Frank Styles in the Spotlight

You may have noticed Snowdogs popping up across the region!? From 19 September to 29 November, parks, streets and open spaces across the North East region are playing host to Great North Snowdogs; 60 large and 97 little sculptures  inspired by ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’.

Leading businesses, cultural organisations and talented artists have united to bring you this major free, public art trail, devised by creative producers, Wild In Art in partnership with St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice to raise funds for this Newcastle-based charity.

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There are Dogs across Gateshead; two in Saltwell Park, One at the Angel site, One at Gateshead Central Library, One at Trinity Square, One in the Gateshead Interchange and two at the Sage, Gateshead.

My office and base is at Gateshead Central Library and it’s not that I’m biased (ok may be a little!) but of course, my favourite is Graffiti, which is standing proudly to right of the old library entrance. He’s an absolute knock out beaut and the design is just fantastic!

Have you seen our Snowdog Graffiti yet? If so, let me know what you think!? If not – then get yourself along to Gateshead Central Library to visit him and of course pop in and say hello to our lovely Little Dogs – tweet us @GatesheadLibs and let us know about your visit.

Frank Styles in the Spotlight

Graffiti Dog was designed and created by one of the best known street artists in the North East; Frank Styles.

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Frank is a talented freehand spray painter with over 18 years’ experience painting under his belt. He specialises in photo-realistic murals, freehand graffiti art and stencil graffiti. Throughout his practice he designs and paints North East graffiti commissions, street art, murals alongside facilitating graffiti workshops and community projects.

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Frank is equally passionate about making art accessible for all and storytelling through his work.

Now, I personally love love LOVE graffiti work – I love the David Bowie near the Sage, I love the changing nature of the industrial walls between Sandyford, Shieldfield and Heaton in Newcastle. It’s real art form – one that I’ve always been completely in awe of and captivated by. When done professionally and of course, legally, it adds a colour and vibrancy to urban areas.

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My experience with “street art” and interest began with those sharp “s”’s in the back of my maths class when I was probably about 11 – practicing them over and over and if you went to school in the 90s, you’ll know exactly what I mean!

That retro activity, which fills me with nostalgia is what got me interested and today one of my favourite things to do, in any city in the world, in places from Barcelona to Southend, is whilst exploring a new place; I take photos and photos of all the street art I come across. New York was an absolute haven for it and street sculpture too……a true culture vulture’s paradise. In fact, I think I spent more time looking at that than I did the touristy things.

I was speaking recently to a gent who commissioned a local graffiti group to decorate and a design a piece for his car park on Brandling Street, Gateshead (just off the Tyne Bridge) and I asked him why he’d commissioned a graffiti style of piece in a client carpark. He said, he wanted a talking point for his visiting clients, something colourful with a North East theme and he had the idea of young people feeling ownership of the car park, re-visiting it and thinking “I did that!”. It’s a fantastic piece that is hidden away and certainly always stops me in my tracks!

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So when I found out our Snowdog was by a graffiti artist, obviously I was excited and couldn’t wait to see it. I imagined colourful, exciting and impactful and that is exactly what we got. Frank’s design is brilliant and certainly one of my favourite Snowdogs!

I also love the idea of finally jumping over the hurdle of “graffiti isn’t really art” – well, of course it is and it’s one of my favourites. It’s a glorious form of Art and the skill behind it is unbelievable. I love anything where people are self-taught, self-crafted; that takes passionate and real hard work. We now have businesses and Councils embracing it and commissioning such work inside and outside as part of environmental enrichment and to impress clients.

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So whilst you could say graffiti isn’t to your taste; I could also say that a watercolour painting of a landscape really isn’t my taste but I can still look at appreciate the skill of the artist. You only have to watch our Snowdog Graffiti for five minutes and see how many people stop, look at the Dog and take photos.

And that’s exactly what Snowdogs is all about – getting out and about engaging with sculpture and new art forms and styles, learning about new artists and of course, raising some funds for St Oswalds.

I caught up with Frank to find out a little bit more about the man behind graffiti…..

Tell me a bit about yourself?

Hi I am Frank, Frank I am.

Tell me about your practice?

I paint pictures using spray paint, a skill I learned from doing graffiti. I’m a full time mural artist; I like to paint large walls in places where people can see them, for me it’s a job that I am passionate about and really enjoy, in that respect I am really lucky but then you make your own luck, don’t you?

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In between painting big walls I paint a lot of smaller commissions like restaurants, pubs, offices etc.  I love this, meeting new people each week and having a new challenge to paint all the time, it gives me ideas and techniques that filter into the bigger walls.

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What is “street art”?

I don’t see myself as a street artist, I used to do graffiti, I did Fine art degree and then I started painting commissions and eventually landed some big walls.

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I’m a spray painter, I paint pretty pictures, more of a mural artist, I had a choice to make – I could keep doing illegal graffiti and risk ending up in prison or use my skills to support my family and try to make the world a more colourful place at the same time.

Do you have a favourite piece of work?

Yes; it’s normally the last thing I’ve painted! However one that stands out for me is the ‘Two Whites’ piece on High Street East in Sunderland City Centre (see picture below). It’s a painting of two butterflies 12 meters high. It’s a simple painting but the scale of the thing still blows me away every time I see it.

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Why did you want to get involved with Snowdogs?

I wasn’t going to do a Snowdog but my friend Steph convinced me, she said you need to paint one it’ll be awesome! So I said, “ok I’ll give it a shot” and I was really happy with the outcome. It’s the first sculpture I’ve painted and it presented new challenges, trying to make it look good from every angle for example.

What was your inspiration for Graffiti dog?

Ok, so I paint a lot of photo realistic images and I love painting things from nature.  But when faced with a dog, it didn’t seem right to go down this route.  I thought “they look very cute so how can I toughen this guy up a bit”?  How can I contrast this cuteness?! So I looked back through some of my old graffiti letters for inspiration and came up with this abstracted letterform design.  I love the colours and the flow; I’ve had great fun painting this dog. I don’t think I’ve managed to completely kill the cuteness but at least I’ve given it a shot!

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A part from your Dog, do you have another favourite Snowdog?

I’ve been impressed by the standard of all the dogs I’ve seen. It’s so worth seeing them in person you just can’t take it all in through a photo. Mike Clay’s ‘Guide Dog’ sings to me for the sheer detail that’s gone into the maps on it and likewise the ‘Hounds Tooth’ by Damien Jeffrey must have taken some doing, so bright and colourful; it’s class.

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Advice for people wanting to get into street art?

It takes a great deal of time, patience and paint to learn spray painting. So you have to keep going and keep drawing and painting; even it doesn’t look great just keep going.  It took me years to learn, I mean 6 or 7 years before I was even happy with anything I painted, buy I kept going, you have to.

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Well thank you Frank – if you want to watch Frank in action – watch this amazing video!

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(The 90s kid inside LOVES Frank’s Power Ranger indoor design!!)

We are now 3 weeks into Snowdogs – keep finding them, enjoying the work and of course #protectthepack…….

Northern Design Centre – a creative hub in Gateshead

There is a real buzz around Gateshead at the moment which is fuelled even more by Gateshead Council’s announcement that they are creating a 1.5 billion start up fund, specifically focusing on enhancing economic development and business start-up support. Moreover, the reasoning behind the funding is to assist Gateshead businesses to be even more competitive internationally and supporting the region in these international markets. There is a secondary fund that will change the way start-up businesses are supported in regards to employing people – anyone who runs their own business knows how challenging and overwhelming employing your first person can be; this extra support will help and should see the creation of 100,000 new jobs from 2017. This is good news for Gateshead business people and brilliant news for the area.

Gateshead is fast becoming known as an entrepreneurial hub on the National stage – all across the borough exists a wide range of diverse creative businesses that have survived the recession or have launched in its wake. That is one of the reasons I love attending networking events; listening to their stories makes me feel so inspired and proud to be from this area. At the moment, the regional press is full of stories of the thriving community of start-up businesses and creatives. And rightly so – us northerners have never been afraid of getting our hands dirty and doing the hard work necessary for business success.

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A real entrepreneurial and creative hub in Gateshead, can be found just behind the Gateshead Quays, in the Baltic Business Quarter. Most people recognise The Northern Design Centre, as an icon on the sky line with its unique building design, by award winning local architects, Red Box Design but few know that the building is a purpose built space for start-up businesses and is full to the brim of exciting Gateshead businesses. I thought I’d use this blog post to talk about some of my favourite businesses in there and the innovative things going on right here in Gateshead!

Green Digit

Green Digit can be found on the first floor of the Northern Design Centre. Their innovative product Seed Cell are pods of various seeds in a wheel that are ready for planting; everything from herbs, to flowers, to chilli. This product has revolutionised gardening and made it a little bit fun again and completely accessible to all. You can plant these pods in the garden, in your allotment or grow them in your kitchen in a pot. The product is the brain child of founder, Dan Robson and in 2014, secured investment to scale up the business and manufacturing.

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Green Digit can be found on the first floor of the Northern Design Centre. Their innovative product Seed Cell are pods of various seeds in a wheel that are ready for planting; everything from herbs, to flowers, to chilli. This product has revolutionised gardening and made it a little bit fun again and completely accessible to all. You can plant these pods in the garden, in your allotment or grow them in your kitchen in a pot. The product is the brain child of founder, Dan Robson and in 2014, secured investment to scale up the business and manufacturing.

YourFilm

YourFilm is growing; representative of the fact video (partly thanks to YouTube) is now one of the key mediums, alongside social media for businesses to communicate their offering and to engage with their customers. They can create visually fantastic commercials, training videos, animations, short films and promotional content – they’re abilities in this sector are endless. In fact, if you’re a business or organisation in the North East wanting a video, they are THE go to video production business. I recently put a call out on Facebook to my business connections, as I want to create a video for a future crowd funding campaign and 90% of people suggested YourFilm; that has to be a good sign that these guys are the very best!

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I’ve met the guys behind YourFilm several times at networking events and what comes over loud and clear is their passion for film! One wonders, if we will ever see their very own big screen debut!?

CleanShakes

CleanShakes can be found taking over the Northern Design Centre fridges with their yummy shakes. They make and bottle superfood shakes mixed with Almond milk that nourish to make you flourish. Each 250ml bottle is packed full of nutrition and taste; priced at £3.00. CleanShakes is the creation of three ladies, living in the North East. The story goes that one founder returned from America after travelling around and noticed the amount of juice bars, another founder had been researching keenly the diary free market and the other found was looking for better tasting healthy foods; they sat down, brainstormed and CleanShakes was born!

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At Clean Shakes, they value your taste buds above anything else and they believe, they only deserve the very best; a top notch delicious premium healthy Shake. They are healthy and yummy – perfect combination.

Their shakers are the top priority; they want them to feel good, look good and with a bounce in their step. The shakes are packed with super foods, Almond Milk and are free of nasties; a daily dose of health within a balanced diet and bursting full of nutritional benefits. #tastethebenefits

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They are currently developing their business model; plotting to scale up via funding their own growth and establishing CleanShakes as the number one alternative milkshake brand in the North East. It’s certainly an exciting time for this business! They have already secured written expressions of interest from the likes of Nudo, Fenwicks, Waitrose, Booths and Ocado. You can purchase a CleanShake via premium delis such as The Urban Bakery in Low Fell or the Cycle Hub in Newcastle this Easter weekend or by placing an order direct!

Follow them on Twitter: @CleanShakes

Design Network North

Design Network North is made up of Designers, Manufacturers, Businesses, Institutions, Students and Individuals who all work within or have a passion for Design in their industry.

The Network is designed to offer support, advice, networking, business opportunities and events to its members, partners and the wider community. Their aim is to increase the awareness of the importance of design within all industries, insuring that the value of design is considered by everyone, in the region and beyond.

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As the Network is so diverse, they are able to pair up designers with other businesses who are looking to advance their design practices and create opportunities for working partnerships and future growth in the industry. It’s almost like a match maker service for businesses!

They also put on really brilliant networking events too!

Atomhawk

Since 2009 Atomhawk have been working with movie studios, game developers and product designers to help realise their visions, bringing their ideas to life.

They’ve been involved in everything from projects with Nike, to working with Costa coffee, to The Guardians of the Galaxy film, to big budget computer games such as Mortal Combat, to very high profile projects like J.K Rowling’s Pottermore. Very impressive and right here in Gateshead; who would have thought!?

You can read more about their work on the Guardians of the Galaxy here.

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They also exhibit and sell lots of their conceptual art from projects; The Art of Atomhawk Volume 2 features a diverse range of concept and marketing art from high profile projects such as Mortal Kombat, Project Spark, Injustice: Gods Among Us and J.K Rowling’s Pottermore. The images appear alongside insights into the thinking and influences behind the art work and digital painting tips from the Atomhawk artists. It also features personal pieces from members of the Atomhawk team.

The book is available to purchase on Amazon so have a deeks!

Entrepreneurial Business Management – Northumbria University

A quarter of the Northern Design Centre has been taken over by Northumbria University and the really innovative degree programme; entrepreneurial business management. The degree course sees students, embracing the lean start-up ethos; rapid testing of enterprise concepts and setting up and growing businesses and learning through their experiences. As such the course empowers and enables students so they leave University much more entrepreneurial and with (hopefully) successful established businesses.

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Across the course, there are a really wide range of diverse businesses – from an all in one teabag from Tea3 Ltd, to Loco a 90s Club night at MSA, to a clothing line from PowrFitness, to North East Unity business consultancy, to an upcycling bike business.

The businesses have generated over £30K since conception showing how important these students are to economic development in Gateshead. They are full of ideas that are tested rapidly and experiencing real life business by doing; the office is so full of energy, it’s completely infectious!

There are many more businesses, not mentioned in this blog post, that call The Northern Design Centre their home. The ones chosen are simply my favourite ones that have crossed my path, as they are doing something a bit different, love the North East and play by their own rules! I’m all about rebellion so seeing other people making their own way, creating fantastic products and delivering quality services right here in Gateshead is magical!

Gateshead is on the way up…….partly powered by the magic that is happening in the NDC!