Live Graffiti painting show for Campari Thailand. I was hired by IWS Thailand, they are one of Asia’s biggest wine & spirit distribution companies. They hired me to create live graffiti atan event they were hosting. They wanted me to paint live on canvas at the Campari new look branding launch party.
Live graffiti painting for Campari
Campari is a brand that’s been around for a long time. The richness of the brands history is something the client was very interested to portray and captivate. The art I created has to echo the sentiment of the Campari spirit. Since the brand has been around since 1860 that meant I had a lot of history to read up on and a big legacy to live up to. Bring it on!
Being an artist for hire means working to please the client. As an artist however it is easy to get carried away in a world of personal creative fantasy and not really be concerned about whether the final product ‘fits’ a brief or conveys a certain kind of message. However for the client context is everything as is delivery and so this piece has to be real special to cut the grade.
Over the years painting I have become good at ticking both boxes. I pay attention to what the client would like the art viewer to see and the message they are trying to convey, but I also make sure to leave a little room for my own personal artistic expression. This live graffiti piece for Campari was no exception.
The Campari new look launch party was held at the uber swanky W hotel in Bangkok which is part of the international chain of high class hip hotels. The venue where the art is to be exhibited forms a large part of the live graffiti performance context. The venue is a big influencing factor to the style of art I create. Seeing as the vibe of the party was going to be rather fabulous and fancy some really raw underground live graffiti wild-style was kinda out of the question… If you follow my art you may know I like to make my work a little on the edgy side, however working to a client’s brief is always a fun challenge and is a great way to sharpen and expand artistic skills.
The live graffiti art performance brief and proposal for Campari
As with all Graffiti pieces and live art work I create for clients a proposal is the golden ticket to sealing the deal. Upon reflection the proposal sketch I sent was pretty damn rough and I feel fortunate enough they probably didn’t base the decision on the strength of the proposal sketch. To be honest Campari had hired me before so I guess they already trusted me to create something of solid calibre. However, I do say to most of my clients that the proposal I create is a rough sketch and more of an indicator of content and layout rather than final finish.
I prefer to spend less time on the proposal and more time on the art. Also not that I didn’t trust the contract would go through but as a general rule I can’t expect all jobs at proposal stage to follow through. There are little situations as frustrating as spending a long time creating a proposal only to have the job cancelled… Anyway, I digress. The below image is the proposal sketch I sent to Campari, I created the sketch on a app on the ipad, I exported the image I drew into photoshop and placed the image directly onto the space where the art was to be featured at the party.
Digital proposal for live graffiti piece drawn on the Ipad
Campari had already previously hired me to create 18 pieces of illustration for another project… however this was a separate brief and a completely different beast. The idea was to create something that could not only function as an art piece but also as a performance. Seeing as I feel right at home with live graffiti performance and live event painting art this shouldn’t be too difficult…
The client; IWS Thailand / Campari were planning a launch party to celebrate the new style Campari bottle design that was being released in Thailand. They wanted to hire an artist to paint live graffiti art piece during the launch party, so that all the party goers could watch the art being created live. The time slot was a very limited 1 hour (paint from 8pm-9pm). However it had to be large scale – fine if you are using spray cans to paint but this party was indoors in a swanky hotel, there is no way they would be happy about toxic fumes and paint drips all over the guests and venue.
The art was to be created over 3 large canvas panels. Initially the proposed sizing was at 100cm x 150cm (however this was later re-assessed after I viewed the space…more on this later)
They didn’t specify what exactly I was to paint figuratively speaking, but they did give me a theme / keyword for each canvas that was to make up the body of work. These keywords being;
- Intriguing (canvas 1)
- Stimulating (canvas 2)
- Pleasure (canvas 3)
So my initial thoughts were…
- It should contain the bottle and/or the characters i paint will be drinking Campari cocktails from glasses
- It has to be somewhat sexy and chic and not to edgy and raw
- Create graffiti art that people can enjoy on different levels
- Though not specified in the brief, I wanted each canvas to have the ability to exist by itself. A stand-alone piece which retains it’s given theme, but I also wanted the 3 canvas pieces to be connected visually.
- If this kind of size was to be created live, I was going to have to work fu*king fast!
So as you can see although the client’s brief is quite specific as to what the art should be, there is not many things saying what the art should not be… This opens the door to a lot of creative possibilities, as long as I retain a bit of conscientious restraint.
After a bit of thought and back and forth we decided it would be best to create most of the art work off-site before bringing it to the venue and create the final touches (outlines and such) live at the launch party. This meant I could take time and carefully lay down the foundations of the art pieces and concentrate on the live painting side of things at the venue.
As with all live graffiti art performance painting I do, I like to get a good idea of the space. This means whenever possible visiting the venue beforehand and getting a good lay of the land. This not only helps me plan my part of the job, it also helps the person hiring me understand what exactly I will need to get the job done. This is the perfect opportunity to work out any kinks in the plan. It was a good case I did manage to visit the W Hotel venue before the party because the measurement I was sent wouldn’t have worked so well.
IMAGE OF WALL OF ART HANGING
Visiting the venue I had a look at the proposed space where the art was to be displayed while I was painting it. It was indeed a huge space and after measuring the wall on which the art would hang we came up with a new size. We decided on a new size of 160cm wide x 180cm high per canvas. This size would fit the structure in perfect harmony with the venue. The other thing is that the art would be up really high, this means having to sort out a way that I could get high enough to be at the level of the art whilst painting it.
What is the meaning of art work and how does it represent the clients brief?
Like I said previously I’d put a lot of though and effort into the piece before I even applied paint to canvas, I knew pretty much exactly how the piece was going to look finished however I didn’t count on improvising and finding out new meanings during the course of the creation.
I remind the keywords for each particular canvas were; intrigue (left canvas), pleasure (middle canvas) & stimulating (right canvas)
Left canvas – ‘The Penguin barman… an intriguing proposition…’
Campari is in all honesty a very interesting drink, it simply tastes different. The initial taste of Campari is rather sharp and bitter however therein lies its appeal. There is simply no other alcoholic drink that tastes quite like Campari, it is in a league of its own. It’s exotic and rare by default, it has a rich and colourful history, it has an unusual colour, taste and smell; it is by all measures an intriguing substance.
I wanted the imagery of this first canvas to reflect the uniqueness and rarity that inspires my intrigue into Campari. I imagined in a real life scenario being offered a strange drink by a curious looking barman, I think this alone is an intriguing proposition. Some people like the usual and ordinary; I personally seek out the weird and wonderful. Bearing all this in mind I decided on a penguin barman dressed in a luxury tuxedo proposing a curious potion; a classic Campari cocktail.
This canvas in contrast with the rest of the art work is most surreal piece of the graffiti triptych. The penguin offers an interesting jump of point for the viewer and begins the story of on the right foot for the client (it features the companies branding and the Campari bottle, which was essentially the reason for the party). Like Campari, penguins are rather rare and exotic creatures, their lifestyles are full of intrigue even by a standard of the most curious creatures out there. Also what the hell is a penguin doing dressed in a tuxedo serving Campari in a hot country such as Thailand at the W hotel no less? Pour me some of that s*** I’m signing up!
MIDDLE canvas – ‘a genie in a bottle…release the pleasure’
Pleasure is one of those open ended words that mean all sorts of things to different people. So I was rather aware of not defining pleasure by a single object, I was rather going for a feeling represented by a moment in time and action. I also wanted to make the piece look sexy. If the penguin to the left represents men dressed smartly in a tuxedo the genie represents the female mystique and glamour…
Because I was designing a triptych it was important to me that the canvases worked as a series when exhibited together side by side but also function independently. Looking at the piece as a whole there are elements of the male, female and the abstract form. Each features one of the aforementioned and they fuse together to bring the whole triptych together. The middle canvas is very important, the eyes draw to the centre and this canvas creates a bridge between the two outer canvases. It is central in substance and the art on this canvas has to reflect the above sentiment.
So the main character on this middle connecting canvas was a female genie; alluring, dazzling, sexy, unrestricted, flirtatious and playful. Playing on the whole exotic theme of the event and the product itself I created the main body of the genie red (the smokey part and the clothing). Red represents the Campari. Also red is a colour which purveys strong, emotionally intense feelings; passion, love, desire, determination, strength, power, energy as well as danger and war. It’s a compound of extreme emotional reactions… pleasure in its purest form is too unbridled by means of measure and restriction, it’s a pure force. The genie being released from the bottle is itself a symbol of great release, and with a great release we find great pleasure. She represents the feeling you get when your working week is done and it’s time to have some fun. No longer restricted by the mundane, office hours, the bills we pay, the jobs that drag us down, this genie character on the canvas is contrary to all these things, she is capturing the feeling of pure pleasure.
Sexy genie enjoying Campari – She is feeling pleasure by being released from the bottle. The bottle represents the imaginary forces that keep our life under pressure, our jobs, bills, work…Once she is released she is floating pleasurably into a new environment; a party, a place where she can enjoy herself, to dance, to look and feel good, she is floating and free from normal stress of life. She is in a state of pleasure. She is having fun and being enchanted by the music the DJ is playing and perhaps the way she looks at the DJ means she likes him, perhaps she is even flirting with him, she is holding a glass of Campari, she is enjoying herself and having fun. As long at the music keeps going and the drinks are flowing she is floating on a cloud of happiness, She is the centre of attention and centre of party (and indeed the art), she is the star of the party, she is happy in her own company and feels complete, but she is not alone, she is at a party with her friends.
This canvas is unfinished, it was meant to be finished live!
Let the music set my brain alight, we gonna dance and party all night
I think the canvas pieces should be simple with not too much details which is why i focused on one character per canvas, by connecting the canvases they tell a complete story, the art is to reflect and compliment the surroundings. On this canvas I focused on the DJ.
Music plays an important part in every party, and when it comes to parties there are few figures more iconic and important than the DJ. The DJ is the source and selector of the music and he is the magician of the mood. Music is one of the few things that stimulates the same part of your brain as food, sex and drugs. In fact it stimulates the largest part of our brains; the cerebrum (SOURCE), where music makes us feel emotions or remember memories triggered by the sounds we hear… If this is true of music and the human brain, the DJ is the symbol of pure stimulation that comes with both feeling for the people and passion for the music.
The DJ together with the Campari drinks is the stimulator of the party, he brings the music that makes the people relax and have a good time, to enjoy a party after long day at work. The energy (the colour behind him – his aura) that he brings to the party is the power of red, the power of Campari…He is cool and funky and a bit different from normal people.
The turntables are his weapon of choice, however he doesn’t use records, instead on his decks are two large slices of orange, juicy and tasty, they are representative of the magic of a perfect “mix,” the mix that occurs in music and the mix in the classic Campari / Orange cocktail combination. The music stimulates the brain, the drink stimulates the body. Hi speech bubble has no words, being a beast of passion and creation the sound he makes is “<3, ” because he loves. He loves what he does, he loves the party and the people he plays for and he loves his life this way. Although perhaps he is even more in love with the genie woman, the one who is looking at him with alluring eyes in a flirtatious fashion.
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell…
However the above is what I planned during the proposal art process, before I’d actually painted anything… During the creation process I started to see more hidden meaning in the art I didn’t previously realise. And as such I present a bit more information about the symbology used in the art work. Read on…
- I didn’t realise the penguin was a Native American animal spirit featured in their art and legends. The penguin totem animal spirit is always dressed to impress in his tuxedo – it represents making a great first impression and dressing elegantly when attending a special occasion, the penguin reminds us how much fun it is to dress up and look our best. However the penguin is not superficial, he also represents lifelong commitment to his significant other and a sense of unfettered duty and perseverance, a spirit that is able to take on long arduous journeys and prevail. The penguin is duty, survival and epic journeys all whilst doing it in elegance and fine grace. The penguin is strong willed and will do anything for close friends and family. SOURCE
- The penguin is holding the Campari bottle and the genie is emerging from the bottle, her vapour forms an 8…in the Christian bible 8 represents new beginnings, positivity, in Chinese and many Asian cultures represents luck, in Buddhism the ‘ta-ma-jak’ symbol represents the 8 noble paths of life, the Chinese honour the number 8 so much that the Beijing summer Olympics were opened at 8 seconds 8 minutes past 8, on the 8th August 2008! The Japanese consider 8 prosperous and lucky for other reasons, due to its wide and expansive physical form as represented in Japanese kanji character. The Japanese 8 expands as does the genie from the bottle, which captures our imagination and sense of child-like wonder in the land of myths and fables a place where we all like to escape from time to time.
- The genie in the art piece is using her hands to make special signals…the right hand makes the classical Indian hand gesture; the “hamsasya Hasta”. Traditional healing arts call this hand symbol the gyan-mudra; the sign of knowledge, peace and meditation, it also represents the softness and tenderness of the female, furthermore it represents determination and painting, as I was when creating this piece, on a limited timescale!
- The genie’s left hand holds a Campari cocktail classically garnished with orange but the hand holding the glass is also concealing a deeper meaning. Whilst holding the glass it is simultaneously sending a message to the on-looking love-struck Dj. The shape her left hand forms the commonly accepted ‘I-L-Y’ sign in American Sign Language.. I L Y not only means love, but can be used to express esteem to the recipient. So perhaps there is romance in the air, or perhaps she is simply acknowledging that the DJ just dropped a heavy mix? The term ‘Jinn’ derives from the Arabic language for “to hide” or “hidden”, we all carry hidden passions and feelings ready to reveal them to the right person at the right moment in time…perhaps that is what is going on here.
- The Dj in the painting looks somewhat like a professor, he is a mixologist of sounds, rhythms and melodies, he is a blender of emotions thought and feelings. The Dj receives love and respect from the audience and he gives his energy and love in return. He is clearly in awe of the amazing girl genie he sees before him, he might even be in love.
- He mixes on the turntable but instead of a record he is literally mixing using an orange. He is mixing his music (the orange) with the movement of the genie (who represents the red Campari) they are fusing their emotions and essences. The music he plays compliments her excitement as does the orange garnish compliment the Campari.
- The Dj is modern day symbol representative of the urban cool. He plays music in a style that’s cutting edge, he knows what’s hot and what takes to be hip. He leads the way in iconic style. The urban king of cool.
The prevalent colours of the characters in the piece represent the ultimate blend, the perfect mix of positive creation. They form the primary colours; blue, yellow and red. These are the foundation colours from which any other colour can be mixed, just as combining Campari with other ingredients makes a more than a cocktail but a work of art.
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