Drawn to it
WHILE GREG STOBBS WAS BORN INTO AN ILLUSTRATION DYNASTY, HIS SKILLS WITH MULTIPLE MEDIUMS HAS SEEN HIM BECOME INTERNATIONALLY RENOWED AS THE MAN BEHIND SQUIRLART
You know it has been a good interview when you start a conversation yakking about graffiti, end it talking about socialist trees, and have a bit about squirrels in the middle.
Greg Stobbs is a fascinating man. In fact, he is two fascinating men. He is Greg Stobbs the illustrator and he is also the prominent street artist known as SquirlArt. “It’s hard to say which one I am most,” says Greg. “Not in a mental way. I just get very bored very easily! So, I like to do a lot of different types of work.”
Having bagged a degree in fine art at the University for the Creative Arts, “way back when it was KIAD”, he focused on sculpture and stonecarving. But the pull of 2D saw Greg take to the streets to hone his spray skills as a young man before his more “grown-up” side took him into the world of illustration. Mixed mediums are not a problem. But to understand Greg, it is first important to understand his lineage. Being the son of world renowned illustrators Joanna Stobbs and William Stobbs, known for providing the images for works such as Grimms’ Fairy Tales – books that have been read by millions of children – could come as pressure.
In fact, it was an impetus to succeed. “I used to draw all over the walls at home. But my parents knew where I was coming from and they gave me a place to draw in the house. I started using pens and paints and then wondered what it would be like to go outside and do it on the walls.” With influences from comics, cartoons and street art, Greg has his own style that he takes to any medium. While his street-artist name refers to his days scaling walls to daub his designs, more lately the work of SquirlArt has become sought by clients across the world, from providing festival artwork through to murals for brands like Urban Outfitters or Adidas. “Graffiti is a good way of making other people’s lives more entertaining,” he says, “but it’s not about vandalism. I want to have a positive effect.
For example, if someone has the same journey to and from work every single day it gets very dull, so I want to put something in front of them that wasn’t there the day before, just so they can be interested, whether they like it or not.” Working with street artists such SPZero76 and inkie from Bristol and CaptainKris from London, SquirlArt’s canvases are always changing, from being invited to create pieces inside York Cathedral through to post-apocalyptic dumps in Sweden. But the philosophy is the same: respect.
“When I do my pieces, I want to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons and not pi**ing anybody off,” he says. “It is very easy to get beef in the street-art scene because essentially you’re going over each other’s work all the time. “For example, Margate is not my town, so people coming down from London to take a wall in Margate right now isn’t right. The local artists must be like ‘What the f**k? We’ve been here for ages and you’re just going over my pieces’. “I was in Rome last year, and the main road out of the city it is lined with pieces. There is a real respect for each other’s work, there are pieces that have been there 20 years, and I believe in that.”
While SquirlArt has been commissioned to head off around the world to create highly valued pieces, Greg Stobbs has been at his home in Canterbury developing his next focuses. “It’s in many directions, all the time,” he says. “I can’t settle. It’s kind of annoying. Agents and publishers always want to put you in a style, but I can’t do that. There is always more to learn.” In the footsteps of his parents, Greg is working towards that children’s books style. “When I die, I like the idea that I have given someone something that has genuinely been enjoyed,” he says. “When you’re sitting reading a book with your kid, there is something real about that. It’s not just about making money, there’s a bit of legacy in there.” So, if he had to choose? “Some work pays well, and some work does more for you personally. Very rarely do both of those elements come together. So, I have to have both.”