GF Smith paper asked me a few questions about creating the world’s largest graffiti-style paper collage in Munich, Germany
GFS: How did you start doing graffiti?
DOES: I came into contact with graffiti when I was 14. From the age of eight I was at the academy for professional football and needed an outlet from the restraints of life as a professional soccer player. So I started to tag in the streets. For years I lived a double life that no one knew about. My creativity helped me to gain focus and stay positive. For example, when I played a bad game of football I always wanted to go back home and draw to get a positive feeling. It has also helped me get through injuries throughout my career.
In 1999 I got arrested with Sanne, who is now my wife, for painting an illegal piece. Since I played in the Dutch First Division at that time, this could have seriously harmed my career so I decided to stop. It turned out I couldn´t live without it and started again, on a more professional level, continuing to look for my style. This took me about 10 years to find. You can see in my book how my style has evolved, starting from the very basics to more complex bits, colour studies, and material studies.
GFS: How was the transition from being a football player to being an artist?
DOES: It was actually quite smooth. After I stopped playing football due to a bad knee injury we moved to Sydney, Australia. There, I had my first solo exhibition. It was at that time that social media emerged so I started posting and people reacted. This led to new opportunities and eventually I got invitations to do projects worldwide.
GFS: How would you describe your artistic style?
DOES: It is always difficult to describe one´s own style. I do not like to limit myself; ultimately I’d like to express myself without boundaries. In general my work is still based on the letterform. It’s a mix of influences from old-school graffiti writers and my own research. By thoroughly studying the relations between letters, their composition and balance, I learned to understand them. My style is characterised by well-balanced colour schemes, clean lines and highly detailed elements. Gradually my work has evolved into 3D art, using different media like cement, fabric and paper.
GFS: How did you go from graffiti to making paper art?
DOES: It started during the first lockdown when schools were closed. The kids ran around the house while Sanne and I tried to work. I needed to give them something to do. Since we have a lot of paper in the house I suggested they make a collage or something. It looked like fun so I made one with them. When I posted it on Instagram people reacted really well. That was the start. Heavily inspired by the kids!
GFS: How was the installation for this project? Was it the first time you have done something of this scale?
DOES: It was super fun to do and yes, it was the first time of creating something at this scale. The key was that I prepared myself by creating the installation as a miniature version. Luckily this method proved to be solid enough to even deal with the initial setback of not being able to use a projector.
GFS: How long did it take for you to build?
DOES: The whole project took seven days to assemble. It’s 4 x 4 metres, so it’s pretty big. Luckily I was assisted by Arik, who helped me with cutting the paper into the right shapes and sorting out the various materials.
GFS: How did you create the installation?
DOES: We started by cutting the shapes. Every shape you see is hand-cut on cutting boards on the ground. Once every shape was cut, we started applying the pieces onto the wall, layer over layer to create depth. Every new layer is stuck onto the layer underneath with a special type of glue.
GFS: Was this your first time using Colorplan?
DOES: Yes, it was the first time using Colorplan paper. The quality is top, and the variety of available paper structures and colours helped to create depth and make for a dynamic and bright work. I did have a few minor setbacks. On the last day, after having assembled the whole piece, the glue came off on a piece of paper affected by sunlight. Luckily I managed to fix it. I am not easily pleased with a result, perfectionist as I am. But with this piece, the result is better than I had hoped for.
GFS: What is your favourite thing about the Colorplan range?
DOES: I really liked the Purple in combination with Ebony. In general, the colours of Colorplan matched the papers from Gmund that I used. The bright colours worked nicely with the Colorplan palette. One thing you cannot see in the picture is that the clouds have an embossing. There is another part that has the Wire embossing, and they are all oriented horizontally. This level of detail really appeals to me.
GFS: What has been the reaction to your paper installation?
DOES: The response has been overwhelming and very positive. It makes me very happy that I can move forward and push the boundaries of graffiti in a way that still preserves my love for the letterform. The curator, Yasha Young, was also very happy with the result.
GFS: What are your creative plans for the future?
DOES: I am always looking for new adventures and challenges. I would like to make more of these paper installations. There are plenty of challenges with it, such as assembling even bigger pieces. It would also be really cool to optically take over a room. For example, when you step inside, something seems to be coming at you from the ceiling. We’ll see what the future has in store!
Thank you Yasha young, GFSmith paper, Gmund and Colorplan.