with P Brothers and Detail DJing on the opening night.

What is your biggest commission?
Glastonbury. That was a highlight. The piece I’m personally happiest with is the monkey on the side of Brass Monkey, which Grim Finga helped with.

What challenges do street artists face?
Adapting to client’s ideas and doing less of the work you want to do. Working unpaid hours. Pitching ideas you don’t get funding for. Funding all your own stuff. And it’s an expensive hobby.

Who are some of your favourite local artists?
Notts has loads of talent: Grim Finga, Anna Wheelhouse, Boaster, Dilk, Craze, Masio, Daps, Rikki Marr, Ego Warrior. Too many to mention everyone.

Who would your dream collaboration be with?
Dran. A French artist from Metal Vaporz Crew. I love his stuff!

What’s next for Kid30?
I’ve got a few upcoming commercial bits, some group shows and open submission pop-ups later in the year. Might take up gardening too…  

Anything else to add?
Massive thanks to Rob Howie Smith for the space in Hockley for Misspelt Youth. He took a big risk on me and deserves props for that, plus Blue Bell Cider and The Angel for their support.

Cell Colour is at Hung Up Gallery from Friday 5 April.

Kid30 website

Haarlem Fieldwork