Whether you realise it or not, when wandering Sheffield it is difficult to avoid the doodles of graphic designer Geo Law. Covering and decorating walls from Sheffield’s best pubs and bars, to the chalkboards in the Gallery of our very own Students’ Union, Geo’s murals are all over the place. His doodles gracing posters, flyers and some pretty lovely t-shirts, Geo is taking the city of steel by storm.
Geo Law, unsurprisingly not his genuine identity, discloses that his real name is George Law, Geo being a nickname he acquired at school that stayed with him throughout his years at university.
As his career began, and the time came for him to choose his artist alias, he chose Geo over George. “Thought it’d make me sound a bit street” he quips, “a bit cheesy right?”
A street artist, and quite determined to sound like one, Geo started fresh out of university designing for friends and associates.
“My work spread around the city purely because Sheffield is a small place and if people do interesting stuff, it gets talked about”. Claiming that a magnificent combination of word of mouth and sheer luck helped him gain eminence around the city, he recalls his innocence in the early days of his career.
Working freelance, his “naivety probably masked a lot of anxiety about where work would come in”. Clearly, Geo must have done something right, as he has now designed for venues and companies across the UK, Europe and America.
Although he attained GCSEs, A Levels and a degree in graphic design, Geo feels that he didn’t learn a lot from school.
“A lot of what I do, I feel like I’ve taught myself in some sense”.
Instead, Geo claims that his passion for drawing stems from when he was extremely young. “I started drawing right from when I was a nipper, my aunt would look after me when my parents worked. Crayons and paper and various pens were my toys.” An appetite for leaving his mark on his surroundings was prevalent from the very beginning, he recalls that he “ruined a few walls and leather couches when I was a kid. Come to think of it, I must have been a nightmare as a child”.
But doodling on furniture as a youngster has paid off, as Geo has perfected a distinct style over the years that is now extremely prevalent across the city centre.
After a hiatus from Sheffield to attend university, and then to complete a work placement as a graphic designer at Evocreative in Prague, Geo returned. “I decided to give drawing pictures a go, and with luck on my side, I’m still doing so now”.
His clothing label HANTU Collective was then established and his reputation across the city spread. “HANTU is all about letting images do the talking and having your imagination on your sleeve.”
For those of you unacquainted with the work of Geo Law, he describes his unique style as “naive doodling with strong references to Japanese cartoons and old school video games”. It also features some seriously impressive linework and pretty adorable creatures honed to the mural’s location.
The critters in West Street’s coolest salon Hair Kandi are brandishing combs and hair dryers, the ones in the waiting room of the Children’s Hospital are nursing black eyes and bandages, and gracing the walls of Cow is a stylised Sheffield cityscape. It is extremely hilly.
Geo’s style has been acutely observed as being “illustration with its head in the clouds but feet on the ground”. Peppered with whimsy, Geo’s work is always witty, uncommonly detailed and infused with pop culture references.
Impressively, his murals are also predominantly freehand. Geo practises a “notion of planning”, but mostly wants “the murals to be drawn organically”.
He works on a whim, as “it keeps my mind active and imagination flowing. Sometimes new ideas will pop into my head as I’m drawing and I’ll think on the spot to integrate it into my mural.
“I rarely pencil on to the wall as it slows the job down and I don’t like tracing over pencil lines as it becomes tedious”. However, the perils of the lack of pencil are always nearby, as mistakes can happen.
“Luckily enough, my style is not something that’s built on totally perfect proportion and scale, my doodle style allows me to make some mistakes but more often than not I find covering mistakes quite easy.”
Playfully, Geo challenges us to go and seek out the mistakes, if they are actually there. “Next time maybe you can see if you can spot any in my murals around Sheffield.” Answers on a postcard, please.
When asked about the artists that he admires, Geo says that “A lot of people inspire me from the local art scene in particular.” He cites Pete McKee as one of his local favourites; McKee’s work captures memories of Sheffield and its community, and he opened the ‘Month of Sundays’ gallery in June 2010. Situated on the very lovely Sharrow Vale Road, McKee’s online biography claims that the gallery has “become an eye-catching addition to an already bustling High Street.”
Tucked behind Ecclesall Road, Sharrow Vale Road is a goldmine for independent businesses, shops and cafes. Geo also draws inspiration from other local artists Nick Deakin and Kid Acne.
Amongst other things, Deakin has designed the murals on the walls of Division Street’s Great Gatsby bar, and Kid Acne’s enormous ‘Everyone’s A Winner’ graffiti spanned the edges of the building site on the Moor. Well, it did, before it got awkwardly disassembled and put back up in the wrong order.
According to Geo, these artists are “the main players around Sheffield … I like their outlook on their work, their approach and attitude to the arts”.
The Sheffield art scene is ever changing and very much alive, and a walk through the city centre provides an experience that galleries alone cannot match.
The art in the streets alone encompasses a very real feeling within Sheffield, the arts fuelling a community spirit based on an affection for Sheffield and a love of creativity. Geo Law claims that the city “has its pockets of places where there are little circles that work off each other.
“It’s these circles that support each other and it builds a community spirit of a different sort”. In particular, the Devonshire Quarter and Sharrow Vale areas are centres of creative output.
It appears that Geo’s creativity is based on two central pillars; his confidence in his own work, and his constant desire to improve it.
“I’m quite confident in what I do because I’ve done it so long”. He openly accepts comments and criticism, and enjoys hearing what his audience have to say about his work, as often with his murals, you can directly witness their creation.
Geo Law recently collaborated with Toms Shoes, constructing a huge mural in full view of the recent, and manically busy, Meadowhall Student Lock-in.
“It’s encouraging to see people’s reactions to the work as I’m doing it, and even better if people have something constructive to say”.
When asked about his ambitions, Geo does not think small, wishing to eventually expand beyond murals, and beyond the hills of our beloved Sheffield.
“I’d love my characters to become a franchise of cartoons, computer games, that sort of thing”. He is also fanatically using social networks to expand his fan base beyond his Sheffield audience. With almost 1,500 followers on Twitter, his reach is expanding worldwide.
“Another ambition would be for my work to take me places outside of the UK, for example shows in New York, Tokyo, Paris. One can dream, right?”
Geo imparts some wisdom to students or aspiring artists. “I always made it my aim to let my work do all the talking for me rather than to spread my own word at the start.
“Always use what common sense you have in approaching people for work”. Geo’s attitude shows a real dedication to his craft, and after sweetly sweeping across Sheffield, shows no sign of stopping yet.
Visit www.getaloadageo.co.uk to view a selection of his work, and to keep updated with his projects through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
More importantly, keep your eyes open, as Geo Law’s work is pretty much everywhere.