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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Smug is much more than a graffiti artist

Smug – a Master of Graffiti

Generally, he sticks to the photograph that he’s working from, but not everything he does comes straight from it. Inevitably, some changes are bound to happen, as there are elements like light and shadows that he simply needs to play with in order to stick them to the wall. More importantly, things that appear perfect in photos can look entirely different when pasted onto a wall – size, texture, the wall itself, and any obstacles play a major role in the final look of the piece. Ultimately, Smug doesn’t even try to copy photos to perfection, since he always adds something personal to it. The more he paints, the less he depends on the source material. As someone who’s more into character, obviously, he thinks and respects the tradition of letter graffiti, considering it to be older than character writing. That said, when he moved onto characters, it seemed as if they were coming to him more naturally than letters or anything he had done before. From the start, his photo realism pieces looked fine, and he’s since been improving his art, eventually becoming one of the most famous street artist in the world. Always enjoying a good laugh, Smug intentionally add humour to his works. He can also create dead-serious works, but those with elements of humour are his favourite ones.

Born in a small Australian town about three hours from Sydney, Smug was always interested in art. The interesting thing is, despite drawing for years, it wasn’t until he graduated from high school that he actually picked up a spray can and began targeting walls instead of book pages. When he was younger, the artist skated and hung around in the streets with his friends, writing their names on the walls and listening hip-hop. Graffiti was a big part of that culture, so everything came into the right place. Asked about his artistic name, Smug states that he doesn’t even remember how he received his. At the time, he tagged using various names, but Smug somehow remained. He still takes inspiration from the friend that he sees regularly, writers that he works with regularly. People that are part of his everyday life are the people that are pushing him to become a better person and a better artist.

Glasgow mural of Saint Mungo
This mural by Sam Bates, aka Smug, took about a week to paint. It depicts Saint Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, and Smug has dressed him in modern-day clothes. When Mungo was young, some boys from his village started throwing stones at robins. One bird was hit and fell to the ground. The boys ran away but Mungo picked it up, prayed over it, and it flew away. 

To qualify as a saint, he performed four miracles in Glasgow. The following verse is used to remember them. 

Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam

Smug painted his grandparents on the four-storey former power station on the corner of Lonsdale and Spencer streets, Melbourne.