London-based artist Tom Blackford’s characters must feature prominently in the nightmares of children everywhere. Smoking more crack than hookah, the Cheshire Cat dares unsuspecting kiddies to pull his tail. A slimy baby-snatcher licks infants like Popsicles. Disgruntled Grouchy Smurf eyes his latest catch with disdain. (Judging by his grimace, that red critter is slightly less than smurftastic). Mixing classic characters with original creations, Blackford’s paintings haunt viewers long after they pass them by.
Blackford, also known as Inkfetish, cites an early obsession with comic books as his first artistic project. “When I was four or five, I started a comic that I worked on for about two years!” he recalls. “I'd spend hours a day on it in my own little world. I'm pretty much doing the same thing now.” Combining his comic background and an appreciation for tattoo art, Blackford began signing his tags as “Inkfetish”. While he’s grown and progressed as an artist, he tries to maintain his childhood love of art. “I think as a child you find everything wondrous,” he suggests. “I've tried to hold onto that feeling or at least try and go back there when starting a new painting.”
“Getting into graffiti/street art/whatever label you want to put on my work was a natural process,” he says. “I started out playing around with graffiti in my teens. Then in my early 20’s, I met people that really inspired me to start realising my illustrations on a bigger scale.” Although he often works alone, Blackford spent time with members of TMP (The Master Plan) from 2005-2007. “It was more of a group of individuals I was hanging out with around that time rather than a graffiti crew seeking world domination,” he insists. “We travelled the UK a little bit and banged out a few really cool walls during that time. I’ve got to mention Ebzke. Had he not noticed what I was doing then I wouldn't have met half the cool artists I know now.”
Diving in head first, Blackford’s self-proclaimed “blind confidence” dispelled any initial fears. Arrests didn’t deter him, although he insists his tactics have changed since his early bombing days. “My current work is all legitimate and pre-planned,” he explains. “I painting a mural at Barcelona's Bread and Butter Festival was a great adventure. It was the first time I'd been flown overseas because of what I do.” While there’s no distinct message behind his pieces, Blackford says, “I just want to reach the public with my work, whether they like it or not. I'd like people to stop and look...if they like it, great.”
More recently, Blackford has transitioned indoors to incorporate more gallery pieces. “My style’s recently become a little less dark in its subject matter,” he explains. “Maybe I'm feeling less 'angsty' these days. The work's definitely becoming more personal which I feel is important rather than just being an image I think 'looks cool'.”
After years of painting as a side project, Blackford quit his day job and became a full-time artist. “If I'm able to keep this full-time artist gig going, I'll be happy,” he says. “Artistically, I don't tend to look back to much as I'm always thinking about the next piece. I have a few projects in store including my first solo show later in the year but I don't like to talk too much about stuff until it’s done and dusted.”
While he remains mum about his future plans, Blackford has lots to say about the future of street art. “London is over saturated at the moment,” he insists. “Anything painted/pasted in the street is regarded as significant regardless of artistic merit. People are so caught up in the hype of it all right now it doesn't seem to matter. That's just my subjective opinion, though; being creative in any shape or form is always better than sitting on the sofa all day. The buff is pretty hard in London right now with the Olympics on the menu so now is not a great time.”
London may frantically scrub out street pieces, but there are countless artists waiting in the alleys to repaint them. “Street art/graffiti will always be present in some form or another,” he adds. “To contribute to your environment is a very deep-seated natural urge for a lot of people.”
All photos courtesy of Tom Blackford. For more information, take a peek at his web site over at www.inkfetish.co.uk.
Thanks so much, Tom! Really great stuff. I love the extra creepy quality to these shots.
Quick note: Mr. Noface would like to me to make a correction. On his post, the first photo is not of his own work but instead is of an artist unknown to him. He admires this artist's work and would love to be in touch. If the work is yours, shout him out! That's all for now. I hope you have the best of weekends and I'll see you back here on Monday!