Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Profile: Neil 'Women158' Parkinson

No matter what he’s doing, Neil Parkinson, a.k.a. Women158, always sees the world through an artist’s perspective. “I don’t think I’m ever not an artist,” he says. “It’s not a part-time vocation; it’s an all-consuming demon that makes you question everything you see. I don’t think you’re ever able to switch that part of yourself off.” This Leeds-based artist has been on his grind since his first commission at 14.
As a shy child, Women158 spent hours drawing ladies in his grandmother’s garden. “I remember wanting a picture of a girl in a bikini for my bedroom wall when I was younger,” he recalls. “My mum said that if I wanted something like that on my wall, I should learn to draw it. So I did. It instilled in me a strong DIY ethic.” In 2000, he transitioned from pen and paper to spray cans and walls. “I didn’t really have a clue how to do anything,” he confesses, “So my earlier pieces were god awful: too big, too small, out of proportion, etc. I was mainly interested in the act of doing it at the time, just doing art for the sake of art.”
While he insists, “I didn’t make a piece worth the paint used on it until 2005,” Women158 eventually developed a more mature signature style. “I’ve let it grow at its own speed over the years,” he adds, “and now people see to instantly recognize my pieces, which makes me happy.” Throughout the process, Women158 avoided copying other artists and focused more on brainstorming with the people around him. “The people who influence me the most are probably the people I paint with,” he says. “We’re constantly bouncing ideas off each other and talking about art.” Pulling from his own experiences, he sprinkles with work with semi-autobiographical elements.

Surrounding himself with creative people pushes Women158 to improve. “I’ve been involved with quite a few crews,” he says, listing RCS (Radicals), VIP (Visual Piracy), AND DG (Damaged Gods). “We all have a lot of mutual respect for each other,” he confesses. “Having a group means everyone brings something different to the table, allowing for more interesting productions.” Women158 is quick to point out that “People often think that crews are gangs. They’re not.”

Today, Women158 sticks with legal walls, but he’s paid his dues with his friends in the streets. Risking arrest, accidents, and getting jumped, he bombed all around the UK, Rome, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. “It just comes with the territory,” he explains. “If you’re running around areas at four in the morning with intentions of breaking the law, you’re gonna get some hassle. It’s just about being focused, knowing what you’re doing, knowing how to deal with situations that might arise, and just getting in and out.” In the end, it’s worth the risk for Women158. “Everyone is getting shafted by the people that are supposed to be looking out for them,” he argues, “so I try to put stuff out there to brighten their days up.”

Those days of hustling are over for Women158 and plenty of travel, books, and heaps of live art await him in 2010. Still, he worries about the future of street art. As street art becomes easier to produce, he believes fewer people will truly take it seriously. “A lot of people claim they’re street artists ‘cos they’ve done some half-arsed stencil in the comfort of their house and nipped out and put it up,” he insists. “Graffiti writers have to perfect and develop letterforms, painting techniques, can control…and that’s just the practical side. Then there are the missions of hitting spots, getting into train yards, avoiding arrest. It’s damn hard work.”

For more info and photos on Women158, check out his website. This weekend is about to get crazy hectic. Saturday entails running my own race, helping at my girls' race, and playing with a two year-old on her birthday. (This last item will probably involve said baby getting cake all over her face.) I'm ready!


  1. i own six of his signed originals they are all 10+ years old and i love each and every single one of them :3 they are all canvas versions of his wall murals they are all very beautiful, I'm a proud owner :)

    1. Thank you for your comment