Graffiti Stories #3: Rethymno, Crete

Graffiti Stories #3: Rethymno, Crete

I stumbled across this street art on the side of a school in the labyrinthine back streets of Rethymno, Crete; streets mixing Greek, Venetian and Ottoman architectural influences alongside artisan’s boutiques, tourist tat and restaurant touts: “You from England? My cousin lives in Co-ven-tary! Very nice town!”

I’ve always loved comics and graphic novels and wished I was talented enough to make pages come alive with lines and ink. However, as we say in Derby – I can’t draw for toffee.

I once wrote a surreal, single page comic strip for a football fanzine but left the art to somebody else (imagine the FA hierarchy hanging from the ceiling like vampire bats, players grafting on extra legs all the better to win win win ….. it didn’t catch on).

I’ve come to terms with my inability to draw, but seeing what street artists create often leaves me feeling awestruck (and just a bit jealous). I suppose it’s artistry combined with the necessary guerrilla execution which fascinates me. You can’t get quite the same buzz as a writer, tapping away at your laptop.

Graffiti Stories #2: San Jose, Costa Rica

When I was planning my trip to Costa Rica, a friend advised me to avoid staying in San Jose. I love sprawling cities, so I pushed him on his reasoning. “Because it’s Central America’s answer to Wolverhampton!” he said.

For those not familiar with English geography, Wolverhampton is a city in the West Midlands, notorious for traffic gridlock and an excessive zeal for concrete. Or so some people say. Is the city’s reputation deserved? I don’t know – I’ve only visited briefly to watch a couple of football games at the city’s Molineux stadium.

According to Wikipedia: “The demonym for people from the city is ‘Wulfrunian‘”. Wulfrunian?! To me, this sounds more like an incidental character from Game of Thrones, one of those introduced early in an episode and slaughtered before its end. A name implying a love of wattle and daub as construction materials, not concrete.

I’m digressing I know, but stay with me. I have a friend from Wolverhampton. At university he fell out of love with his course and spent his evenings learning to play the guitar rather than studying. In fact, he learnt to play one song: Cat Steven’s Moon Shadow – I listened to it on repeat, in sections, a hundred times … I can’t listen to that song ever again. When he sat his first exam, he did no more than scrawl Each Failure Is a Stepping Stone To Success on the exam paper and then headed for the pub. This particular failure wasn’t a stepping stone to success in this exam, but you get the idea – don’t mess with Wulfrunians. He came back and smashed it the following year.

If Wolverhampton can produce such self confidence, I should give its Central American cousin a chance to prove its worth.

So I stayed 2 nights in San Jose, giving me a full day to explore. It was the weekend and my expectations of traffic-clogged streets, exhaust fumes and hollering horns, proved inaccurate. On Sunday morning, a weirdly quiet and almost deserted city greeted me. But slowly, it revealed its charms: the Teatro Nacional, like a building plucked from Madrid and plonked down in the heart of the city; the Pre-Columbia Gold Museum (which also housed a fascinating contemporary art exhibit); and the pretty Barrio Escalante where I ate a wonderful lunch of chorizo salad and drank enough refreshing craft beer to make the rest of my explorations slower paced.

The one attraction I wasn’t able to see in its full glory, as it’s closed on Sundays, was the usually bustling Central Market. The plus side being all the stores had their shutters down revealing this fabulous selection of graffiti.

Te Amos Wolverhampton.

Graffiti Stories #1: Los Angeles

I’ve had a story about teenage graffiti artists who are actually magicians spraying ideas on the inside of my skull for years, but I’ve never found time to write the book

But because of this nagging idea, I took pictures of graffiti and street art whenever I came across them, to incorporate into the book one day. There’s amazing work in the most unexpected locations; witty, intricate, beautiful and disturbing.

The images below are from Downtown Los Angeles. I’d gone running from my hotel early in the morning, picking directions at random. It was cold and very foggy and didn’t feel like LA. More like a ghostly nowheresville.

I spotted the graffiti on the side of several derelict stores fronted by drifts of detritus  and cardboard boxes and started snapping  with my phone. I was still listening to music, so I didn’t hear the boxes move.

A dark shape in the corner of my eye alerted me. Shadows emerging from every direction. Rising from the ground. Clambering from  boxes. A bottle rolling across the road. Something banging into metal shutters setting them rattling. Further down the street, I could see more dark shapes;  smudges in the fog, charcoal ghosts.

Spooked, your intrepid graffiti journalist took off at speed, retracing his route back towards the hotel, glancing over his shoulder. What he was escaping wasn’t a scene from The Walking Dead, but something much worse. Groups of the desperate homeless, swaddled in layers of clothes, faces covered by balaclavas and scarves, trying to keep warm. They’d been woken from their slender slumber by some bloke from England, now sprinting back to his hotel for a hot shower, central heating and a big breakfast over which he could recount the whole encounter for the entertainment of others.







My Pinterest graffiti/street art board