Red Bull Red Edition is a watermelon-based limited edition energy drink. The artist featured in this article created a special artwork to celebrate the launch of the energy drink in India in summer 2022. Click here to read more about Red Bull Red Edition.
Pop culture, movies and music videos are often sprinkled with aesthetic imageries of graffiti art. But the art form has a long way to go to achieve mainstream popularity.
Graffiti art is a means to tell a visual story in a public space by painting a wall. It is an elemental part of hip-hop culture and is considered a contemporary movement of art.
Abhedya Bhagawan, a DJ and graphic designer from Hyderabad, practices this art form professionally and represents a small but growing community of graffiti artists in India. Here he shares the story of how he took up graffiti art and how young artists can explore it as well.
What is graffiti art?
Graffiti refers to the act of writing, drawing or painting text or images on a wall. Artists who practice this art form usually do so under a pseudonym.
“The beauty of graffiti art is that it can be done in any form, as long as it’s in a public space and it interacts with the audience,” says Abhedya.
Where does graffiti art come from?
As Abhedya puts it, graffiti art has a bit of a “rebellious history.” Historically, unknown artists would paint over walls without seeking permission, often illegally. “It was the only art form that was accessible to the masses,” he says.
Gradually, street art evolved from graffiti. Cafes and clients started commissioning artists to paint on their walls. Various styles of graffiti also began sprouting up.
“Earlier graffiti was just about writing a name. Then, it became about how uniquely you can write your name in bubble letters or other styles. Later urban street art introduced characters and murals into the picture,” Abhedya explains.
How did Abhedya get introduced to graffiti art?
Growing up, Abhedya was fond of cartoon show called Rocket Power, which celebrated street culture. He also enjoyed drawing and doodling, and fancied becoming an artist when he was older. In 2016, this dream became a reality when he learnt that St+art India were organizing their first mural festival in Hyderabad.
“Volunteering for the festival not only taught me how to paint massive murals on walls, but also gave me the opportunity to work with artists from around the world. And in 2017, when they came back for their second edition, they asked me to come on board as an artist,” he says.
How did he become a professional graffiti artist?
Abhedya’s stint with St+art India opened many portals for him and brands began approaching him for commissioned projects. “Although I had worked as a graphic designer for a year, I didn’t want to limit myself to that world. So I began merging my skills to create both digital and graffiti art,” he says.
Some of Abhedya’s projects to check out
One of Abhedya’s favourite projects was when he worked with a Hyderabad based fashion designer, Shriya Som. “I had to convert an entire under constructed spa into a Berlin-themed space,” he recalls.
Going forward, he wishes to build a network and community of artists that inspire others. “I want to build a studio to provide young artists with the space and infrastructure they need to explore their arts,” he says.
What are the materials required to practice graffiti art?
Abhedya says that very importantly, you should get permission before you do any graffiti artwork. After that, you just need paints and a few tools. In terms of paints, you can choose from spray paints, graffiti markers and acrylic paint, and the tools to help you are usually paint brushes, rollers and stencils.
“I use spray paint for my artworks because it’s faster, versatile, opaque, and can cover a large area. The cons of aerosol are that it’s more expensive than paint and can’t be used for intricate work,” he explains.
What is the process of creating graffiti art?
Abhedya uses this step-by-step process to create his artworks.
- Step 1: “The first step is to find a space for the artwork,” he says.
- Step 2: Next comes the visualization of what it will look like in that space. “You need to decide if you want your art to pop out or blend in,” he explains.
- Step 3: Abhedya also likes to ensure that his art is creating a meaning or telling a story. So that is part of his visualization process.
- Step 4: “Then I sketch the piece on a notebook or an iPad,” he says.
- Step 5: He also draws the artwork digitally on a photo of the wall for a clear vision of what it will eventually look like.
- Step 6: Then comes the execution. “I make a grid of the artwork by starting with outlines and sketching,” he says.
- Step 7: After the base is ready, he begins layering the piece by adding big elements and then details.
- Step 8: “Next I focus on the structure in the front to give my artwork proper form,” he explains.
- Step 9: Lastly, he adds highlights and depth as a finishing touch.
When he started out, Abhedya used to do every project by himself. “I now have an assistant artist who helps me whenever I’m painting,” he says. The time taken for each artwork varies depending on its size and intricacy. “It could be anything ranging from hours or days to even months,” he says.
Some tips to keep in mind while creating graffiti art
- Tip 1: Abhedya advises every beginner to start with stencils. “They are easily available and customizable, and will provide the most finesse for a beginner,” he says.
- Tip 2: “I always work better when I listen to music. I channel my imagination by listening to electronic, hip-hop and jazz while doing a graffiti piece,” he says.
Some graffiti artists to follow for inspiration
Abhedya talks about how the graffiti community in India is growing every day, thanks to the support they’re receiving from authorities as well as the general public. “In Mumbai, some street artists were painting a wall and a few cops showed up. Instead of shutting them down, the police asked them to paint a wall of their police station.”
Below is a list of Indian graffiti artists that Abhedya likes to follow.
Abhedya also recommends following the works of the international artists listed below.
Some of Abhedya’s ongoing projects
Currently Abhedya is working on an artwork that will celebrate the summer 2022 launch of the watermelon-flavoured Red Bull Red Edition. He’s painting a special surf board to celebrate the spirit of summer as well as the energy drink.
“I’ve chosen watermelon colours for the surf board. I’ve never painted one before, that too on the beach, so the idea is really exciting to me,” he says.